MP's motion on sex selection stirs abortion debate

A motion to condemn abortion based on the sex of a fetus will get its first hour of debate next March, says the Conservative MP who wrote it. But Mark Warawa is not waiting until then to begin the discussion.

Conservative Mark Warawa's motion would condemn gender-based abortion

A motion to condemn abortion based on the fetus's sex will get its first hour of debate next March, says Mark Warawa, the Conservative MP who wrote it. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A motion to condemn abortion based on the sex of a fetus will get its first hour of debate next March, says the Conservative MP who wrote it.

Mark Warawa tabled a motion last September calling for the House of Commons to condemn "discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination."

The first hour of debate will likely happen in March, with the second hour a month later. MPs would vote a few days after that.

On Wednesday, Warawa said he's created a Facebook page and a YouTube site in support of the motion, M-408, and has made available petitions on his website for people to download.

Critics say the motion is a bid to open the abortion debate. Warawa tabled the motion on Sept. 26, the day before Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's motion to study when life begins was defeated in a vote that split the Conservative caucus.

There are no statistics to indicate how many female fetuses are aborted in Canada because of their gender, he said.

"That number I do not know, but the United Nations has identified that there is an estimated 200 million missing [worldwide]," he said.

Not seeking changes to law

Warawa says he's not seeking legislative changes or a parliamentary study, and that it would be shocking if any MPs vote against the motion.

"I think it is as simply as we either condemn this or we endorse it," he said, citing Martin Luther King Jr.

"He said that he who accepts evil without protesting against it is really co-operating with it. And I think that's the salient point. We have brave men and women with me today, standing up and saying this is wrong," Warawa said.

Warawa couldn't explain why he called the MPs supporting him brave when he also cited a poll that said 92 per cent of Canadians oppose the practice. Most of the MPs who accompanied Warawa to his news conference are known as anti-abortion MPs and voted in favour of Woodworth's motion, M-312.

Conservative MP Joy Smith, who spoke in favour of Warawa's motion, said she voted against Woodworth's motion but M-408 is about discrimination based on sex.

"If you're discriminated against before you're born, what's that about? And then you try to become whatever you want to be in life and you're just a little less than the guy next door because of your gender? I don't think so," Smith said.

Attempt to 're-open debate on abortion'

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Warawa's motion is another attempt to reopen the abortion debate, and noted that he tabled it around the time that Woodworth's motion was defeated.

How to end sex-selective abortion, Mulcair said, is an excellent question that should be discussed with the Canadian Medical Association and provincial colleges of physicians.

"But at the end of the day, it's a new attempt by the Conservatives to reopen the debate on abortion and remove from women their right to choose," Mulcair said.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada vehemently opposes sex-selective abortion, a spokesman told CBC News last June. The organization opposed Woodworth's motion to study when life begins.

The Canadian Medical Association says the decision to abort a pregnancy is a medical decision to be made by a woman and her doctor, but fetal viability should be considered. The guidelines say a fetus is possibly viable after 20 weeks gestation or at a weight of 500 grams.

Warawa said he thinks MPs can change the minds of people around the world by speaking against the practice.

"For the House of Commons to have a unified voice saying it's wrong. We believe it will change the hearts and minds of Canadians. When we say that women have value, equal value, and we need to protect them, we need to protect their human rights, we believe that we can end this practice by changing the hearts and minds of Canadians and that will go right across the world."