The new chairman of a secretive Parliamentary caucus opposed to abortion is pledging to rekindle the abortion debate in Canada and bring "more value" to the lives of unborn children.
Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he's not interested in reopening the divisive issue, Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge told The Canadian Press people need to be better educated about Canada's abortion stance, which he says puts the country in a "class of its own."
"Very few Canadians appreciate the fact that essentially until a child takes its first breath, it has less value than a kidney," says Mr. Bruinooge.
"In Canada you can't remove your kidney and put it on eBay and auction it off. That is illegal. Whereas you actually can end a beating heart of an unborn child the second before it's delivered. Most Canadians would agree that is truly a poor bioethical position for our country to be in."
Pro-choice advocates say Canadian doctors only perform such later-term procedures if there's a serious threat to the health of the mother or if it's virtually certain the baby wouldn't survive past birth.
As Canada marks 20 years since a Supreme Court decision struck down Criminal Code restrictions on abortion, some advocates are worried the Conservatives will reopen the debate. But they say they are ready to fight for a woman's right to choose once again if necessary.
At the party's convention recently in Winnipeg, Conservative delegates voted to resurrect a proposal that would create specific criminal charges that could be laid against a suspect who kills or injures a fetus during a crime against a pregnant mother. A bill that would have done that died on the order paper when the last federal election was called.
Critics argue such a law would reopen the abortion debate by recognizing fetal rights.
"I think the debate is ongoing," Mr. Bruinooge says. "We need to have a starting point of debating whether or not abortion should be legal right up until the moment of birth."
Mr. Bruinooge wouldn't say how many MPs are formally part of the caucus, but said there are supporters from every party. It's up to individual members to "present their personal philosophy on this issue," he says.
Joyce Arthur, co-ordinator of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, says it's not surprising that the pro-life movement is feeling "energized lately." The majority of the Conservative caucus are "publicly anti-choice," she says, and many are lobbying intently against a woman's right to choose.
"It's something that the Conservative party is out of touch with because Canadians don't want to go back to the abortion debate," Ms. Arthur says. "People are happy with the status quo. It's working well."
Erin Leigh, acting executive director of Canadians for Choice, says the anti-abortion caucus has been around for years, trying to work behind the scenes to resurrect the abortion debate.
But she says the "silent majority" of Canadians are pro-choice and realize it's important for women to have a safe, accessible alternative to pregnancy.
"If a woman is pregnant and she doesn't want to be, she'll find ways to terminate that pregnancy, legally or illegally."
Lest pro-choice Canadians need reminding of what a slippery slope looks like (are you reading this, Margaret Wente?), go here.