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Stephen Harper, Abortion, and Democracy

April 2, 2013

Stephen Harper, last Thursday, had to stare down his own caucus after he refused to allow an anti-abortion bill to reach the floor of Parliament for a vote. He would not even allow it to be debated. He talked to Mulcair and Rae and the bill was summarily ignored.  

What’s fascinating for me, is that while I consider Stephen Harper to be a seriously conservative guy, he’s still situated to the political left of about a third of his caucus.

And he is much more politically astute than his right-wing morons, who would rather raise single-issue topics like abortion, or ban gay marriage, than win the next election.

Harper’s smart enough to know that unless Justin Trudeau is some kind of half-wit we don’t yet know about, he knows that Trudeau has the Obama-esque charisma, and common sense feel of politics that his father had, and Harper knows that if he is not careful, Trudeau could very easily sweep the conservatives out of office in the next election. 

Sure, that’s taking a lot for granted at this point, what with an election at least two years away and the Liberal Party fractured, in disarray, and divided between the old Liberal cronies and the young believers who will follow Trudeau anywhere.

But Stephen Harper never takes anything for granted – especially not in politics. Harper is the kind of alpha male that takes note when real challengers step up to the plate.

 Harper knows that if the Conservatives were to bring up the abortion issue – even if it is a particular form of anti-abortion legislation they are looking for (the ban on sex selection abortion – or, what I prefer to call female infanticide) – he knows he would be letting the Ginny out of the bottle.

But I also think, in this instance, that Stephen Harper is wrong. he is wrong, in fact, on two counts.

First, he stifles the democratic process. (Which, I might add, has some of his caucus ready to take his head to the wood chopper.) Democracy is messy – people need to discuss, argue, jump up and down for a cause or a belief.

But I also think he failed because most Canadians would support Harper on this particular abortion issue.

I really think that if Harper had allowed a vote to ban sex-selection abortion, the Conservatives would have more political support today, than they had last week. Yes, I know it would have no real impact on what people do – they just wouldn’t say why they were getting an abortion. But politics – winning elections – is as much about illusion, about feeling good, as it is about substantive policy. Banning sex-selective abortions would play well with most small-c conservative Canadians. And it would play well with small-l liberals too.

Mainstream Canada may, or may not, have moral issues with abortion – but we are a society mature enough for the majority to generally accept that women have the right to choose. But picking your child’s sex via aborting female fetuses puts a lump in everyone’s throat. For we live in the 21st century, and to still value a boy – at the price of aborting your daughter – is simply wrong.

I look around this university café, off the edge of Dalhousie University and King’s College, and I try to imagine all the young women slowly I see dissolving away in front of me.

I listen in on the 4 young women by the window beside me, discussing class and careers and, yes, boys. Other young women are reading Rousseau, bio-ethics, and engineering books, some are working on essays, or simply having coffee with a friend.

Each of them, as capable, and as in-capable, as any of the rest of us.

But Harper’s fear of his own sizable right-wing faction of rural in-breds, cowboys, and ideologues, has him miss a real opportunity for Conservative growth.

Sadly, everyone else in Parliament is just as timid, and so the NDP’s and the Liberals also failed to pick up the baton for unborn girls everywhere.

Not surprising, I suppose.

We are talking about girls, afterall.

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