Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef speaks during a press conference in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Majority of Conservative MPs vote in favour of defeated sex-selective abortion bill

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole opposed bill, but gave his caucus a free vote

A majority of Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s caucus voted Wednesday in support of a bill that sought to restrict certain abortions even as he voted it down, saying he respects a woman’s right to choose.

Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall brought forward Bill C-233, which sought to ban doctors from performing an abortion based on the sex of a fetus, which was defeated in a 248-82 split.

All but one of the votes cast in its favour came from the Conservatives, who have 119 members, with the other coming from former party MP and leadership contender Derek Sloan.

O’Toole voted against the bill, as did other members of his front bench, such as his health critic Michelle Rempel Garner.Some, including deputy party leader Candice Bergen pledged their support, as did O’Toole’s leadership predecessor Andrew Scheer.

Wagantall had argued her private member’s bill was more nuanced than other debates surrounding abortion because it only looked at the issue of terminating a pregnancy through sex selection, which she and supporters — including some fellow Conservative MPs — worry disproportionately affects baby girls and framed it as an concern around women’s rights.

“Despite Erin O’Toole’s emphatic pro-choice stance and commitment to vote against this bill, exactly two-thirds of his caucus voted in favour of it,” the group named We Need a Law, which supported the bill, said in a statement.

While MPs, including Liberals, said they didn’t support sex-selective abortion, they blasted the law in previous debates as a Trojan horse attempting to restrict the reproductive rights of women, also questioning the sources of information presented in support of the bill’s cause.

Hours before Wednesday’s vote, Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef released a letter she penned to O’Toole asking the leader to call on his caucus to vote against what she calls a “dangerous bill.”

“This is in fact the seventh time since 2007 that a Conservative Member of Parliament has worked hard to limit women’s choices,” she said at a news conference.

O’Toole had previously indicated he wouldn’t support the proposed legislation as he is “pro-choice.” His office said he would, however, allow a free vote on matters of conscience for his caucus.

In a statement before the vote, he said: “I support a woman’s right to choose and my record speaks for itself. As prime minister, my government will secure the rights of Canadians and never erode them.”

Melanie Joly, the economic development and official languages minister, appeared alongside Monsef at the news conference and said O’Toole’s stance isn’t good enough.

“It is not enough for you to personally say that you will not vote in favour of C-233 and free vote is also not good enough,” said Joly.

“For our rights to be safe, we need to to curb all policies that attempt to control women’s bodies.”

Joly suggested O’Toole allowed the bill, first introduced under the leadership of Scheer, to be kept alive in Parliament because he earned his party’s victory last summer thanks to votes from anti-abortion groups.

During the race, O’Toole made a pitch to the supporters of Sloan and Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis, who had the backing from many social conservatives, to mark him as their number 2 or number 3 choice in the ranked ballot system.

In turn, he promised that as leader, their views would be respected.

Keeping that pledge without exposing the party to attacks from Liberals and other critics that it would allow for the debate on abortion rights to be reopened remains a balancing act for O’Toole — highlighted by the most recent vote.

Since becoming leader, he has focused his attention on speaking to those he wants to see vote Conservative in the next federal election who perhaps haven’t done so in the past, like more women, and emphasizing his views as pro-LGBTQ rights and “pro-choice.”

During the 2019 election campaign, Scheer’s socially conservative views on abortion and same-sex marriage dogged him in the lead up to the vote, as he wouldn’t immediately clarify his views.

—Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Canada holds special debate on remains of 215 children found at residential school

RELATED: Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

abortionFederal Politics

Just Posted

Some examples of ‘kindness’ rocks that were painted by members of the Boys and Girls Club in Rimbey. photo submitted
The ‘kindness rock snake’ continues to take shape in Rimbey

Residents are asked to contribute a ‘kindness rock’ to a project near the Blindman Youth Action Building

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Image/ Metro Creative Connection
Rimbey Municipal Library struggling to finish expansion amid construction cost boom

‘We found that the cost is at least $100,000 more than anticipated.’

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Grade 12 students at Wetaskiwin Composite High School took place in the annual water fight off school property on June 11, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Graduating students in Wetaskiwin throw water fight after being told it could result in suspension

Students were told their participation could result in them being barred from graduation ceremonies.

The arrest south of Winnipeg occurred before Bernier was to arrive at a protest in the city. (Twitter/Maxime Bernier)
Maxime Bernier arrested following anti-rules rallies in Manitoba: RCMP

He’s been charged with exceeding public gathering limits and violating Manitoba’s requirement to self-isolate

Most Read