from the ARCC:
Until June 2023, ARCC had listed fifteen “pro-choice” Conservative MPs (out of 117 at that time) who supported abortion rights based on their past votes and assurances. But that has changed because of a rightward shift within the Conservative Party, and a unanimous Conservative vote for a private member bill widely seen as a “trick” to re-open the abortion debate.
On June 14, the Conservative caucus banded together to vote in favour of Bill C-311, which would have created an “aggravating circumstance” clause in the Criminal Code to allow for greater penalties when a pregnant person is attacked. (The bill, introduced by Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall, was defeated by a vote of 205 to 113).
The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) had urged MPs to oppose this bill. “Even though the wording did not directly implicate abortion, it was being leveraged for the purpose of advancing restrictions or to boost fetal personhood,” said Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of ARCC.
On June 25, ARCC individually emailed 13 Conservative “pro-choice” MPs who had voted in favour of Bill C-311, asking them why. Only three replies were received as of July 31 and they were unsatisfying. (See our full statement for details).
“One cannot be pro-choice in a vacuum – or in this case a hotbed of growing right-wing extremism,” said Arthur. “These ‘pro-choice’ Conservatives have signed up to a party that is largely anti-choice.” Out of the 117 Conservative MPs as of June, 82 were on record as anti-choice. (The rest had an unknown stance).
Some of these MPs like to associate with the far right and some are anti-vaxxers. Their leader Pierre Poilievre recently posed for a photo with a guy wearing a “Straight Pride” T-shirt, fraternized with the Freedom Convoy in 2022, refused to disavow the leader of a violent extremist group, and flirted with the “great reset” conspiracy theory in 2020. As a candidate in the Conservative Party leadership race, Poilievre hoped to woo far-right voters away from the People’s Party of Canada. Further, the Conservative Party’s Policy Declaration (2021) still contains many objectionable measures that oppose or would undermine human rights. (See our full statement for details).
“ARCC had high hopes for a growing pro-choice presence in the Conservative caucus – which could then exert a liberalizing influence on the rest of the party – but this no longer seems tenable,” said Arthur. “There’s an increasing disconnect in the party between the small minority who want to support abortion rights and the majority who oppose these values.” In particular, ARCC points to the right-wing extremism of party leader Pierre Poilievre, whom ARCC has always rated as anti-choice despite his fake claims to be pro-choice.
“Members of Parliament cannot truly claim to support abortion rights, and certainly not the broader values of reproductive justice, while they serve a party that fundamentally opposes those values”, said Arthur.
Read the ARCC’s full media release: https://www.arcc-cdac.ca/media/whipping-conservative-party.pdf