Abortion is an issue that makes news headlines with some regularity. Currently, there is some discussion regarding sex-selective pregnancy terminations; abortions that are done simply because the gender of the child is not the one that the parents want. Sadly, due to the preferences of certain cultures and individuals, it is often unborn girls that are the target of such abortions. Currently, there is no law in Canada that dictates how far into a pregnancy a woman must be to find out the gender of her unborn child. It is also not against the law to have an abortion because you are unhappy with the gender of your child.
Abortions undergone after 20 weeks of pregnancy generally need compelling health or genetic reasons before they will be done. Therefore, it is more difficult to have an abortion after this point in a pregnancy. A number of private ultrasound companies have policies of not identifying the gender of a child until after 20 weeks of pregnancy have passed. However, a CBC investigation in 2012 found clinics across Canada that will identify the gender of an unborn child before the 20 week point. Moreover, the investigation found that some of these clinics disclosed the gender of the fetus even when clinic staff thought that it may influence the parents’ decision to continue or end the pregnancy. To read more about CBC’s hidden camera investigation, visit http://www.cbc.ca/news/interactives/gender-selection/
In 2012, MP Mark Warawa brought forward motion 408 asking Parliament to ‘condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination’. He was not proposing that it be made illegal- he was simply asking for Parliament to express their disagreement with the practice. On March 21st, a Parliamentary sub-committee deemed that motion 408 could not be voted upon. This decision by the Parliamentary sub-committee has been criticized as stifling free speech and as preventing private members from bringing forward issues of concern to their constituents. The benefits of MPs voting upon motion 408 would have been the debate and national discussion of the issue that would have resulted. One of the arguments used to deem the motion non-votable were that matters around health care delivery fall within provincial jurisdiction. Interestingly, the Canadian Human Rights Act (federal legislation) prohibits discrimination based on sex. In addition, the prohibition of an action for moral reasons is often associated with criminalization, which falls within federal jurisdiction.
At this time, MP Mark Warawa has appealed to the House of Commons to permit motion 408 to be brought to the House for debate. We encourage our CWL members to contact their own Members of Parliament by April 12, 2013 to urge them to support the right to have motion 408 brought forward for debate.