Thursday, April 04, 2013

Senate Saved Abortion & Now NDP Wants To Abolish It

How much would you pay to protect a woman's right to her own body? If you're a New Democrat, the answer is not much, actually, it's nothing at all.

The New Democratic Party supports abolishing the Canadian Senate, arguing it's a waste of money. It's an odd position to take considering if it wasn't for the appointed Upper Chamber, abortion today would be against the law.

Two years after the Supreme Court struck down Canada's restrictive abortion law in 1988, the House of Commons attempted to replace it with Bill C-43, an act to re-criminalize abortion.

Bill C-43 would have drastically restricted the medical procedure, permitting abortion only in cases when a woman's life is in danger. According to the Library of Parliament: 

"If Bill C-43 had been approved by both the House of Commons and the Senate, it would have been a criminal offence to induce an abortion on a woman unless it was done by, or under the direction of, a physician who considered that the woman's life or health was otherwise likely to be threatened. "Health" was defined as including physical, mental and psychological health."
Though it was contentious legislation, various attempts to amend it failed, in May 1990 with a vote of 140 to 131, Bill C-43 passed the House of Commons. For it to become law and make abortion severely restricted all that was needed was for the Senate to approve it. It didn't.

The Red Chamber took a rare stand against the popularly elected Lower House and saved a woman's right to choose. To thank the Senate for doing something no one else would, the NDP has cheerily chosen to abolish it.

Every NDP argument for the abolishment of the Senate comes down to it being too costly. That though our government has cut the GST by 2%, which itself cost Canada $15 billion in lost annual revenue and millions in accumulating interest on debt, somehow the $90 million the Senate costs is too much.

Apparently for the NDP, just 0.6% of the cost to reduce the GST is too much money for it to pay for an institution that, among other things, is solely responsible for protecting a woman's right to choose.

The NDP can argue that the Senate saving women's rights was over 20 years ago and that it hasn't been useful since. But besides how starkly unappreciative New Democrats appear to be, legislation seeking to restrict women's rights, or any rights, needs to be reviewed by a second chamber of government. The case of Bill C-43 proves Canada needs a body that serves in the interests of all Canadians and is not subject to populist whim.

New Democrats can argue that the Senate is too costly, but protecting women's rights, not to mention minority rights and regional representation, shouldn't have a price tag.


christyk said...

If the senate is kept as an insitution not subject to populist whim, how do we prevent it from being too partisan, too much a reflection of whatever parties last had chance to appoint whomever would help them at the moment?

I look at things like the appointment of Senator Brazeau and how he was supposedly appointed, not because of any good judgement or wisdom, but because it was useful at that moment for the Conservatives to appoint a native who was outspoken against the AFN.

Norma said...

And it was jack Layton who got us in this mess!

Danny Handelman said...

Just because Bill C-43 passed the House of Commons doesn't guarantee that the governor general would have signed it into law, the supreme court would not have ruled the law to be unconstitutional, or that the subsequent election would have resulted in a new government which would not have revoked the law. If there were 105 additional MPs, they would tend to be located in the four most populous (and urban) provinces, making the national popular vote for each party more accurately reflected in the composition in the House of Commons and reduce the probability that the abortion bill would have passed the House of Commons.