Pro-choice PM, pro-life-ish caucus
Well, we can see the splits that the Liberals were trying to get at, in the Tories’ internal deliberations.
The Liberals had proposed a motion on the government’s maternal health initiative that was clearly designed to divide the Tory caucus over the issue of abortion.
How to deal with this? The Conservatives were in a quandary.
In a caucus meeting to discuss the motion, the Tories were split – the Prime Minister at one point mused about supporting it, according to sources. But pro-life MPs in the caucus were not in favour of that.
The broad intent of the Liberal motion was to call for more clarity around Stephen Harper’s maternal health initiative, which he is taking to the G8 summit in Muskoka this summer. But it was the other part of the motion – that the Liberals had added to trap the Tories – that would allow the Conservatives their out and a way to vote as a unified caucus. …
Mr. Del Mastro, a pro-life MP, seized on the passage.
He pointed out, according to a source, “the American tsunami response and the earthquake in Pakistan as foreign-aid efforts during that period that the motion broadly condemned.”
“That kind of anti-Americanism is something that all members of our party unite against,” a Conservative source said. “James Moore [the Heritage Minister, who is a well-known pro-choice Conservative] got up … and specifically backed [Mr. Del Mastro’s] statement and said he would gladly vote against the motion.”
And there was their solution.
Well, there it went.
Here’s the Liberals’ problem. Canadian laws are already on the pro-choice extreme — no restrictions whatsoever, and full state funding. If they want to push the Tories on abortion, they need to push that line.
The thing is, only about 45-50% of Canadians support abortion-on-demand. About 25-30% support moderate restrictions, and about 20-25% support bans of the sort that the staunchest pro-life people pitch, Stateside (banning all save cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother).
If the Tories pitched a law limiting third trimester abortions — that would probably have the support of a majority of Canadians. They don’t want to, because they have some hardline libertarians in their caucus, and they want to appeal to suburban female voters — it would upset their political coalition — but they could. (And again, PM Harper, who could have backed the Liberal resolution without any personal discomfort, is almost certainly at least moderately pro-choice.)
If the Liberals made abortion a voting issue in Canada, the single party of the right would have 45-50% of the voters to draw from, and the multiple parties of the left would have 50-55% of the voters to draw from.
That’s not a recipe for political success for progressives. In fact, it seems to me that that might be a recipe for a majority government on the right.
Just not necessarily Stephen Harper’s.
Instant update: My advice for pro-lifers? (I’m conflicted, myself. Comfortable voting for pro-life politicians, also comfortable voting for pro-choice politicians; probably would vote on the pro-life side in most issue referenda that come up, depending on the question. Don’t support outright bans; am not terribly offended by first trimester abortions being legal and funded.)
Get the proportion of Canadians who support moderate restrictions on abortion — trimester/week cutoffs, notification laws, funding — up over sixty percent. Gather your polling data. And then start pushing your political party — whichever one it may be — hard.
You’ve been making up ground — younger people are more pro-life than their parents. If you want that debate to happen, move public opinion and you’ll get there.