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

Forty sled dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a Salmo kennel in February. A recent ruling has decided the dogs won’t be returned. Photo: Gounsil/Flickr
BC Farm Industry Review Board rules against Salmo kennel after 40 sled dogs seized

Spirit of the North Kennels was also ordered to pay BC SPCA $64,000

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

SD20 now has an electric bus. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay-Columbia School District 20 adds electric bus to fleet

Bus will be incorporated into Castlegar route for next school year

Cougars who kill pets are a potential threat to humans, Conservation Officer Kyle Bueckert said. File photo
Wildlife officials stymied after West Kootenay cougar sighting posted only to Facebook

Conservation Officers are reminding the public to phone RAPP-line when they spot dangerous wildlife

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

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

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

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Most Read