Today Members of Parliament voted against sending Bill C-233, the Sex Selective Abortion Act to committee for further study. Introduced by Saskatchewan MP Cathay Wagantall, the bill would have prohibited physicians from knowingly performing sex selective abortions – a practice that is disproportionately used to target girls. 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.
“MP Wagantall is to be commended for bringing the issue of sex selective abortion into the open,” said Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for We Need a Law, which actively supported the bill. “This is an ugly reality in Canada, where girls are aborted simply because they are girls. We need to address sex-based discrimination in every form, including at life’s earliest stages, and MPs missed an important opportunity to do that today.”
During the debate on this bill, speakers from all parties indicated they opposed the practice of sex selective abortion, yet, in the name of women’s rights, they were unwilling to take a stand that would limit abortions that target women.
“It was evident in the debates that while Canadians are having ongoing conversations about abortion, elected lawmakers seem unprepared for it. Most Canadians support common sense abortion restrictions, including a restriction on sex selective abortion. There can be nuance in restricting abortion in a way that many in Parliament do not yet acknowledge,” continued Ewert. “We look forward to when Parliament catches up to where Canadians are already at and accepts a prohibition on such an overtly sexist practice.”
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MP Wagantall and her colleagues introduced dozens of petitions representing thousands of signatures over the past year in support of Bill C-233. During the lead-up to the debate, MP’s offices were flooded with thousands of empty pink envelopes from Canadians, each one representing a pre-born girl lost to abortion. Pink flag displays and lawn signs popped up around the country in support of this bill.
“This is clearly an issue that resonates with Canadians,” said Ewert. “The debate around sex selective abortion is necessary and will continue. Women’s rights cannot include targeting women before they are born. Sex selective abortion is antithetical to Canada’s commitment to equality and needs to be prohibited as an unacceptable practice. Until MPs have the courage to prohibit this practice, it remains legal and will continue to happen in Canada.”
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