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

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Curl B.C. chairperson Teri Palynchuk is this year’s winner of the Janette Robbins Award for leadership. Palynchuk is pictured here with the Curling Canada Foundation Cup along with past chairperson Peter Muir, left, and Curl B.C. CEO Scott Braley. (Photo courtesy Curl B.C.)
Nanaimo curling exec wins Curl B.C. leadership award

Teri Palynchuk receives Janette Robbins Award

(Black Press file photo)
RCMP: Air ambulance called to Whiskey Creek after crash involving 2 motorbikes

Both riders taken to hospital with serious injuries

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

Nanaimo author B.S. Thompson has released his debut novel, ‘The Book of Nodd.’ (Photo courtesy Nora Funk)
Nanaimo author invites readers into dangerous world of dreams in debut novel

B.S. Thompson unveils ‘The Book of Nodd’ with online launch June 20

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Island man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than five per cent of mass-marketing fraud is ever reported.
Tips to avoid scams targeting Vancouver Island seniors

In most cases, fraudsters impersonate an individual, business or agency seniors recognize and trust

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Most Read