By Nathan Rumohr
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, author of Motion 312, at a press conference following the motions defeat in the House of Commons.
As many pundits expected, Stephen Woodworth's Motion 312 was defeated in the House of Commons Sept. 26. However, many were surprised that the vote was not defeated by a bigger majority. The result was 203 against to 91 for, or just over 2 to 1.
MPs from all parties voted against the motion, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and most of his cabinet.
While many of the motion's supporters were disappointed with the result, they saw a silver lining in how the motion has sparked a national debate on the rights of children in the womb.
"This marks the beginning of a period of discussion about the reality of abortion," said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB. "Those men and women who supported Motion 312 today should be commended. Their witness gives a boost to the cause of life across Canada."
Mike Schouten, director of WeNeedaLaw.ca, echoed the archbishop's comments and said Motion 312 has sparked a nine-month national discussion on the rights of children in the womb and the laws regarding them.
"We thank Mr. Woodworth for putting this forward in such a bold fashion," Schouten said. "He answered the tough questions when they needed to be answered and never shied away from discussing the motion and was never fearful of any of the opposition he faced."
Motion 312 requested a special parliamentary committee be set up to investigate Canada's 400-year-old definition of a human being. It says a baby is not a human being until it has fully emerged from its mother's birth canal.
The Criminal Code of Canada gives a human being no legal protection until the moment of complete birth. The relevant part is Subsection 223(1).
Woodworth, who brought the motion forward in February, said the motion was not a tool to criminalize abortion. Instead, he said, it was a 21st-century piece of legislation investigating human rights.
Motion 312, his opponents said, was actually a back-door ploy to criminalize abortion. Members of Parliament from the NDP and Liberals accused the MP from Kitchener Centre of "turning back the clock" on women's rights.
It was reported that the prime minister's office and senior Conservative members had reminded MPs that a vote for Motion 312 was a vote against Stephen Harper. The prime minister had made a 2011 election promise not to reopen the abortion debate as long as he was prime minister.
Joining Harper in the vote against Motion 312 were many of his cabinet ministers, including John Baird of foreign affairs and Jim Flaherty of finance.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, and International Cooperation Minister Julian Fantino defied their leader's wishes and supported the motion.
The majority of the yes votes came from the Conservatives, but there were a few from the third party Liberals John McKay, Lawrence MacAulay, Kevin Lamoureux, and Jim Karygiannis.
Motion 312 sparked a debate outside the political realm as well. The Canadian Auto Workers Union came out against the motion in April and was joined recently by the B.C. Federation of Labour, which held a protest against the motion at the Vancouver Art Gallery Sept. 25.
Woodworth knew Motion 312 was likely to fail, but he told The B.C. Catholic in a recent interview that he would continue to fight for human rights and just laws for as long as he drew breath.
"I cannot figure a more noble cause," he said.