The Calgary Herald – September 27, 2012
By Susan Martinuk

There’s a saying that “character is doing the right thing when no one is looking.” But certain events this week suggest that character is revealed even more fully when everyone is looking.

On Wednesday, Parliament had a free vote on Motion 312, a private member’s bill calling on MPs to strike a committee that would study personhood of the fetus – and attempt to determine the point at which the unborn child becomes a human being under Canadian law.

The bill was defeated as expected by a vote of 203 to 91. What was surprising is that more than half of the Conservatives (87 MPs), including eight cabinet ministers, voted for the bill. Each of these MPs took a risk in doing so, as it was clear the vote would never pass, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper had stated he would not support it and had no intention of ever reopening the abortion debate.

Voting against the prime minister is typically considered a career-limiting step – sometimes even on a free vote. It is even more risky when the issue is controversial and the media are eager to vilify such members.

In this atmosphere, two of the most significant yea votes came from Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and the Minister for the Status of Women, Rona Ambrose.

Kenney ostensibly supported the motion because he believes it’s time for a “respectful debate” on abortion. Those who are familiar with Kenney aren’t surprised by his position. Supporters know him to be a devout, principled Catholic and a long-term, prominent advocate for life. His constituents know it and, because of it – or in spite of it – continue to vote for him in large numbers. In the past four elections, they have given him a margin of support greater than 70 per cent.

He deserves it, as he has repeatedly shown himself to be a principled politician who is willing to stand by what he has said and act according to his moral framework and conscience. In an age of cynicism and disgraced politicians, where flip-flops are more the rule than the exception, it is refreshing to see someone push political expediency out and let their conscience speak. It’s all the more encouraging that he would take this stand on abortion, which is typically a no-win situation in Canadian politics.

Taking a principled stance is such a rare act that Kenney is now being skewered by the media and abortion advocates. The media suggest that he acted to position himself as the leader of the party’s social conservatives to gain support for a leadership run that is nowhere in sight for many years to come. But Kenney’s vote wasn’t a political strategy – it was a moral stand.

The NDP’s status of women critic was obviously searching for dark, ulterior motives when she said the most important question about Kenney’s vote is “why” he would take such a stand. The NDP is obviously so accustomed to making decisions on ulterior motives, that they can’t even conceive the idea that he voted on principle.

Ambrose says she supported the bill because she hopes to take action against sex-selective abortion. It isn’t exactly a principled stance, if one supports abortion for every other reason. But as minister for the status of women, she took a courageous stance and is now being vilified for it.

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has said she is “unfit” for the job, and demanded that she resign for “(throwing) women under the bus” and defying the prime minister. Its leader had previously called on Harper to discipline cabinet members who voted for the motion.

Once again, this exposes the hypocrisy of those who say they support choice. In truth, they only support choice when it reflects their choice. This irony is made even more clear by the Angus Reid polls in January showing that 53 per cent of women support laws restricting abortion in some way, and 66 percent of women want a law against sex-selective abortion. Obviously, Ambrose represents the position of the majority of Canadian women.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Kudos to Kenney and Ambrose for taking a stand that supports life.

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