Right-wing Tories gear up for convention
By GLORIA GALLOWAY
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Updated at 10:55 PM EST
Globe and Mail Update
Ottawa — Anti-abortionists and opponents of same-sex marriage who revelled Thursday in their successful scuttling of a Conservative plan to keep those issues from being debated at the party's policy convention are now turning their thoughts to the convention itself.
“We are going to have to hit the ground running when we get to Montreal and get information to the delegates and talk to people and do our lobbying before we actually get to that point (where abortion is debated),” said Connie Wilkins, a Conservative from Kingston who is the author of a resolution to ban partial-birth abortions in the third term of pregnancy.
“By the time people get to the plenary session where they are going to be faced with the choice of the two different abortion resolutions, they are going to have a pretty strong idea already of what they want to do.”
The first resolution on abortion to be debated at the meeting next week will say that a Conservative government will not support any legislation to regulate the procedure.
If that passes, Ms. Wilkins' resolution will not be debated. So she and other anti-abortion activists are going to do their best to ensure that it fails — just as a massive telephone and e-mail campaign earlier this week convinced the party brass to abandon plans to prevent debate on what it calls issues of moral conscience.
While Ms. Wilkins is lobbying the Conservatives to prevent the controversial third-term partial birth abortions, Craig Chandler and his group, Concerned Christians Canada, will be make a strong pitch against same-sex marriage.
“We're pushing the agenda. We won the first round. (But) we understand that the convention next week is the main battleground,” said Mr. Chandler. “This is going to determine what this part is. Either we are going to become the old Progressives which, last time I looked, we dropped that word from our name. Or we're going to be a Conservative party.”
The battle highlights problems Leader Stephen Harper will face as he tries to reconcile competing values from the old Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance arms of the amalgamated entity.But Ms. Wilkins does not understand why anybody would oppose a ban on third-trimester partial-birth abortions.
“Really it's infanticide,” said Ms. Wilkins.
While there are no figures to suggest it is even performed in this country, Ms. Wilkins said Ontario paid $400,000 last year to send women in their last term of pregnancy to a clinic south of the border to have it done. The Ontario Health Ministry does not deny that but says, in each case, the procedure was deemed medically necessary by the women's doctors.
Kim Luton, president of the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, said the case against partial-birth abortions is being made to demonize all abortions. In Canada, said Ms. Luton, 97 per cent of abortions occur in the first trimester and the all but a tiny fraction of the rest take place in the second.
Those that occur late term are conducted because mother's life is in danger or the doctor has detected a gross fetal anomaly with tests that can't be done until the 18th week of pregnancy, she said.
“We don't need to make these women and their lives any more emotionally upsetting,” said Ms. Luton. She termed attempts to regulate late-term partial-birth abortions “the slippery slope or a back door way to start attempting to control or limit abortions.”
But Ms. Wilkins said that is ridiculous. “That's like saying setting a speed limit to banning all driving.”
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