House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.

Topics

Income Tax Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadian Alliance members will vote yes to this motion.

Income Tax Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, members of the Bloc Quebecois vote no on this motion.

Income Tax Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, members of the Progressive Conservative Party vote yes.

Income Tax Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, members of the NDP vote no to this motion.

Income Tax Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Guy Carignan Québec East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I vote yes on this motion.

Income Tax Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Income Tax Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Consequently, the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Income Tax Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have received notice from the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest that he is unable to move his motion during private members' hour on Wednesday, October 1, 2003. It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence, accordingly, I am directing the table officers to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence.

Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and the House will continue with the business before it prior to private members' hour.

It being 5:57 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from May 12 consideration of the motion.

Health
Private Members' Business

September 30th, 2003 / 5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to debate this most important and most critical issue.

The motion before the House is that of my colleague from Yorkton--Melville, Motion No. 83. I think it might be good at this stage to take a few seconds to read the motion. It states:

That the Standing Committee on Health fully examine, study and report to Parliament on: (a) whether or not abortions are medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability; and (b) the health risks for women undergoing abortions compared to women carrying their babies to full term.

This of course is a very emotional issue. Unfortunately sometimes in life as in Parliament emotions take precedence over careful thought and looking at independent and objective truth and objective facts. This is exactly what has happened on the issue of abortion in Canada and, I would venture to say, around the world.

There are those who say that women have a right to an abortion and therefore no one should have the ability or the right to say that they may not have them.

The dilemma for Canadians is that we are all required to pay taxes and, through our taxes, to fund abortions in an environment in which medical funding is limited. This is without any firm proof, scientific or objective, that it meets the requirements of the Canada Health Act. It has always been assumed so, since the abortion rules were struck down a number of years ago. If one has the gall to even suggest that perhaps we should have a look at it, there is this huge emotional outcry and name calling that ensues. That does not contribute to a positive and meaningful debate on the issue.

I would like to point out, as my colleague did when he first spoke to this motion on May 12 of this year, that the wording of the motion is precisely the same as that which was given to him by the department when it looked for criteria to determine whether or not a medical procedure should be covered by the Canada Health Act and by funding from the central government in Ottawa.

We all know there have been several instances in our country where provinces have been punished for not complying with all of these conditions and yet there has been no proof given that this is a necessary procedure.

I would like to talk about these different points, the first being maintaining health. If pregnancy were a disease then we would all be in trouble. In fact I would venture to say that if pregnancy were a disease, which would be vigorously attacked on all fronts, then our species would cease to exist. I believe that pregnancy has always been considered a normal phase of life and it has not, to my knowledge, ever been called a disease. As far as maintaining health is concerned, it really is not the issue.

If we are talking about preventing disease or diagnosing and treating an injury, does having an abortion prevent a disease? Pregnancy is not a disease. Childbirth is not a disease. Therefore it is not logical to say that abortions are necessary to prevent disease or to treat an injury.

Just as a little aside with a bit of humour, I remember seeing a notice from a life insurance company stating that its policy for injury payments did not cover certain circumstances. It then went on to mention a bunch of things, including suicide, attempted suicide and so on, pregnancy and other self-inflicted injuries. We know, of course, that pregnancy is not usually a self-inflicted injury. It is just one of those normal things that mothers and fathers do in order to provide for the next generation.

I would also like to say sort of as a parenthetical phrase--I suppose the modern lingo is a little sidebar--that my wife and I have three wonderful children. In each instance their births were welcomed and absolute miracles, as were the births of all our grandchildren. I think my wife and I were more enthusiastic with the birth of our grandchildren and about the well-being of the mother when our grandchildren were born than we were when we were having children ourselves. It is a wonderful process and one which I think we ought to really be very careful about.

Then, of course, we also have illness or disability, and I think the same arguments would apply.

Those were definitions given by the Department of Health in answer to an inquiry as to how to determine whether a procedure should be covered by the Canada Health Act.

There are serious questions. There is mounting evidence that there are in fact significant traumas that are incurred in the performance of abortions. I have done quite a bit of reading on this myself. I have a real interest in books. One of the things that I sometimes do is go to the library just to see what kind of books it is getting rid of. Everyone knows about the 25¢ books that are outdated. People can buy them and take them home. I have a whole stack of books to read for that date way off in the future when I retire.

One of the books that I picked up, because of my interest in the subject, was a book entitled Providing Safe Abortions . I thought it would be an interesting one. It was 25¢ so I plunked down my money and walked off with the book. I began to read it. It is a fascinating book because it was written by a medical doctor who provides abortions, believes in abortions and, for the sake of training practitioners, he wrote the textbook to be used in medical colleges, which was to answer the question of what one has to do to provide a safe abortion.

I was astounded when I read that book. It was not a very thick book, maybe 150 pages or so, but it talked about all sorts of things that can go wrong during an abortion. I never knew that. Those who promote abortions want us to believe that it is just an innocuous procedure like removing the appendix or some other thing like that. I was really quite astounded that this person who wrote the book actually works in that particular area of the medical field and by all the elements that he had identified as being dangers.

I think it is just common sense that we should ask the questions. I do not believe we should refrain from asking the questions simply because we are going to be yelled at by someone. I think they are legitimate questions and we need to get the answers. If the answers come out opposite to what we expect because of the literature that we have obtained and that we have garnered, so be it, but let us ask the questions. Let us find out the true dimensions of this procedure. Particularly, in support of my colleague's motion, we need to make sure as the government that this procedure is indeed medically necessary as is claimed.

Health
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the member for Yorkton--Melville for bringing the issue before Parliament. It is an important issue that has seized parliamentarians and countries around the world.

As the House will know, in 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion laws of Canada. In that decision, it was not a matter of whether the unborn child was a human being. It was a matter of whose rights came first, and the courts decided the mother's rights were to be respected in advance of the rights of the unborn child.

This is an issue that will be with us I am sure for some time, but the motion does raise another element of consideration and of development as it relates to the issue of human health.

As the previous member stated, the motion asks the Standing Committee on Health to examine, study and report to Parliament on first, whether abortions are medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability, and second, the health risk for women undergoing abortions compared to women carrying babies to full term.

With regard to the aspect of medically necessary, there is an obligation, under our publicly funded health care system, that medically necessary costs shall be covered under the Canada Health Act and under the provincial jurisdictions that basically deal with the provision of publicly funded services.

I will not go through it but at this point there is no list. It is basically a conceptual issue of what constitutes medically necessary. However medically necessary is basically driven by what the provinces have decided to either include or exclude. Over time issues could come where they would find deletions or exclusions from what would constitute medically necessary in a province, which would give the federal government and Health Canada some problem, and that action could be taken. Therefore this is a very interesting motion which has been brought forward.

I also wanted to mention that in the past year the U.S. secretary of health and human services amended the definition of child for U.S. health services purposes. The definition of child in the United States today is a person under the age of 19, including the period from conception to birth.

In the United States the unborn child from conception to birth is considered to be a person. The U.S. secretary of health and human services did this because the unbelievable procedures now being done on the unborn child in terms of health services previously were not covered under insurance programs and under Medicaid. By virtue of that change, it basically provided an opportunity for those services, to treat an unborn child with a detected malady, to be covered under an insurance plan. There has been an evolution and there are things in this regard.

Additionally, the tri-council policy statement, which came out in 1989 and is updated annually and is also part of our current bill under consideration, Bill C-13, protects the unborn child, being the embryo, from the 14th day forward. Why do they do that? They do it because even the medical profession acknowledges that the 14th day is when the primitive streak occurs. It is when twinning is not possible. It is when there are some physical features, pain can be felt, et cetera. Even the medical profession does not agree with the legal precedent, which is a person is not a human being until it is born and severed from the umbilical cord.

So there are different things going on that I thought were relevant to this debate.

Similarly, Dr. Françoise Baylis, the vice-chair of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research board of governors, testified before the health committee. She has written a number of articles in which she declares clearly that the human embryo is a member of the human species and that is an uncontested biological fact. This is the medical opinion.

Having said that, I want to comment very briefly with regard to medically necessary abortions and also the impact of abortions on the health of women.

There was an article by Mr. Lorne Gunter in the Ottawa Citizen on September 22, just a week ago. He referred to an article in the summer issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons , in which author Karen Malec laid out the case that induced abortions raise women's risk of developing breast cancer by 30% to 100% or more, whereas miscarriages do not.

Mr. Gunter went on to state, “The key is the artificiality of on-demand abortions”. He went on to explain some of the more technical aspects. He also pointed out, “Cancer societies, government research institutes, pro-abortion politicians, even medical associations continue to deny the increasing bulk of evidence” concerning the relationship between abortions and breast cancer. He stated that of the 40 or so major studies on the ABC, abortion-breast cancer, link, nearly three-quarters have shown a statistically significant correlation

There is unquestionably a growing body of evidence that there are medical impacts on abortion. They vary depending on the number of abortions as well.

Every year in Canada over 100,000 abortions are performed. Assuming an average cost of $1,000, we are talking about $100 million and more. I am sure it is much more.

The consequences of this issue, whether it be to women's health, whether it be to the health of an unborn child who is recognized as an uncontested biological fact to be a member of the human species, is enormous and growing. The fact that the U.S. will recognize the unborn child from conception to birth as a person entitled to protection means that things are changing.

Let me conclude by simply saying that this issue is a divisive issue, I understand, but this is the place in which members should not hesitate to stand and represent their beliefs and their concerns about the rights of the unborn, the future of Canada, who will never have a chance, those who have no voice in Canada.

Health
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I feel it is my duty as a woman to take part in this debate. It is my duty because the hard won right of women to have an abortion is being challenged today. There is no doubt about it. This is the third attempt by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville to recriminalize abortion.

He is asking, in a very underhanded manner, that the Standing Committee on Health fully examine, on behalf of women:

(a) whether or not abortions are medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health—

(b) the health risks for women undergoing abortions compared to women carrying their babies to full term.

That is essentially the question.

We know that 1988 was a historic year in terms of recognizing women's control over their own bodies. The Supreme Court of Canada struck down legislation prohibiting abortion because it violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In its decision, the Supreme Court said:

Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term... is a profound interference with a woman's body and thus an infringement of security of the person.

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville is challenging this decision. In all sincerity, I doubt that the real reason he introduced this motion is his concern for the health of women who have an abortion.

Whose health is he worried about? I would remind the hon. member that, in some cases, the risks can be just as great when a pregnant woman is forced to carry a pregnancy to term under difficult conditions or under circumstances not conducive to a pregnancy. Is he worried about such cases? In listening to women who have had an abortion, he would understand what they had to undergo and experience to make this difficult decision to abort.

It is important to understand how a women decides to end her pregnancy. It is not done lightly. It is, first and foremost, a painful experience. We should instead ensure that these women have access to the best possible services so that they can make the best possible decisions and rely on quality care during this extremely difficult time.

Psychological equilibrium is another important element when we are talking about women's health. This does not seem to be an issue or a concern for the member. It must also be possible to provide a safe environment once an abortion has been performed. When this environment is provided, there are fewer negative psychological consequences. Several studies attest to this.

Earlier, the member for Yorkton—Melville said he had read a 120-page book explaining all the risks of having an abortion. There is no question that there are certain risks involved in having an abortion. But I too have read studies. I have read other studies indicating that the risk to a woman's health or life is less than 1%.

When people claim that abortion has serious consequences for women's health, here again I believe they are mistaken. As I was saying, very rarely are there complications following an abortion. In most cases, these are quickly resolved. If the member for Yorkton—Melville did some research, he would find studies that support this claim.

In any event, I would like to thank the Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine for sending us a lot to think about with respect to this issue. Perhaps the member for Yorkton—Melville should also read this type of document since it includes a great deal of research and analyses on this issue.

Addressing the issue of women's health with respect to having an abortion versus continuing the pregnancy, is an attempt to sidetrack the debate.

Only after a lengthy battle did women attain the freedom of choice as far as motherhood is concerned.

I would remind hon. members that the Canadian law of 1869, which made abortions illegal, never stopped women from having backroom abortions. That was the time their health was at risk. There was a health risk then, but is there one now? The context is different.

In 1966, this was the main reason for hospitalization. That gives some food for thought. Banning something does not stop it from happening. The figures speak for themselves.

In 1999, in Latin American and African countries where abortion is illegal, 95% to 99% of abortions are backroom abortions. That is the situation, and we would not like to go back to square one.

I would like to relate a personal story, that of my late mother. In the 1950s, she had difficult deliveries and suffered one miscarriage after another. When she got pregnant, she asked for authorization of the Church—which was necessary in the Fifties—to have an abortion, because her health was at risk. It was refused, and she was forced to continue the pregnancy. She miscarried at six or seven months.

Another time, when she got pregnant again, authorization was again refused—we are talking about therapeutic abortions, still the Church did not condone them—and her health was at risk. it was also out of the question that she have her tubes tied. We will not return to the climate of those days when women could not have access to medical care and had to let nature take its course.

The number of abortions did not increase. There are deaths from abortions performed in unsanitary conditions, and that concerns me. For any woman, an abortion is not a trivial matter. I think that we need to seriously realize under what circumstances women make such a choice. It is an extremely difficult one. I have known young women who have had to make that choice and I can tell you that it was not easy for them.

I hope that sufficient support is provided to women in the process of making a decision so that they can make the best possible one. When we look at our society—I think of the Canadian Alliance which often talks about reducing the social safety net—young women who, for all sorts of reasons, including poverty and psychological disability, ask for an abortion often face a difficult choice.

When we consider women's health, we know that abortions do not cause complications and that the risks are minimal. When an hon. member says he is worried about women's health, I think he should look at the statistics on female mortality.

Health
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Psychological health

Health
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

There is psychological health as well as physical health. Mortality rates are higher among women who carry a pregnancy to full term.

If we look at women who have completed full-term pregnancies under difficult circumstances, we realize that this affects such women's psychological health.

Consequently, we must not give in to the prevailing wind blowing from the right in the United States where 31 states have put legal limits on abortions. They want to limit not only abortion, but also women's right to control their own bodies.

Today, I believe that young people make the decision as a couple; the decision to end a pregnancy is often made by the couple, together.

Even the Catholic Church refuses women the right to an abortion if they have been raped. That is completely inhuman. What does it mean to give birth to a child? We cannot hide our heads in the sand; we must look at the context this is happening in today.

I hope that the House of Commons, its members, both men and women, will vote against this bill, because it aims to recriminalize—

Health
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Québec, but her time is up.

The hon. member for Saint John.