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 representation.


Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

Income Tax ActGovernment 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 ActGovernment 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.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

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

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance 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.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal 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.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc 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.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Psychological health

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc 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—

HealthPrivate 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.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Yorkton—Melville for the motion he has put forward. He is a great friend of Canadian families and I thank him for that.

The purpose of the motion is to separate fact from fiction in the debate over publicly funded abortion. This is an issue that is very topical and of great interest to the people of New Brunswick because, as hon. members will know, Dr. Henry Morgentaler has sued our provincial government over its refusal to use public funds for private abortion clinics.

All Dr. Morgentaler cares about is the money he puts in the bank. He does not care about the baby in the womb. He does not care about the person who is having the abortion. I wish to congratulate our premier and our provincial government for not paying for these abortions.

The member for Yorkton—Melville has courageously gone to great lengths to show that the government has adopted a position that is without factual basis. In my hometown newspaper, the Saint John Telegraph Journal , the federal Minister of Health was quoted as saying:

Our view is that obviously abortion is a medically necessary service and therefore has to be insured, whether it is performed in a hospital or a private clinic.

That is a truly shocking position. In all my years working with the parliamentary pro-life caucus and all my time working in support of pro-life causes never before have I heard the argument that abortions were medically necessary. Heart transplants and blood transfusions are medically necessary, but abortions are not.

In fact, even those who believe that abortions should be allowed in Canada identify themselves as being pro-choice because even they acknowledge that abortions are an elective procedure.

As this House knows, I strongly believe that abortion should not be allowed in Canada. As a mother, a grandmother, and a member of Parliament, I do not believe that Canadians should have the choice to end a life that has just begun. It is a human life they are taking.

That is not what we are here to debate tonight. I want to respect the very clear wording and meaning of the motion. The wording of the motion and the spirit of what we are debating tonight is to ask the Standing Committee on Health to conduct a full and thorough study of abortions to determine if they are in any way medically necessary.

Are they medically necessary to maintain the health of Canadians? Are they medically necessary to prevent any unknown disease? Are they medically necessary to diagnose or treat any kind of injury, illness or disability? In short, are abortions medically necessary in any way, as the Minister of Health has suggested?

I am not a doctor, nor am I a nurse. I do not have formal training in any field of medical science. I am not in a position to answer any of those questions with any degree of expertise.

The Canadian Physicians for Life wrote to the Prime Minister on October 7, 2002, stating:

Women's health is being harmed by abortion, without their knowledge or consent. Available studies make this clear and the politics of abortion is keeping this information from women - they are not fully informed before they make their choice for abortion.

The Canadian Nurses for Life wrote a letter to each one of us dated November 18, 2002, clearly stating that abortion was not a medical necessity. The Canadian Nurses for Life went on to say:

As members of the most populous health care profession, we are well aware of the necessity of conserving our health care dollars. We are there on the front lines of health care twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We are uniquely involved in every aspect of caring for our patients and as such are able to distinguish the need for medical information when we see it.

They are saying that this is not needed.

The Minister of Health's own department has not conducted the kind of investigation necessary to answer the questions. The simple truth is that the minister does not have a single shred of evidence to support her comments. Why then would she say it? She said it because it was the only thing she could say to support the argument that abortions in private clinics should be paid for with tax dollars.

She said it because it was the only thing she could say that could justify the bullying of provincial governments like New Brunswick which has refused to do so. Provinces will continue to refuse to do so. They will go to court if they have to, but just because it was said does not mean that it was true.

I would hope and expect that the Minister of Health would support this motion. If she truly believes that abortions are a medically necessary service, then I challenge the minister to help us prove it.

Let us get the science in our hands first. Let us get answers to the questions first. I know in my heart that abortions are not medically necessary services and I am willing to put my opinion up to the scrutiny of the Standing Committee on Health. Why would the minister not do the same?

After all, is her opinion not the basis for government policy? Does she not owe it to Canadians to ensure that the foundations of government policy are deeply rooted in fact and not fiction? It was stated in the Ottawa Citizen that:

But when a healthy pregnancy is abruptly terminated, the hormones have too little chance to mature the breast tissue, so what is left behind is an increased number of vulnerable cells, which raises the risk of cancers developing.

This is right here in the paper that abortions can cause breast cancer. Our Canadian health care system is under ever-increasing strain as our population ages and as we combat new diseases. Health care dollars are at a premium and the provinces are already forced to make difficult decisions about how best to use those dollars to help Canadians. These decisions should be based on the best information medical science can offer us. The guidance we give as members of Parliament or as a minister of the Crown should be based on a logical view of the facts.

Recommending that the Standing Committee on Health investigate this matter is a search for the truth. It is the prudent and responsible course when faced with a shortage of information and a variety of opinions.

I do not believe that there is anyone here in the House of Commons who would take the life of an unborn child. That is a baby after 14 days.

On an issue where we should be doing everything we can, this is the very least we can do. We need to get our information. We need to get our research. We need the minister to ensure that the committee on health does its homework on this issue.

I wish to congratulate my member for Yorkton—Melville for what he has done and what he has brought forward here tonight. I wish to thank him very much.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 15th anniversary of the decriminalization of abortion.

This is cause for celebration. Today we ought to be celebrating that achievement and paying tribute to the women who struggled long and hard for recognition, and the right to be able to make decisions about their own bodies. We should be paying tribute to people like Henry Morgentaler who was an integral part of that struggle and in the forefront of leading this movement that recognizes fundamental choice for women.

What I do not understand is how members like the member for Saint John and the member for Yorkton—Melville can stand up in the House day in and day out and talk about the need for choice, choice on every issue except when it comes to women. They talk about choice in terms of guns, that is fine. But they say that women should not have the right to choose what is best for them and their families when it comes to giving birth or reproductive matters.

I do not mind debate and there are divisions, yes, but one would think that a motion put to the House would have a shred of evidence backing up its argument. It ought to have a basis in fact. It ought to have some statistical information. It ought to be rational in its approach. Well, today, we are dealing with an irrational motion. It has no basis in fact. It is based on innuendo, rumour, hearsay, and it is founded on a patronizing attitude toward women in our society today.

If we are going to pay tribute today, let us go back to the woman in the House who played a critical role in the whole struggle to decriminalize abortion. I want to pay tribute to Grace MacInnis, the member for Vancouver--Kingsway, who had the audacity and courage to stand up in the House long before it was popular and lay it on the line in terms of a woman's right to choose.

I want to put on record her words during that debate in 1967. What she said then about some other members in the House applies today. She said:

One feature of this debate which has alarmed, saddened and...made me feel very indignant, is the attitude toward women which has been displayed by some honourable members. It is quite an unconscious attitude; I am not saying it is deliberate. It is an inborn, uneducated attitude, an unconscious attitude on the part of many people in this country toward women.

They have treated women purely as baby machines, without minds, feelings or rights of their own. They have suggested that it is the duty of women to have any number of children without complaint.

They have suggested that therapeutic abortion boards should include a psychiatrist for the purpose of telling women that maternity under any circumstances is good for them. They have suggested that spiritual advisors be appointed to therapeutic abortion boards for the same purpose.

Let me conclude with one more quote:

Members of this house have argued that pregnancy reduces even an intelligent woman to a state of mindlessness where she needs a man to tell her what is good for her, and that, of course, she must continue her pregnancy regardless of the effect upon her and her child or society.

We thought that attitude, described so well by Grace MacInnis, was long gone in the House. Well, I am afraid, it is still alive and well in this House. We should put this issue to rest once and for all and say that there is no going back to the pre-1967 days. There is no going back to the days of backroom butchers. If members want to talk about health concerns, I would suggest they do some investigation about the impact on women's health if we go back to the days where in fact we treated abortion as a criminal activity and women were forced to resort to backroom butchers.

I suggest members read some of the evidence in a book entitled, No Choice: Canadian Women Tell Their Stories of Illegal Abortion. I suggest they look at the facts where we are reminded in the book that contraception and abortion were illegal in Canada until 1969, and that an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 women died from unlawful abortions between 1926 and 1947.

The book goes on to talk about the kind of desperation women faced and the way in which they had to turn to self-induced abortion or rely on strangers who were more often motivated by money than by concern for the women involved. Do we want to go back to those days? Absolutely not. Of course we do not want to go back.

Today let us put our minds to the problems at hand. If we are talking about health concerns, then let us look at the fact that women who resort to non-clinical therapeutic abortion services end up with serious health concerns. Let us remember the facts from numerous organizations since this nonsense has been appearing in the media about health risks because of abortions. The Canadian Cancer Society said:

We monitor information about potential risk factors for breast cancer, as it is a major health concern for Canadian women. Scientific evidence does not support the relationship between abortion and breast cancer.

I could go on and read quotes from the American Cancer Society, from numerous experts in the field, from people who make statements based on fact, not on rumour and innuendo. That is critical today.

Let us also look at this, if we are looking at the issue of access under the Canada Health Act and coverage under medicare, which the member is suggesting should not happen. The member for Saint John feels it is outrageous that women should be accessing therapeutic health services under a universally accessible health care system. If we are to open that issue, then let us look at the fact that we as a country have not yet achieved universal access for women in every part of this country, regardless of income and regardless of where they live, to therapeutic abortion services, to reproductive health services.

Time and time again we hear from women, other than the member for Saint John, about what it is like to live in New Brunswick, where there is no access to clinically approved abortion services, where women have to look at leaving their families, going huge distances, resorting to unacceptable alternatives, and living with fear and desperation and anxiety.

If we are going to address the issue of access, let us address the fact that to this day the government has not lived up to its promise to ensure that women are able to access our health care system the same way men can: for medically necessary reasons on the basis of the expert advice of their doctors and in consultation with their families.

Surely we do not need to hear from members suggesting that those individuals with children are somehow special because they did not have an abortion. We heard women in this House today asking what woman relishes the idea of an abortion. That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about extraordinary circumstances where women are forced to look at abortion because of an unwanted pregnancy. We have to look at the cost to our society of not ensuring that women are provided with the full range of services.

We have made a lot of progress in this country since the days of backroom butchers. We have made a lot of progress since abortion was decriminalized. But we have a long way to go to ensure that every province in this country offers women services when they need them. We have a long way to go to ensure that the full range of supports are there for women who find themselves in very difficult circumstances.

Under no circumstances should we forget that our work must continue, which we have really in many ways only just begun. For goodness' sake, above all else, let us not go back. Let us not go back, as the Alliance and the member for Saint John would have us go back, to the days when women were treated as baby machines, when women were not given the right to choose, when women had to resort to precarious alternatives that were detrimental to their health. Let us remember that women have the right to choose their own destiny. Let us reject this motion. Let us defeat Motion No. 83.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I see that the debate has become quite an emotional one this evening. I will remind anyone tuning in that the debate is actually about whether the health committee should examine whether abortion is medically necessary. It is a very appropriate question in a day when we have scant health resources and a lot of money is being spent on something that a lot of people do not appreciate their tax money being spent on.

Whether it is medically necessary or not becomes an important question. We might say it is a question of science. The member for Winnipeg North Centre and I had a lot of discussions about scientific issues when I was a member of the health committee. There are a lot of issues we might agree on, but when she says tonight that there is no basis in fact or in science for assertions that an embryo is a human being, I think she is very misguided.

I will begin with a quote that came out of the breakfast meeting held at the end of last week. We call these meetings the bacon and eggheads breakfasts around here. It was a science debate. A fisheries expert, Dr. Hutchings, made the presentation. The doctor quoted Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former PM of Norway, who stated that politics that ignores science “will not stand the test of time”.

We hear emotional debates about a woman's right to choose, but we also hear debates which ignore that what is in the womb is a pre-born human being from the moment of conception. That is the science behind it and it really is not debatable.

The member for Mississauga South who spoke a little bit earlier tonight quoted Françoise Baylis, a noted Canadian ethicist and professor whom we have had at the health committee, who said that from the point of view of science a human embryo is a member of the human family from the point of conception. This really is not an issue that is up for discussion as far as science is concerned.

I would like to say that this whole concept of human conception has been degraded sadly in the debate and in this whole argument about choice. It is the marvel of human existence and of human procreation, the marvel that brought each one of us into this room, dare I say, as there may be the odd one who has come here some other way, and I know there are many members who question which planet they come from.

I would like to quote an ancient Hebrew proverb: “There are...four things too wonderful for me: the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent on a rock; the way of a ship upon the seas; and the way of a man with a maid”.

There is a marvel in our origins that has been sadly negated and under-appreciated in our day. The marvel of human conception, if we could talk about the facts for just a moment since other things have been flying around here, is that from the moment those sperm take their epic journey in their voyage down that fallopian tube and encounter that ovum that has also been ready and waiting and gently floating its way down that fallopian tube, if the timing is right, from the moment of encounter there is a rapid change that takes place at that ovum. It is like an iron curtain drops that prevents another sperm from penetrating that ovum.

Within 24 hours, the chromosomes have paired. That is 24 hours and at that point we have a new human being which has a different genetic makeup from the mother and from the father. We have a new human being. Some 30 to 36 hours after conception, the first cell divides into two cells and cleavage continues until by the fourth day there are 16 cells. At this stage, science says it is called a zygote. It moves along the fallopian tube toward the uterus. By the time of the first seven days of life the young human being sinks into the nutrient wall of the uterus where she implants herself.

At the end of two weeks a primitive streak appears. The member for Mississauga South has mentioned this earlier. The primitive streak is the beginning of the nervous system; that distinguishes the different germ layers of the individual. Over the next three weeks, these layers give rise to specialized tissue and organ systems. So by the time the woman has realized she is pregnant, we have a human being with a nervous system.

Women's safety has been mentioned. One of my colleagues was attacked for raising the concerns about women's health. We are concerned about women's health and we ought to be because there are some very disturbing consequences to women as a consequence of abortion.

I go way back to 1978, just a few years after the famous, or infamous, Roe v. Wade decision in the United States. In 1978 the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association conducted an investigation to determine whether women having clinical abortions were receiving safe, competent care.

Working undercover in six clinics, their representatives witnessed in four out of six clinics, for the record: haphazard, unsterile and illegal medical procedures and conditions; incompetent and unqualified doctors; abortions performed on women who were not pregnant; massive infections; severe internal damage, some so severe that all reproductive organs had to be removed; two-minute abortions when the average usually is 10 to 15 minutes elsewhere; some doctors were in such a hurry they did not wait for pain killing medications to take hold; failure to order critical post-operative pathological tests; dangerous, shoddy record keeping; counsellors who were paid not to counsel but to sell abortions; and deceived, maimed or crippled women. There were at least 12 deaths in the Illinois clinics and abortions were performed on girls who were as young as 10 years. There is a multimillion dollar business in abortion.

There is a lot of deception going on, but I would like to say that women have been victimized by this. That list relates to issues that happened right at the time of the abortion, but I would say that the psychological trauma goes on for a long time.

Interestingly enough, in the October issue of Vogue magazine there is an article “Roe No More Politics”. Norma McCorvey is the name of the woman who was in the Roe v. Wade case. It was her case that brought this whole issue to the courts in the United States. She has since changed her mind. She is now campaigning to see the abortion laws changed in the United States because she realizes she was a victim. She was not given informed consent. She was told lies and misconceptions about what was really going on in the womb.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the leading proponents of abortion in that era, himself responsible for tens of thousands of abortions, has now changed sides in this perspective and has accepted the scientific view. There is a lot of deception and debate about science. We need to be honest about this. This is an issue that needs to be examined. I recommend that the health committee do due duty and diligence with this motion and that the committee be given the opportunity to examine this issue.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking all members who spoke in support of Motion No. 83. For those members of Parliament who oppose the motion, I really only have to wonder why they would be afraid to examine the health issues surrounding abortion. I ask them to please read the motion carefully before voting.

Why should Parliament not fully examine and document all the health risks for women having abortions? Why should all women not have this information before they take a chance on an unwanted pregnancy? Why should all pregnant women not have the best information available as part of making their choice to have an abortion or not.

Without first studying the medical necessity of abortion and the risks associated with having an abortion, we will never be able to provide women with the best information available in making what surely will be one of the most important decisions of their lives. Certainly it is the most important decision for the life of the baby inside them.

I would also like to thank the 10,679 Canadians who signed petitions supporting Motion No. 83. It is indeed gratifying to know that so many people agree with the motion being debated in the House today, and voted on in the House tomorrow.

We have heard statistics quoted by speakers on both sides of the debate on my motion. What are Canadians to make of this often contradictory evidence? Are Canadians supposed to believe the statistics that reflect their own particular point of view on a woman's right to choose or a baby's right to life? It is up to Parliament to provide leadership on important moral issues. It is our job as members of the House of Commons to provide the best information to our constituents on all issues, but especially issues involving life and death, rights and freedoms and right and wrong.

Parliament should not leave the truth about the medical necessity of abortion or the risks of having an abortion as a multiple choice question for women, but that is what we have done in the last 12 years. For 12 years, MPs have abdicated their responsibility to provide all the facts about abortion to Canadians, and especially to women. It is time for us to stop ducking the issue. Canadian women should be able to come to government for the truth about all risks associated with every medically necessary service provided by our state health care system. Right now they cannot.

A vote in support of Motion No. 83 is the first step in correcting this 12 year oversight by Parliament. The health minister and her officials have admitted that they do not have any evidence in their files to show that abortions are medically necessary. We should all be asking why not. If the Department of Health does not collect this information, is it not incumbent on Parliament to do the studies the government will not undertake? Even Dr. Henry Morgentaler agrees that abortions get riskier for the mother as the pregnancy progresses.

On September 19 the Hamilton Spectator reported Russian health officials saying the following:

Artificial termination of pregnancy after week 12 is fraught with grave consequences for a woman's health. Abortions account for 30 per cent of maternal mortality in Russia. It has been decided to reduce these dangers.

All I ask with Motion No. 83 is for Parliament to determine what the risk is for Canadian women. In a recent column that appeared in a number of CanWest papers, Lorne Gunter reported:

Of the 40 or so major studies on the ABC (abortion-breast cancer) link, nearly three-quarters have shown a statistically significant correlation.

In response to Mr. Gunter's column, the Vancouver Sun published a letter on September 10 from two doctors and the program director of the B.C. Women's Hospital citing one study that did not find a correlation. Based on this one study the doctors reassured women having abortions that, “they have not put their future health in jeopardy”.

Somewhere in these studies is the truth. What is it? It is time to replace emotional arguments on both sides of the abortion debate with sound science. For the sake of the health and safety of all women, this needs to be done.

Doctors take an oath to do no harm. I believe the government should take the same oath. Governments should be held to the same standard that we hold individuals and corporations, that is that we are all responsible for our actions and damages they cause. If medical procedures are proving to be causing harm, then precautions have to be taken. If medical procedures cause more harm than good, then we have to be even more careful how we deliver and insure these services under the Canada Health Act.

It is the government's solemn duty to do no harm. I urge all members to vote in support of women's health and safety.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6:58 p.m., the time provided for the debate has expired. Is the house ready for the question?

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen.

HealthPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 1 at the beginning of private members' business.

It being 7 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7 p.m.)