Views / Metro Views

Column

Metro News globe

Metro Views

Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Anti-abortion MP Rachael Harder lost chair, not her rights: Mochama

In some ways, this particular drama resembles the founding of Status of Women itself, writes Vicky Mochama.

Conservative MP Rachael Harder rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept.27, 2017. Harder, whose beliefs on abortion prompted her Liberal counterparts to walk out of a hearing, won't be heading up the status of women committee after all.

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press

Conservative MP Rachael Harder rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Sept.27, 2017. Harder, whose beliefs on abortion prompted her Liberal counterparts to walk out of a hearing, won't be heading up the status of women committee after all.

The question over whether an anti-abortion MP can be the chair of the Status of Women committee has been answered. According the Liberal MPs and the one NDP MP on the committee, it's a no from them.

Exercising their procedural prerogative, the Conservatives had put forward Rachael Harder an MP who, on a survey in 2015, said she believed life begins at conception and would support legislation banning abortion. As an MP, she gave money to two Alberta clinics that do not support the right to abortion.

The Liberal members walked out during her nomination last week. And on Tuesday, the Liberals and NDP voted against the Conservative MP and instead installed a different Conservative MP as chair.

In some ways, this particular drama resembles the founding of Status of Women itself.

The Status of Women committee and the ministry are the results of a landmark 1970 Royal Commission that made hundreds of recommendations to the Canadian government. On abortion, the commissioners wrote, "we have come to the conclusion that each woman should have the right to decide if she will terminate a pregnancy."

Two commissioners, however, wrote minority opinions in disagreement. Doris Ogilvie wrote, "Our society must assert its belief in the value of human life - not abandon it." Another commissioner, Jacques Henripin dissented saying: "I cannot bring myself to deny the respect we owe to living beings in the process of becoming men and women. Unhappily, these are not matters which can be solved by a formula..." Nonetheless, the commission presented its recommendations.

Like the two commissioners in 1970 who wrote minority opinions on abortion, Harder and any other anti-abortion MP who sits on the committee may continue to ask questions and publicly disagree with the rest of the committee.

Clearly, in her approach to the pregnancy clinics and the private member's bill, Harder has a complicated and nuanced view of abortion. Precisely because of that, she should demand clarity and transparency from those she disagrees with.

For her legislative colleagues to insist that Harder cannot chair the committee, it is not a form of silencing. In fact, it is an exercise of our democracy. And like most exercises of democracy, it is frustrating in its use of minutiae to make a point.

Harder has a Charter right to liberty and to freely express herself; no one has a right to chair a committee.

More on Metronews.ca