Friday, July 02, 2010

Roxanne's panacea

[Originally posted at Bene Diction Blogs on, May 1, 2010]

When evangelist Faytene Kryskow most recently commented at BDBO, she alluded to what she is working on most ardently these days.

She wrote:

Back to working hard on C-510…now that is something worth blogging about!! An incredible bill.

Okay, but you’ll forgive me if I feel like one of the reporters that Gary Hart dared to follow him around on the grounds that they would be very very bored.

Bill C-510, “Roxanne’s Law” is being promoted as a great piece of pro-life legislation. But, as someone who is pro-life myself, I wonder if it is being offered as a sop, a panacea to pro-lifers. And I have to wonder, since Faytene Kryskow herself raises the question, why she is working so hard to enact something that might be well-intentioned but useless.

We might remember that a lady named Faytene was the original organizer of the Facebook page promoting “Roxanne’s Law”.

“Roxanne’s Law”—Bill C-510 in the House of Commons—was tabled on April 14 by pro-life Tory MP Rod Bruinooge. It’s been nicknamed “Roxanne’s Law” as it relates to the case of murder victim Roxanne Fernando.

It was argued by some that Fernando’s would be boyfriend killed her on the grounds that she refused to have an abortion. So, Bruinooge and his allies, using Fernando as the “face” of this problem, have drafted legislation that would make it a crime to coerce “a female person to procure or attempt to procure an abortion for herself” punishable by an up to five year prison term.

I am pretty certain that I know why Bruinooge is adopting this approach. He remembers William Wilberforce, the British politician who worked for years to eliminate slavery in Britain, chipping away at the problem a bit at a time (as documented, in fictional form, in the film Amazing Grace).

As someone who is pro-life, I would be tempted to support Roxanne’s Law. But I would say that a first step towards getting rid of abortion in Canada should be a “first step”. I wonder if it is even designed to fail.

There may be no consensus in Ottawa on restricting abortion based on the time elapsed during a pregnancy. I think that you could find a different kind of consensus, until more Canadians are pro-life, for legislation removing abortion from the Canada Health Act. Abortion would be available for those who felt it a necessity, but those who are pro-life would not be forced to pay for it in any way through their taxes. That would be the sort of intermediate step towards completely eliminating unnecessary abortions that I think that those who support abortion might respect. Is it fair to make people pay for something, through their taxes, that they object to so strongly in a moral way?

Bruinooge could also make the argument that in a day when medical costs are so expensive, we should only have things that are essential and non-controversial covered in the Canada Health Act.

But, instead of taking this route, Bruinooge prefers to bring forth Bill C-510, a piece of legislation that could be picked apart. I’ll show how.

The bill says that there are “many” women in Canada who are coerced into having an abortion. Too bad for the pro-life cause that Roxanne Fernando may not have been one.

Although I probably wouldn’t agree with the blogger at Dammit Janet about some things, I have to notice when she makes a good point.

The blogger points out that the lawyer for the defense, in Fernando’s murder case was able to make a strong case that abortion was unrelated to the crime. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported at the time:

Fernando had learned she was pregnant with Plourde's child weeks before her death, court heard in the teen's case. In the youth's case the court heard her murder was planned because she refused to have an abortion, but Plourde's lawyer told the court today that the pregnancy had nothing to do with the offence.

The Crown Counsels, reported the CBC, decided not to pursue the abortion angle at any great length:

In a brief summary of the facts of the murder presented in court Thursday, Crown attorney Mark Cantor said Plourde and the youth hatched a plot to kill Fernando if she wouldn't agree to break off pursuing a relationship with Plourde.

Crown attorneys would certainly want to emphasize factors that would put criminals away for a long time, things that exacerbate a crime. What exacerbates a crime would also merit special legislation—such as Roxanne’s Law so that the public could be protected.

If “many” women are coerced into abortion according to the text of Bill C-510, why is Bruinooge apparently unable to find someone where both “sides” concede that that is what happened? He wanted to grab a headline in his local paper and run with it instead of finding one of the “many” perfect cases where this is supposed to happen, and giving that publicity. I think that you may be able to find a case whether this happened, but the MP’s choice to use a disputed case could lead opponents of the legislation to say “You can’t find someone like this can you? So how big is the problem, then?”

The legislation might be doomed from the get go, as a spokesman for Stephen Harper told the press that Bruinooge will automatically have a 20-30 vote deficit to make up in trying to pass his legislation:

The Prime Minister’s Office was quick, however, to squelch any thought Bruinooge’s bill might be acceptable. “The government will not support the bill,” Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall said in an interview. “Our Conservative government will not initiate or support any legislation that opens the abortion debate.” ….

….The bill, which was introduced in the unlikely to come up for debate and a vote before next fall under the current timetable for dealing with private member’s legislation. Bruinooge said he is confident the measure will attract support from MPs in all parties because members are usually allowed free votes on private member’s bills.

MacDougall said the government would demonstrate its opposition at the time of any vote by having cabinet ministers vote against it.

We have a piece of legislation where the “poster person” might not represent the problem being addressed by the bill. We also have an attitude in the Prime Minister’s Office where his cabinet is not allowed to vote for pro-life legislation.

Shouldn’t the first thing that Bruinooge be doing instead, is to get Prime Minister Harper to rule that cabinet ministers can be like any other MP when it comes to private member’s legislation on abortion? That they can speak for either side, or vote either way?

I remember that even in the days of Mulroney’s huge majority in the House, the social conservative Tory MPs weren’t able to pass legislation restricting abortion. Isn’t the first priority for Bruinooge, given the membership of this house, to try to get an even playing field?

This allows me to talk about Faytene Kryskow for a moment. In the video of her that I recently found, she said that an MP friendly to her moral points of view told her that there was a new spirit on Parliament Hill, like “ a light had been turned on”. Well, without a spirit of fairness, with weighing votes against particular pieces of legislation, I would wonder. The light switch that Faytene sees might be turned on, but the power mains are switched off in the basement.

I am happy to see that Faytene gets it. She sees exactly what the first problem is in passing C-510, and has asked her e-mailing list to lobby Harper to allow free voting for all MPs in regards to abortion bills. If that were the case, then the slow incremental way of restricting abortion might have a chance to work.

But, if this doesn’t happen, and the cabinet votes en bloc help defeat C-510, what will Faytene do then? She should then, given her views, publicly condemn the Tory leadership for stacking the deck against pro-life legislation. Otherwise, she might lead people to think that she is firmly in the back pocket of the Tory leadership.

I can imagine someone with a cynical bent of mind looking at all this in the following manner. Imagine that Bruinooge and his colleagues know that any pro-life legislation is doomed. How better to keep pro-lifers excited and energized and giving their money by having a piece of pro-life legislation that allows Bruinooge to pretend that they are “doing something”? I sincerely doubt that these politicians are that cynical, myself, but it might be a possibility.

I would look at it in another way. Instead of going for a controversial piece of pro-life legislation that might have chance of doing some good, these pro-lifers are going for the flawed “Roxanne’s Law.” This in an attempt to keep pro-life voters comfortably in the Tory fold.

Instead of making a stronger stand as they are able to, I fear that Bruinooge, and Faytene Kryskow, might be used by the Tory brainstrust to pacify the pro-life cause, and keep those voters properly “housebroken.” I hope that Faytene, for her part anyways, is wiser than that.