In the face of liberal allegations that he is only “pretending” to support a woman’s right to choose, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said today that he is a supporter of choice and that the government he leads will make sure abortion services are available across the country.
O’Toole was clear that women should be allowed to terminate pregnancies safely – a position that angered some members of his socially conservative party. His predecessor, Andrew Scheer, described himself as a “pro-life”.
O’Toole also recently voted against a bill introduced by a fellow Conservative party member that would have banned “sex-selective” abortions. While most Conservative MPs supported the legislation, O’Toole did not.
“I’m a pro-choice leader and I’m a pro-choice leader,” O’Toole told reporters today at an Ottawa campaign station.
“Let me be absolutely clear. As a pro-choice leader in this party, I will make sure that we stand up for the rights of women to decide for themselves about their health. We will make sure abortion services are available from one setting to the other.”
In a series of social media posts, liberal MP Maryam Monsef said O’Toole’s pro-choice claims should not be believed.
“Tonight in Quebec, Irene O’Toole pretended to be pro-choice. He did the same thing on his platform. But in reality, he would allow his team to introduce legislation to restrict access to abortion. This is the same stance that Andrew Scheer did,” Moncef said, citing a speech O’Toole gave in Quebec tonight. the past in order to reassure voters there that he does not oppose abortion.
“Under the direction of Erin O’Toole, 81 Conservative MPs voted to reopen the abortion debate. This is the majority of his party,” Monsef added. “This included members of his handpicked leadership team. In the Conservative Party, women’s rights are up for debate.”
Other liberal candidates also jumped on O’Toole’s platform promise to protect the “rights of conscience” of health care professionals such as nurses and doctors who object to some of the measures.
“The challenges of dealing with COVID-19 have reminded us of the vital importance of healthcare professionals — and the last thing Canada can afford is to take any of these professionals out of their profession,” the Conservative platform says.
WATCH: Conservative Leader Speaks on the Rights of Conscience of Medical Professionals
Liberal candidate Caroline Bennett said that by including this clause in the party platform, O’Toole is indicating that it “would allow physicians to deny and prevent referrals for abortion, Medicaid in death, and care for LGBT Canadians. O’Toole and his team…are pushing far-right policies.”
She said O’Toole was “far from the mainstream” for her support of a policy “that only a few states of the southern United States have endorsed.”
On Twitter, Bennett posted a link to an interview between Jacques Fonseca – an organizer with the Campaign Life Coalition, an anti-abortion group – and Dr.
In the interview, Luis Fonseca told that she would support government legislation that would protect the conscience rights of health care workers who refuse to “refer or participate in abortion or euthanasia.”
Asked about his commitment to his platform, O’Toole said today that he supports women’s right to access abortion but will also “advocate for the conscience rights of our wonderful men and women on the front lines of our health care system.”
‘This is not a contradiction’
He said the two positions are not mutually exclusive. “This is absolutely not a contradiction. I think it is very important to stand up for the rights of all Canadians – that is what I will do,” he said. “Let’s find a proper and fair balance to make sure that these rights are accessed but that we respect the judgments of conscience as well.”
O’Toole said protecting the right to veto certain measures is especially important now that Parliament is considering expanding Medicaid-Mid-Aid (MED).
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said a conservative pledge to legislate rights of conscience for doctors who oppose services like abortion means O’Toole is not truly pro-choice.
“Pro-choice doesn’t mean doctors’ freedom to choose. It means women’s freedom to choose. Leaders have to be upfront about that. It says certain things to some people and the opposite of others and that’s not good enough,” Trudeau said.
“The Conservative Party doesn’t really understand what pro-choice means.”
Doctors’ rights of conscience are already recognized in Canada.
In British Columbia, for example, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, the governing body for district physicians, recognizes “conscientious objection” and Doctors are allowed “Make a personal decision not to offer a treatment or procedure based on their values and beliefs.” similarly, in OntarioPhysicians have the “right to restrict the health services they provide for reasons of conscience or religion.”
The case has also been adjudicated in Canadian courts.
For example, in a 2019 decision, Ontario’s highest court ruled that while physicians may object to assisted death, contraception, and abortion, they are legally obligated to provide patients with “effective referrals” to other medical professionals who wish to perform these procedures or write a prescription. private medical.
A group of doctors challenging the practice, led by the Christian Medical and Dental Association of Canada, argued that forced referrals would conflict with their moral or religious beliefs while the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said allowing doctors to refuse certain services without requiring a permit. Referral can cause harm to patients.
The Ontario Court of Appeals found that the college’s policy on referrals was a reasonable compromise balancing patients’ interests with religious freedom protected by the Physicians’ Charter.
Since that decision, social conservative groups have been pushing for federal legislation that would criminalize those who “scare” doctors into performing a certain service. Conservative Saskatchewan MP Kelly Block introduced a Special Member Bill, C-268, on the issue last year.
In an effort to neutralize Liberal criticism about its political stance, the Conservative Party has sent journalists a list of past quotes from Liberal MPs that show their support for conscience rights.
During the November 2020 committee meeting where MPs discussed Liberal government legislation to expand the Department of Justice, Justice Minister David Lamiti said rights of conscience would be enshrined in law.
“No medical practitioner is compelled to perform the procedure in any way, shape or form, and we have protected that. It was already protected, and we protected it back in 2016 in legislation,” he said, referring to the government. The first bill to legalize a maid in Canada.
During the debate earlier this year on Bill C-268 — the legislation that bans attempts to intimidate health care workers — current Liberal MP Arif Virani said: “It is clear that protecting the freedom of conscience of our health care workers is a commendable goal. “.
In 2016, current Liberal MP Philomena Tassi, Minister for Seniors, said she would “always respect the rights of conscience of doctors”.
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In his 2015 memoir, common groundLiberal leader Justin Trudeau has written about his stance on abortion and how it compares to that of his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was a devout Catholic.
“In the spring of 2014, I was going to announce a firm stand in favor of women’s right to choose. It was a huge change for some of my fellow parliamentarians,” Trudeau wrote, referring to his 2014 decree that all future liberal candidates must be pro-choice and vote against. Anti-abortion legislation if elected.
Trudeau wrote: “My idea of freedom is that we must protect people’s rights to believe their conscience, but equally struggle to protect people from imposing other people’s beliefs on them.”
O’Toole calls for end to gay blood donation ban
In addition to stating his support for abortion rights, O’Toole also sought to reassure today’s moderate voters that he is compatible with LGBT issues.
In a 2015 campaign, the Liberal Party pledged to end discrimination faced by gay men when trying to donate blood, but while in government, they only made adjustments to the system.
Canadian Blood Services has replaced its lifetime ban on donations from men who have sex with men with a new requirement that says potential donors must remain celibate for three months before donating blood – a change activists say is not enough.
As part of the push to end these restrictions, Conservative MP Eric Duncan, who is gay, introduced a motion in the House of Commons this year calling on Ottawa to end discriminatory policy.
O’Toole supported the proposal at the time, saying it was “unfair” and “wrong” that gay men could not give blood freely because of their sexual orientation when “Canada is in dire need of blood donation”.
“We have been holding Mr. Trudeau accountable for his broken promises to gay men,” O’Toole said today.
“I want members of the LGBTQ community to know if they want to look at something, if they are championing a cause… We want to make sure the federal government is responsive to the needs of all Canadians, in all communities.”
O’Toole also promised to conduct a study for Health Canada on whether poppers – the gray market drug often used by gay men before having sex – should be legalized.