Monday, April 18, 2005

Bill C-307 and the Culture of Life

If you thought Canada was going to be spared from the current wave of pro-life fervor spreading through the United States, get ready for a rude awakening. Only a few months ago Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin) introduced legislation that most Republicans don’t even have the guts to suggest.

So what was it? Well, if Maurice Vellacott has his way then pharmacies won’t have to provide birth control anymore.

For the past year the CPC has been trying to paint themselves as a more moderate party, but the fact remains that a large portion of the party’s representatives are fringe fanatics. Bill C-307 is an incredibly dangerous piece of legislation which would be a catastrophe for Canadian women.

The bill is one simple statement followed by a series of defintions, but the meat of the bill is this: An Act to amend the Criminal Code to prevent health care practitioners from being coerced into taking part in medical procedures that offend the practitioner’s religion or belief that human life is inviolable.

Of course the bill would violate medical codes of ethics all across the country. Pharmacists are required to allow patients to make decisions about their own medical care. Sadly, the right to life movement doesn’t seem to care about that.

On the other side of the border, American women have been fighting a similar battle with ‘right to life’ fanatics all across the country. Ever increasingly birth control has come under attack, not just in the form of refusing to fund charities which promote safe sex in AIDS ravaged Africa, but also actively encouraging Pharmacists to stop giving out birth control.

In Texas, House Bill 16 is in committee and will likely pass. The law would allow pharmacists, at their sole discretion, to override phsycian’s recommendation and refuse to dispense birth control or emmergency contraception. Similar legislation has been introduced in various other states, leading to Illinois being forced to pass emergency rules which force pharmacists to help their patients.

Still, there are powerful wingnut organizatins across the country fighting to deny doctors the right to determine what is best for their patients. Pharmacists for Life International and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists are fighting tooth and nail to increase unwanted pregnancies. Now they’re bringing the fight to Canada.

The Conservative Party recently passed, in a close vote, a motion stating that they would not try to legislate abortion. Party members openly suggested that such a motion would make the CPC appear more mainstream and help them in an election. The fact remains, however, that many party insiders were far from happy. Former MP Elsie Wayne made an impassioned speech at the Convention, exclaiming: "I do not believe the majority of our people at this convention are in favour of killing babies…you know that abortion kills babies."

The CPC tries to present themselves as reasonable and in the mainstream. Yet their MPs introduce legislation that would limit access to birth control, party big wigs are fanatically pro-life and delegate debates and the recent conventions included lines like "We've killed three million babies in Canada. This issue needs to be debated."

Yet CPC supporters will loudly proclaim that party has no intention of trying to promote a pro-life agenda. Accusations to the contrary are obviously 'fear mongering tactics'. Unfortunately, Stephen Harper’s words provide little reason for optimism.

"The nature of democracy is that any previous decision can be challenged and overturned because there’s no final winners and no final losers."


Anonymous Marina974 said...

Terrifying, I've been reading about the nonsense down south for a while on Daily Kos and it just leaves me speechless. That it's coming up here is terrifying. How any woman could ever vote for a Conservative is beyond me.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're just a fucking liberal toadie. People like you are ruining Canada. Go back to Russian you fucking commie.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Jason Hickman said...

Gracchi, do you draw the line at pharmacists (as some do), or are you saying that MD's, for example, have to provide abortions?

As to your other point, it's kind of hard to accuse the CPC of having a hidden agenda on the abortion question where, as you point out, the issue was vigorously (sp?) debated at the Montreal convention, and a majority voted against having a CPC government introduce abortion legislation.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Gracchi said...

There is a difference between handing out a prescription and performing an abortion. I think it's a hazy area. I'm unsure about how I feel about RU-486 in this matter, but as for vaccuum abortions there is no way doctors should be forced to perform those.

As for a hidden agenda, I don't think it's hidden at all. The matter was debated and will certainly be brought up again. There are a huge number of pro-life MPs in the CPC caucus and even if they avoid introducing abortion legislation there are, obviously, other ways for them to advance the pro-life agenda.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see a problem with the legislation as you've described it. It does not take away a woman's right to choose. In fact, she's more than welcome to choose a different pharmacist who will prescribe the drug she's after.

Moreover, she has the right to organize a group to protest against a pharmacist who has exercise her choice not to stock the drugs in question.

Just as women today have the right to avoid MDs who perform abortions in favor of those MDs who do not, because such women may think that the majority of abortions done in North America have nothing to do with health.

In essence, legislation like this gets proposed because the medical professions are confused about what medicine is about.

I would think that maximizing choice and maximizing the ability of people to exercise their conscience (and act upon it), are liberal goals.

Forcing practitioners into one mould and punishing them for exercising conscience is usually not the hallmark of a liberal.

Unless the definition of liberalism has changed recently.

Kind regards,
Tom Cerber (

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Nylon said...

Tom, what Gracchi failed to mention is various reports from Dailykos of people having a difficult time getting birth control. One woman who was the victim of rape was unable to get emmergency contraception in Texas.

Beyond that, it is the job of all people in the medical fields to help the citizenry, not to preach their beliefs. It's in the hypocratic oath and it's in the codes of conduct for Canadian pharmacy workers.

Rod Blagodevich (sp?) had to put that measure in to law in Illinois because people living in conservative parts of the state couldn't get bc.

Is it fair that we should have to drive hours to get BC because the pharmacist is a hick?

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might this be a case of irresolvable rights claims?

Instead of using prejorative terms like "hick," why not ask whether it's right that the state prohibit certain groups from exercising their conscience?

Moreover, while you raise good counterexamples with the women who didn't have access, I think a better approach than a heavy-handed statist approach would be to find a way to maximize choice (for both pharmacists and their customers) in all jurisdictions.

Instead of forcing all pharmacists to prescribe such drugs, why not provide incentives to those willing to do so to open their businesses in under-served areas?

I find it discouraging that people are 1) so quick to advocate using the coercive power of the state to further their policy preferences and 2) so quick to characterize those with different political preferences as "hicks."

I suspect those 2 trends have something to do with the tendency in Canada to inflate political preferences to rights-claims.

Kind regards,
Tom Cerber

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Marina974 said...

We should have to bribe medical professionals to follow their codes of ethics? That's ridiculous...

You do realize that BC serves other purposes do you not? I take birth control purely to control PCO and I'm not some kind of weird exception. So basically you think that the government should have to bribe pharmacists to obey their oaths and give me the medical care I need?

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Marina974,

Provinces "bribe" all the time. They provide incentives for MDs to set up their practices in rural areas where doctors are in short supply. Municipalities do the same thing.

A more pluralistic model of providing essential services would be one analogous to how provinces fund public school systems, but do not prohibit people from establishing private schools. Some jurisdictions go further (Edmonton, for example) by incorporating private schools into the public school system as a way of ensuring pluralism.

Kind regards,
Tom Cerber

7:03 PM  
Blogger Don said...

You say "party big wigs are fanatically pro-life"

That's quite a statement.

Which big wigs are you talking about?

4:15 PM  
Blogger Mike Brock said...

I'm a secularist, so I have no religious predilection to the abortion issue, and although I'm not what you'd call "pro-life," I personally don't support the idea of abortion.

If I got my girlfriend pregnant, I would be completely opposed to the idea of abortion, not because I believe destroying a three-week old fetus is murder, but because I believe there is something known as responsibility in life.

I don't believe that other people should have to pay for my choices, my mistakes or my failings. That is a burden which I choose to shoulder alone, and to terminate a life based on my irresponsibility seems at some level... repugnant.

Of course, this goes to the heart of why I despise modern liberalism; the idea that the government and others should act as a cushion from the consequences for your actions.

That being said, I support a woman's "right to choose" while still being against abortion. Many people fit into this category, and the idea of being against abortion and for choice is not something which is mutually exclusive.

I can tell you unequivocally, that the majority of the Conservative caucus, as well as the consummate membership of the party is indeed pro-choice. The resolution to limit abortions at the Conservative policy convention in montreal was defeated after all.

To paint the Conservatives with this broad brush of social conservativism and hidden agendas there in, is whole wholeheartedly dishonest and intellectually lacking.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad the author of this post wasn't aborted. What a warped ideology you have, incredible. Your worried more about a women having to walk across the street to another pharmacy/clinic then you are about someone being forced to do something they dont philosphically agree with? Wow. If this were reversed, all these left wingers would be clutching the Charter screaming "FREEDOM OF RELIGION!!!!"

11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True Liberalism is making both sides of the spectrum better off, rather then giving one side the advantage where by the other side is worse off. The author of this post has a very perverted veiw of Liberalism ideology.

Furthermore, from a business perspective, since so many women purchase 'the pill' the demand for it will obviously make many pharmacy's carry it, therefore there would be only a small % of stores that didn't. Most businesses will take $$ over morals any day.

Perverse liberalism like this is what is wrong with Liberalism these days. What happened to fair and equal respect for everyones rights and beliefs, not just one group's ideology?

12:13 AM  
Blogger Ed Doerksen said...

Birth Control is available in Canada to any female (child or adult) in Canada. In B.C. I believe you can obtain birth control over the counter without a doctor's perscription.

Abbortion has become nothing more than another form birth control. As such the person who wants it should be able to obtain it and pay for it themselves. Like another kind of birth control.

The Liberals have used the "hidden agenda" fear mongering over and over agian. Even the little old lady who got paid by the Liberals to say "they scare me" isn't worth listening to anymore.

The liberals aren't worth listening to anymore.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Mark Francis said...

A lot of small towns have but one pharmicist. Birth control pills are prescribed for reasons other than just birth control.

Access to reliable birth control which does not require the participation of the other partner is a necessity. There are many relationships in which, sadly, women have little choice as to whether or not to have sex. Birth control pills at least allow them to secretly avoid the consequences of pregnancy.

Proper use of birth control clearly lowers the abortion rate. Think the abortion rate is high now? It'll be higher without it.

There's at least one good reason why it is immoral for pharmacists to refuse to dispense a legal drug: They have set themselves up as the only legal dispensing source of medication to the public in Canada. Even in hospitals, you will find pharmacists in charge of ultimately dispensing drugs.

In exchange for that, they must dispense whatever is legal and prescribed.

Pharmacists who fail to fill a proper prescription should lose their license.

What's next anyway? Jehovah's Witness doctors refusing to allow patients blood transfusions?

10:14 AM  
Blogger matt said...

so, this bill puts into play s. 2(a) of the charter, i.e. the practices associated with one's religious beliefs are protected. calm down. if a pharmacist got fired b/c she wouldn't dispense the pill, the inquiry on the part of the court would be whether the employer could reasonably accomodate that religious belief at the place of employment without overly impacting on the ability of the public to receive medical treatment. And, if the bill were to pass, its constitutionality would be subject to that same balance above.

In short: this stuff is already in the Charter. The bill will go nowhere. It's a lightening rod. Lots of people in Canada are pro-life, and that's ok (the last abortion bill died on a tie vote in the Senate b/c Liberal Senators thought it would make abortions too easy to get, hence the absence of current legislation and the principled and laudable quid pro quo which has grown up despite that void).

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark - Don't worry about people in small towns. Small towns are quickly emptying out and availability of birth control and abortion just hastens that process. This debate's over in a generation. ;)

7:47 PM  
Blogger Walsh Writes said...

Fringe fanatics??

Gee I remember not that long ago when the conditions proposed by that good conservative WAS THE LAW OF THE LAND. And you asshole liberals changed it!!

How the hell does that make us fringe fanatics? We WERE THE STATUS QUO! Fringe fanatics are people on the edge that NEVER formed the policies or rules.

There that is you lesson for the day.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

I have about a million other reasons why I would NEVER vote for the CPC, but I happen to think that Section 2A of the Charter ought to count for something...

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave - Which part of sec. 2a? Certainly not the part of freedom of religion, which the Liberals undermine with Bill C-38.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Walsh Writes said...


yeah I know what million reasons you are talkin' about dude - the income you expect to earn over the rest of your lifetime by being a proxy for the liberals!

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