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Kitchener-Conestoga MP speaks up about controversial anti-abortion petition he enabled

The Record with Lyndsey Butcher 01 July 2019

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht has spoken up about his decision to enable a Canada-wide petition urging an end to public funds for abortions.

The e-petition, started by a woman from British Columbia, states that pregnancy is not a disease, injury or illness, and therefore abortions are not medically necessary.

It says public funds for health care should not be used to pay for abortions.

By Sunday, more than 1,650 people had signed.

The petition needed an MP to “authorize” it so it can appear on the Parliament of Canada website. Albrecht was that MP.

He has done this for dozens of other paper and electronic petitions on a wide variety of subjects in his 13 years as MP, he said.

He believes ideas from ordinary people have a right to be put before the public, even if he doesn’t agree with them and even if there is little chance of them becoming law.

In an interview on the weekend, Albrecht said it is well-known he has pro-life views.

“I have worked to promote a culture of life, including improved palliative care, organ donation, suicide prevention, as well as protection for our pre-born,” he said.

“There’s nothing new here.”

 

However, his assistance for this particular petition has caught the interest of local media and abortion-rights activists.

“You do need medical assistance to end a pregnancy,” said Lyndsey Butcher, executive director of the SHORE Centre in Kitchener, which offers help to pregnant women regarding their options, including abortion.

If women had to pay out of pocket for their own abortions, they would wait longer to end their pregnancies while they got the $700 to $1,500 together to pay for the procedure privately. A later abortion is riskier.

If the woman couldn’t get the funds, she would have an unwanted child, and bring it “into a family that’s already stretched,” she said.

That is what has happened in some parts of the United States, where access to abortion has been severely restricted in some places recently.

Some American women have gone online to buy abortion pills on the black market. They can be taken at home without having to go to a clinic.

These pills are cheaper, but they come from uncertain sources when purchased this way, and they “don’t always work,” she said.

After she publicly expressed her concerns about this petition, Butcher said, Albrecht invited her to meet with him.

It was a “cordial and respectful” discussion, she said.

“We agreed to disagree.”

Albrecht said he has always been willing to discuss his position with individuals, but until now he hasn’t been willing to debate them in the media.

In his interview with the Record, Albrecht said he would have worded that particular petition differently.

Canadians might be more likely to embrace restrictions on abortion if they focused on more protection for the “pre-born child” after a certain stage of development, he said.

Many Canadians don’t realize that this country is one of a very few that have no legal protection whatever for the fetus, even right before birth, he said.

Many other nations, such as Spain, France and Germany, have increased protection for the fetus as it develops in the womb.

Albrecht said he knows the decision whether to have an abortion is very difficult, and he doesn’t judge anyone for having had the procedure.

However, he personally believes that “the most fundamental human right is the right to life.

“To deny that innocent, vulnerable, voiceless, defenceless baby is against my conscience.”

There is little chance the petition will even be presented to Parliament. It is open for signatures until late August. The House of Commons is likely to be shut down by then for the fall election campaign

Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has repeatedly said he will not re-open the abortion issue if the Conservatives form the next government.

Unlike the federal Liberal party, which accepts no MPs unless they are pro-choice, the federal Conservative party respects that their MPs may have private views, based on conscience, that are not in line with party policy, Albrecht said.

“We have the freedom to express our views on these issues,” Albrecht said.

He estimated there are about two dozen Conservative MPs like him, who advocate for pro-life issues.