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U.S. abortion debate being felt in Waterloo region, Shore Centre’s Lyndsey Butcher says

CBC News with Lyndsey Butcher 22 May 2019

Debate around new laws restricting abortion south of the border in states like Georgia, Missouri and Alabama are resonating here in Waterloo region, says the executive director of the Shore Centre.

Lyndsey Butcher says conversations about abortion rights have ramped up in Canada in recent months.

The debates in the United States are “waking people up locally to really just how vulnerable our rights to bodily autonomy and to abortion are and that we do have similar forces here in Canada.”

She said the Shore Centre, formerly Planned Parenthood, has even seen an increase in donations: $1,000 over the last month and many of those making donations have signed on to be monthly donors.

While it’s always been a simmering issue in the region, Butcher said this is the most heated its become since 1988 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the law banning abortions was unconstitutional because it violated a woman’s right to “life, liberty and security of person.”

“We’re really seeing a new message from the anti-abortion movement. They’re becoming much more political, they’re getting engaged in nomination races in our own community, we know that they’ve had meetings as close as Cambridge to try to target specific ridings to elect politicians explicitly to make attempts to restrict abortion access in this country,” Butcher said in an interview with Craig Norris, host of The Morning Edition.

MP’s petition to defund abortions

The abortion debate is also making political headlines in Canada. Butcher noted Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht currently has a petition on the House of Commons website that asks the federal government “to cease providing taxpayers’ dollars” for abortions because “abortion is not a medically necessary procedure.”

He was also recently mentioned in a Liberal fundraising email after he and other Conservative MPs attended an anti-abortion rally in Ottawa.

Albrecht was also criticized on Twitter by Minister of Status of Women Maryam Monsef last month when he advocated to movie theatre company Cineplex to bring to movie Unplanned to Canada. The movie is based on a book by Abby Johnson of Texas who says she had a change of heart about abortions after an experience working for Planned Parenthood.

Albrecht tweeted on April 11 he was “thankful for the opportunity to watch”  the film and that it was an “inspiring story of one woman’s journey of transformation.”

In a tweet on April 16, Monsef questioned the four male Conservative MPs that attended the screening.

“This is appalling,” she said. “Our government will always stand up for a woman’s right to choose.”

Conservatives won’t reopen debate

Conservative leader Andrew Sheer has said he will not reopen the abortion debate, but Butcher said she still expects the issue will be part of this year’s federal election, especially because of the views of Albrecht and former MP and Kitchener Centre Conservative candidate Stephen Woodworth.

“It’s in our own backyard, It’s not just happening in Alabama and Georgia and in the southern states, it’s happening here in Kitchener,” Butcher said.

“I think people need to recognize that it’s the people that we’re electing that are representing us that hold these views that women and trans people can’t make their own decisions about their health care.”

When asked for an interview, Albrecht provided a written statement

“The leader of the Conservative Party has been clear: a Conservative government led by Andrew Scheer will not reopen the abortion debate,” the statement said.

Albrecht added the Conservative Party respects “that MPs have different views on this and many other issues.”

“For 13 years I have worked to promote a culture of life, including improved palliative care, organ donation, suicide prevention, as well as protection for our preborn,” Albrecht wrote in the statement.

Woodworth said during his seven years as MP, “I did not propose any law to regulate abortion.”

In 2012, Woodworth introduced a private members bill called Motion 312 that looked to define when a newborn is legally considered a human being. Some MPs at the time, including Liberal Massimo Pacetti and New Democrat Irene Mathyssen, argued the motion was an excuse to open the abortion debate. The bill was defeated 203 to 91.

Woodworth said in his statement to CBC K-W that motion was “to require that politicians tell the truth, based on up-to-date evidence and facts.”

He added while the motion was defeated, “I still believe politicians must tell the truth about every issue, including abortion.”