Op-ed: This is not your average abortion debate

Some in politics and in the media would like Canadians to believe that the abortion debate in this country is closed, cut and dried. Some political parties, for example, have barred candidates from running for election under the party banner if they happen to hold a view on abortion that deviates from that of the leader. They also deny their members the ability to exercise their privilege to present a private member’s bill on abortion, and also deny their members to vote their conscience, whipping the vote on such matters.

Thankfully, I am able, through my private member’s bill, to have the conversation Canadians expect us to have on their behalf. 

Sex-selective abortion is a universally condemned practice that involves the deliberate termination of pre-born girls (and sometimes boys) due solely to their sex. While international case studies in countries like India or China are noteworthy, the painful reality can no longer be ignored: sex-selective abortion takes place right here in Canada.

Studies have revealed a ratio of 1.96 males to every female amongst those who had previously given birth to two girls. Following one or two induced abortions, the ratio becomes only more lopsided.

Sex-selective abortion is wrong, but it happens in Canada because we have no law against it. We are the only democratic country in the world to lack a sex-selection law. In fact, our only bedfellow in this regard is North Korea. That is why I introduced bill C-233 in February of last year.

My bill is straightforward and clear. It would amend the Criminal Code of Canada to make it an offence for a medical practitioner to perform an abortion knowing that it is sought solely on the grounds of the child’s sex. The bill would also direct the federal minister of health, in consultation with her provincial counterparts, to establish guidelines on how to ensure Canadians are aware of the prohibition of sex-selective abortion and the value we place on equality between the sexes.

Thankfully, I have not been left to advocate for this change alone. I am merely speaking on behalf of a critical mass of Canadians who would like to see sex-selective abortion made illegal. Polling conducted for the National Post in 2019 indicates that 84% of Canadians believe it should be against the law to obtain an abortion if the family does not want the child to be a certain sex.

This is not your average abortion debate. This overwhelming majority includes those who identify as both pro-choice and pro-life. When it comes to sex-selection, they have drawn a line in the sand and want this parliament to honour their wishes by passing bill C-233.

With a groundswell of public support with me, I was privileged to have the chance to begin debate on my bill this week. For parliamentarians, the debate will provide an opportunity to carefully reflect on whether the absence of a sex-selection abortion law aligns with our values as a country.

Canada is a country that values equality of the sexes, and sex-selective abortion inherently denies the equal value of girls and boys. Our federal government must act now to condemn this practice and to make it clear to all that Canada values women and equality. If there is even one female pre-born child who is terminated solely because of her sex, we need to act.

Cathay Wagantall, MP