Jack Layton’s awkward dance on abortion

At the moment, I’m watching MPs vote on motions before the House of Commons. A controversial vote on a Liberal motion on “Maternal and Child Heath” was just narrowly defeated, thanks in large part to a hold-out of Liberal MPs standing against Michael Ignatieff.

Most will remember that earlier this year, Michael Ignatieff got himself into some hot water by challenging Prime Minister Harper on the delivery of health and support for women and children in the third world. The Liberal leader decided to add the divisive issue of abortion into the mix and suffered the headline from The Catholic Register: “Ignatieff urges abortion for world’s poor”.

Before the vote, the NDP put out a press release concerning the wavering Liberal position on “maternal health” criticizing the Liberals and their leader for replacing demands to include abortion services in aid with a demand for “contraception”.

Today the Liberal Party will propose a motion asking that the government “include the full range of family planning” in its maternal and child health initiative to be unveiled in June at the G8 summit in Toronto.

At first glance, the motion is in keeping with what Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff pledged last month:

that aid for abortions abroad is crucial if Prime Minister Harper is serious about making maternal health a “top priority” for Canada.

“We don’t want to have women dying because of botched procedures. We don’t want to have women dying in misery. We’ve had a pro-choice consensus in this area for a couple of generations and we want to hold it.” – Michael Ignatieff, Toronto Star, Feb 2 2010.

But the devil is always in the details. A closer read of the motion shows that in the intervening weeks the Ignatieff Liberals have backpeddled from their earlier position, making specific reference only to “contraception” but not abortion.

If Layton is so sensitive about a simple motion before the House, he must have hit the wall when it came to not only the biggest domestic piece of American legislation since the new deal, but also the biggest horse-trading session as well.

Among concessions suffered by the Obama administration in jamming the Frankenstein piece of legislation through Congress was one final sell-out of the progressive/liberal plank of the Liberal wing of the Democratic base.

Late on Sunday, Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak wressled one final concession from Obama securing an executive order from the President banning federal funding for abortion in turn securing passage of the bill. But while we’re on the topic of federal funding for abortion, let’s check to see Layton’s reaction in the House yesterday to the passing of abortion-free Obamacare:

Mr. Speaker, 44 years after medicare was implemented in Canada, we extend our congratulations to President Obama for bringing comprehensive health care reform to the people of the United States. Now, of course, the Americans will be looking to Canada for the next steps.

One wonders if Tommy Douglas envisioned a system where “big insurance” would be guaranteed profits and profits collected by the IRS, no less. Federal funding of abortions for none, tiny hope and change stickers for everyone!

The devil is in the details, Jack.

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