Canadians are watching with a keen eye as candidates for leader of the Conservative Party declare their intentions. This includes pro-life Canadians who want to know what a future leader is willing to do about Canada’s complete lack of abortion restrictions.
Generally, it is assumed that this means pro-life individuals and organizations are scrutinizing each leadership hopeful for whether they are “pro-life” or “pro-choice”, but some in the pro-life movement see it differently.
“A leadership candidate doesn’t need to champion the issue, or even be identified as pro-life,” said Mike Schouten, Director of We Need a Law, an organization advocating for legislation that protects pre-born children. “Pro-life Conservatives should be less concerned about whether a future leader thinks like them and more concerned about whether he or she realizes that pro-life conservatives make up an integral part of the party’s base.”
The pro-life movement was instrumental in Andrew Scheer’s successful leadership bid, and has the potential to play a large part in the upcoming race.
“The pro-life movement is motivated, organized, and politically activated,” Schouten explained. “We’ve proven that again and again. A successful candidate needs support from the pro-life movement. Pulling out tired lines like ‘not re-opening the debate’ or claiming that abortion is a ‘settled issue’ in Canada could be detrimental to a leadership campaign.”
The Conservative Party of Canada has pro-life MPs, pro-life staffers, pro-life volunteers, pro-life members, and pro-life donors. Leadership hopefuls cannot ignore them if they want to unite the party or win the next election.
With Canada’s brokerage party system, the likelihood of a leader in a mainstream party who is willing to introduce abortion legislation is not very high. “It’s understandable,” said Schouten, “that a potential Prime Minister is not going to run on this issue. What we are looking for in a leader is someone who understands that there is an ongoing debate in Canada on this issue and will allow individual MPs to introduce bills or motions that address the legal void around abortion.”