When he sought the leadership of the Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer courted anti-abortion supporters by noting his history of voting in favour of anti-abortion legislation and promising he would allow free votes on the issue by MPs in Parliament.
In a 2017 “Statement on Life Issues” published by his leadership campaign, Scheer said, “I have always voted in favour of pro-life legislation."
He also said wanted Parliament to reconsider a bill making it a criminal offence to harm a fetus whose mother is assaulted or killed.
“I believe 100% that Members of Parliament have the right to bring forward and debate any legislation of importance to them….Moreover, I have committed that all votes on matters of conscience be free votes.”
The Conservative leader has repeatedly said, if elected, his government would not enact an abortion law. But he has faced criticism from the governing Liberals for not saying whether he would let his MPs bring motions or private members bills that restrict abortion rights.
“I’ve made it very clear, we will not reopen this debate,” Scheer said Wednesday at an event in Aylmer, Ontario.
“I find it disgusting and appalling that the Liberals are using this issue to divide Canadians and distract from their record of failure and corruption and scandals.”
Asked for clarification of the 2017 statement, Scheer’s office today repeated his pledge to not reopen the issue.
Liberals are concerned that Scheer wouldn’t stop his MPs from bringing forward their own bills limiting abortion rights.
“Canadian women and allies are afraid and deserve to know Scheer and Conservative Party of Canada will see women’s rights as human rights and not reopen debate or find back door,” said Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef.
Scheer’s leadership website has been removed from the Internet but the 2017 statement was retrieved by CTV News from a cache of deleted web pages.
In the statement, Scheer said he would like to see MPs once again consider a 2016 bill that would have made it an offence to kill or injure a fetus when committing an offence against the mother.
“I was proud to support Molly’s law. That is an important piece of legislation and I’d like to see if before the House again.”
Opponents of the “Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law)” were concerned it could have extended legal status to a fetus.
The bill was introduced by Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall and voted down in the Liberal-controlled House of Commons. Of Conservatives who voted on the bill, 76 supported it and three opposed.
The anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition said it hopes MPs will be free to vote their conscience on abortion.
"If pro-life MPs are elected by pro-life voters they should able to present pro-life bills," said Hanna Kapka, the group’s government relations representative.
Scheer also took credit in his statement for a ruling he made as speaker of the House of Commons, allowing then-Conservative MP Mark Warawa to speak on sex-selective abortions after the party whip prevented him from speaking.
“I will absolutely continue that practice as Leader and Prime Minister,” the statement said.
On the topic of physician-assisted death, Scheer’s statement said he wanted to “protect conscience rights for doctors and nurses so that no one would be forced to perform a procedure that was against their beliefs.”
He also promised to fight against “political correctness” that prevented an anti-abortion group from holding an event at Wilfrid Laurier University and lauded controversial University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who opposes the use of gender-neutral pronouns, as being “on the right side of history” on free speech issues.