Sault Ste. Marie Member of Parliament Bryan Hayes was one of 91 MPs who voted in favour of Motion 312 Wednesday evening in the House of Commons.
Motion 312, introduced by Kitchener-Centre Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, asked for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to re-examine the declaration in the Criminal Code of Canada which states a child becomes a human being only at the moment of birth.
The Motion was defeated 203-91 in a free vote.
Pro-choice advocates feared Motion 312 was an attempt to reopen the abortion debate, threatening the right to choose.
However, Woodworth stated his bill was only to examine modern scientific and legal information to determine if a fetus should be officially declared a child earlier than birth.
Hayes told SooToday.com: “From my perspective, all that was being asked for was the formation of a committee to look at a 400-year-old piece of legislation. It's really that simple.”
He continued: “In my opinion, the formation of a committee does not pre-conclude what the results or recommendations that come forward from that committee might be. So I think it's reasonable that a committee have some respectful dialogue around this piece of legislation. Obviously the committee was going to be tasked with some responsibilities within their realm as a committee, so when I looked at those responsibilities I thought it reasonable that those questions they would be tasked to answer deserved dialogue.”
Hayes said he had asked constituents for input on how to vote on his website.
“I had approximately 700 responses on my website, and I basically put the legislation on there and asked as your MP: 'Should I support this legislation?' I was looking for an overwhelming majority one way or another, and the reality was it was split right down the middle.”
“Historically, it's been quite divisive,” he explained. “When I saw it split right down the middle, I thought ‘OK, it's going to have to be my decision, I’ll vote my conscience', so that’s what I did.”
87 Tories and four Liberals voted in favour of Motion 312, with the NDP voting unanimously against it.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper voted against the motion.
Among the 87 Tories who voted in favour were some high profile cabinet ministers, including Jason Kenney, Peter Van Loan and Rona Ambrose.
Pro-choice supporters criticized Ambrose in particular, as she is minister for the status of women.
Hayes told us: “People are trying to say that she discarded the right of women to choose, and I don’t believe that. Rona Ambrose voted her conscience, and that’s what free votes are about.”
Hayes concluded: “Our government has gone on record as stating we will not revisit the abortion debate, but this piece of legislation states that a child is not a human being before the moment of birth. The definition of when someone is officially declared a human being is 400-year-old legislation, and I think conversation needed to occur as to whether or not that piece of legislation makes sense today.”