The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus: Identifying the Members

As promised, the following updates my previous post on the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, a secretive group of pro-life parliamentarians in Ottawa. Interestingly, the article, after being cross-posted at Religious Right Alert, was picked up by the blog of Equipping Christians for the Public Square, a religious right political advocacy group currently headed up by a former Pro-Life Caucus secretary, Tim Bloedow.

The most common means of linking MPs to the Pro-Life Caucus is to study their voting records on abortion-related bills in Parliament, such as Ken Epp’s Bill C-484. Lloyd Mackey of CanadianChristianity.com first took this tack in 2004, and in doing so illustrated some of the problems: both Stephen Harper and Paul Martin show up as members.

Others, such as David Akin, suggest that we can identify the members of the Caucus based on their attendance at the March for Life. He made a list of 18 Members of Parliament spotted during the 2006 demo; Conservatives outnumbered Liberals by about four to one, which suggests that at least on this occasion, the Liberals weren’t showing up in representative numbers.

The leading list for the moment, however, seems to be won circulated last fall election time by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. This was the list adapted, for example, by Unrepentant Old Hippie last December in her analysis of Rod Bruinooge’s “kidneys’ rights” op-ed, his first shot across the bows as chairman of the Caucus. I’ve taken that list and combined it with Akin’s suggested criterion – attendance at the Campaign Life Coalition March for Life demos in Ottawa.

The following list identifies MPs according to four categories, then: whether they’ve been at one of the Marches; whether they were designated as pro-life MPs in previous election campaigns; whether they opposed bestowing an Order of Canada upon controversial doctor Henry Morgentaler; and whether they voted for Ken Epp’s fetal homicide bill (Bill C-484) on second reading last year. These final three categories are simply the ones suggested by the existing Abortion Rights Coalition work.

Until such time as the parliamentarians involved perform their democratic obligation to the public and explain for themselves whether they are affiliated with this caucus or not, we can do no more than speculate. Repeated appearances in pro-life causes, however, is indicative that the MP is pro-life – if not actually a part of the pro-life caucus. Those with three check marks to their name get coded yellow; those with all four get coded green.

Finally, those labeled pink are ones for which there exists direct evidence – usually from the MPs themselves, in press releases, Parliamentary speeches, and the like, or from references in the press – that they are current or former members or affiliates of the Pro-Life Caucus. There are only about a dozen and a half of those in the list, including the chairman, Bruinooge.

The consistently pro-life MPs, by these measures, are about sixty to seventy in number, which is around the rough size of the Pro-Life Caucus normally quoted by those in the know. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone I’ve highlighted is definitely a member of the Pro-Life Caucus, but it probably means that most are. Of course, individual MPs or their staff could do much to clear up the uncertainty by coming forward with a “yea” or “nay” on the issue of affiliation with the Caucus.

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