May’s abortion debate comments lead to a busy week for the Greens.
In an interview released September 9th with the CBC, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said she would not ban Green Party MPs from reopening the abortion debate despite her personal belief that women have a right to choose.
“I could talk to them. I could try to dissuade them. I could say it would be unfortunate ... but I don’t have the power as leader of the Green Party to whip votes, nor do I have the power to silence an MP,” May stated to CBC News Network's Power & Politics.
Quickly after the interview’s release, the Greens issued a statement saying that while a leader cannot dictate a Member of Parliament’s vote, all Green MP’s must support and endorse the party’s values which includes a woman’s “firm right to choose.” In an interview later that day with the Globe and Mail, May backtracked on her initial comments by saying MP’s were at risk of being ousted from the party if they reopened the debate.
Following the Greens statement, it was reported that two Green party candidates have previously displayed anti-abortion views.
Macarena Diab, who is running in the Quebec City riding of Louis-Hébert, posted on a Spanish-language site that she did not support abortion in 2008. Diab also wrote in Spanish on the site that "the number of abortions performed became a social custom" in countries that give women legal access to abortions, a claim which a Guttmacher Institute study has proven false.
Ontario candidate Mark Vercateren, who is running in the Chatham-Kent-Leamington riding, solicited Conservative votes in a 2015 Facebook post saying he was pro-life because he could not “give more rights to animals and remove rights from potential humans.” He is also reported to have answered “no” on a 2014 and 2018 questionnaire from the lobby group Campaign Life Coalition when asked if there were "any circumstances under which you believe a woman should have access to abortion."
As of Friday, May said the Green party is re-vetting Vercateren. “If someone doesn’t hold firmly to the view that women have the right to a safe and legal abortion, then they will not be a Green party candidate” she stated.
On Sunday, after initially saying he did not remember any of the three incidents, Vercateren attempted to clarify his 2014 answer to the questionnaire in an email to Chatham Daily News. Vercateren clarified that he believes “in the sanctity of all life, but that this does not override a woman’s right to choose.” He believes Campaign Life Coalition reused this answer for their 2018 questionnaire. Vercateren apologized for any confusion that had been caused and declared, “I strongly believe in a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion.”
Federal party positions on a woman’s right to choose famously became a focal point in 2014 when Liberal leader Justin Trudeau banned new party members in his caucus from supporting abortion restrictions and affirmed that MPs must vote with the party on issues of reproductive freedom.
The NDP have stated strongly that all party members must support a women’s reproductive rights. “There's no room in the NDP caucus for those who don't support a woman's right to choose,” said Melanie Riche, NDP spokesperson.
Andrew Scheer has said that a Conservative government led by him would not reopen the abortion debate, but has not made clear whether he would allow backbench MPs to bring forth private member bills. Anti-choice group RightNow has said that Scheer promised to allow a free-vote if reproductive restriction legislation is introduced to Parliament.