Justin Trudeau’s announcement that all future Liberal MPs must be pro-choice (or vote pro-choice, according to a subsequent policy chair “clarification”) seemed to come out of nowhere. There was no discussion of abortion in the House of Commons — in fact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been clear that he doesn’t intend to re-open the debate. There have been no significant policy shifts within the Liberal party since 2012, when delegates at a national convention for the first time passed a resolution endorsing “a woman’s right to choose”. And there was no major national discussion underway on late-term or sex-selective abortion; at least, not in the same way as there was in 2012, when a highly publicized editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal urged doctors to keep the sex of a fetus from parents until the 30-week mark. This relative stillness was the backdrop of Justin Trudeau’s May 7 announcement, during which he declared that the “Liberal party is a pro-choice party, and going forward, all new members and new candidates [would be] pro-choice.”
Why now? Why invent a crisis and pledge to solve it, especially when there was no reasonable expectation of any sort of abortion law to land in the House, regardless of the outcome of the 2015 election? Trudeau’s promise of ideological homogeny would — and has — irked the Liberal Party’s pro-life members, who have been haughtily informed that their views will be “respected to a certain extent” as the Liberals carry out their process of moral attrition. It has offered an opportunity for Harper to boast that all views are welcomed in the Conservative Party of Canada, and has invited criticism from commentators from across the political spectrum. So why bother?