BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Students at Brandon University listen to Ontario Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth speak in the Louis Riel Room on Monday. The event was hosted by the Brandon University Students for Life club.
Pro-life Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth faced a barrage of questions from students during a speaking engagement at Brandon University yesterday.
The Kitchener Centre MP, who continues to raise questions about when life begins in the House of Commons, presented to approximately 20 students at the request of the BU Students for Life club.
Woodworth said he isn’t fighting abortion legislation — instead he is advocating for the fundamental principle that all people have equal worth and dignity as human beings.
He believes a 400-year-old common law that says children "are not human beings until the moment of complete birth" needs to be re-examined by a special committee in Ottawa.
"It is Parliament’s job to explore the evidence and help inform Canadians about those issues," said Woodworth, who also said that he doesn’t favour abortion.
While his motion to examine the law was easily defeated (203-91) on the floor of the House in 2012, Woodworth continues to pressure the government to explore a law that he believes is outdated.
"There are people who believe this principle threatens our abortion practices in Canada," he said. "I don’t happen to agree with that. I think that Canadian abortion practices can be reconciled with the principle of universal human equality.
"Failing to pretend that someone isn’t human won’t solve the abortion question, it will just serve to safeguard democratic governance in Canada."
Following his 35-minute presentation, Woodworth spent an hour answering questions from students who had split off into pro-life and pro-choice camps in the room.
Former BU Students’ Union president Carissa Taylor asked the first question.
"Have you ever been raped before?" Taylor asked. "The reason I ask is unless you’ve experience something like sexual violence I don’t understand how you can speak to people about abortion."
Taylor believes Woodworth is using the principle of equality as a facade in order to transform abortion legislation in Canada.
Other students asked about whether there is already a political and social consensus in the country regarding abortion and why, if Woodworth’s presentation is about equality, that it aways comes back to abortion?
"You keep saying it’s not about abortion and yet millions of Canadians feel it’s about abortion," the student said.
Catherine Dubois, president of the 13-member BUSL, said the aim of getting Woodworth to speak was to present thought-provoking ideas at the university.
"It’s not something that’s talked about very often and we thought it would be an engaging argument for all students."
The pro-life group, which has only been in existence since September, faced staunch opposition before finally being granted club status at BU.
"It’s good to have healthy debate and discussion and I find it encouraging that a lot of people came regardless of whether they agree with my personal views as a pro-lifer or not," Dubois said. "It’s awesome to see so many people with so many beliefs and it really drove the questions. How often do we as students get the chance to ask questions to a member of Parliament?"
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 21, 2014