As a current resident of the great city of Kitchener, my local Member of Parliament (MP) is Stephen Woodworth, of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC).  Mr. Woodworth and I have had a lively back and forth on Twitter, primarily about his proposition that Parliament investigate the "question" as to when human life begins.

I first noticed Woodworth not long after I moved here, when his presence on Twitter suddenly vanished during the 2011 Federal Election. During the election, he made a "joke" that went as follows:

A man staggers into a bar.  The bartender says, "Wow!  You sure look drunk!"  The man replies: "Thank god! I thought I was a cripple!"
As someone who had to walk with a cane for the better part of two years, this struck me as in very poor taste.

Liberal opponent Karen Redman called him on this tasteless comment (no doubt sensing blood in the water), and Woodworth, to his credit, apologized profusely.  For some reason, he also left Twitter completely, with three weeks remaining in the campaign.  It was during this same election that Woodworth decided to skip a number of All-Candidates debates. Remember how this was the party that rose to power in 2006 on a platform of having a small, accountable, and open government?

But whatever.  Those were just words.  Fuck em.

The CPC not only won the election (and Woodworth won his re-election in Kitchener-Centre), but they won it with a powerful majority.  That they only won it with a 60% voter turnout, and 39.5% of the popular vote seems not to phase them: They got their coveted majority, and they were going to pass some sweeping legislation, such as a warrantless online spying bill, an omnibus crime bill that downloads huge costs onto the provinces, raise the retirement age, and a bill that robs private sector employees the right to collective bargaining.

Small government?  Indeed.  So small it fits in your computer, internet, and your job.

One of the things Prime Minister Stephen Harper (PMSH) said during the campaign was that his party would not re-open the abortion debate:
“Very clearly I am against reopening that debate. That is my position, now and in the past five years as well, and as long as I am prime minister, we will not reopen the debate on abortion. We will leave the law as it stands.”  [source]

No doubt, this action by PMSH helped to sway many moderate, right-leaning liberals.  I confess that when I heard it, my reaction was, "Well that's at least something: The CPC will likely push through economic conservativism, and not social conservativism."

Well, as it turned out, that promise was just words. Just words, so fuck em.

By now, the whole country knows that Stephen Woodworth, my MP, has persuaded his party to let him push his private members' bill, that would launch a parliamentary committee seeking the best scientific evidence as to when a human life begins.  Currently in Canada, a human is a human when it has completed live birth. On the surface, this is a sensible action.  But underneath this very thin veneer of truth-seeking, is a sinister consequence:

It would, by necessity and default, make any woman who gets (and any doctor who performs) an abortion a murderer.  In the truest legal sense of the term, Woodworth wants to grant full human rights to unborn fetuses (without first waiting to see the results of his Parliamentary committee), and therefore, criminalize abortions.

A government so small it fits in your uterus.

I was a bit skeptical of his motivations and his goals, so over a period of a few months, I sought to engage my MP in a discussion.  At first, he was open, but as the weeks progressed, I saw the unraveling of a man so possessed by his project that his debating tactics diminished to Godwin-like proportions. The below conversation is 100% legitimate, and is searchable on the twitter pages of Mr. Woodworth and myself (for so long as Woodworth does not decide to delete his posts)

Early in the "debate" process (the same debate we were promised would not take place), Woodworth's choice of nomenclature was to refer to fetuses as "subhuman"
I found this to be a rather needless usage, as it is divisive and unhelpful.

Woodworth claims to be sticking closely to the legal words. Funny, I wonder where "subhuman" is in the Criminal Code, or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?  I explained it to him why he shouldn't use "subhuman," in this debate, and he eventually did relent, but not without some stubborn obfuscation:

It seems that Mr. Woodworth (an accomplished lawyer of 3 decades) didn't notice that I already gave him a suggestion, several times.  FETUS!  Use the word "fetus" because that's what the word means!

But whatever.  They're just words, so fuck em.

At the crux of my confusion was this: Why would Woodworth be calling for the latest scientific evidence when he is already talking like he knows the answer?  A reading of his proposal, as well as his tweets, reveals a man who is saying that a fetus is a human (or a "child", as he later referred to them), so why was he asking Parliament to see when a fetus becomes a human? Skeptics are well familiar with the "unstated major premise" logical fallacy, so surely a lawyer would be too?


In other words: 
Me: Why are you proposing a study on a question you have already answered?
Woodworth: Shut up.

His last tweet is particularly revealing: He's calling for a review of scientific studies, and yet he doesn't even know what he'd need for an answer.  In science, you declare what your parameters are *first*.  For example: If someone were to tell me that evolution was wrong, I would know what it would take to prove that:  Human remains in the Cambrian strata of the earth.  So if Mr. Woodworth is saying that a a fetus is a human sometime before complete birth, he would need a lot more than to say "before".  Since he has offered up no specific parameters or conditions, he has set himself up to retrofit any data he wants to suit his ends, and I suspect he intends to.

This. Is. Not. Science.

Woodworth seems to think that this is a legitimate debate among scientists:


Woodworth is not proposing a scientific question, not by a long shot.  He's not proposing a scientific method, and "at what point does a collection of cells become a full human being with rights and privileges" is a meaningless question, ironically, more suited to the 17th century that he passive aggressively accuses me of being stuck in. He's proposing an ethical, legal, and at best, philosophical question.  That he's citing the need for the latest scientific research is dishonest.  

As a side note, it's peculiar that Woodworth is calling for 21st century science to inform this "debate," when he himself has an outmoded view of gender and sex:
Woodworth, a sitting member of Parliament, an accomplished lawyer who is calling for the latest scientific data, doesn't understand the difference between gender and sex (and this is putting aside the antiquated binary definition of gender).  Compounding this, Woodworth did not even address the comment: that laws can't discriminate on the basis of sex.  By expanding human rights to include fetuses, only women would be subject to criminal liability.

Woodworth claimed that over 500 abortions are performed each year after viability.  I was not able to confirm this statistic (and Woodworth did not disclose his source), but it may very well be true.  Even if the 500+ number is accurate, Woodworth is implying that women who get abortions after viability are murderers.  Not just murders, but....

 Al Assad. Bashar al-Assad is the dictator President of Syria, long known for detaining, torturing, and killing political dissidents.  Hardly surprising, I suppose, given that in the span of just four weeks, a CPC MP equated supporters of the long gun registry with Nazis, a CPC Senator accused Canadian environmental groups as willing to cooperate with Al Qaeda, and Vic Toews accused critics of C-30 of sympathizing with child pornographers.

So for those of you keeping score, that's one Nazi Reference, one al Qaeda reference, one child pornographers reference, and one Al Assad reference.

Until he apologizes to me about the al Assad equation, and demonstrated an understanding as to why that was unacceptable, Woodworth has forfeited all rights to a polite and civil discussion.  Other people have called Woodworth childish names, but never once have I engaged in that behavior.

Rather than resort to his tactic (which would be playing his game), I've decided to play my own game, and it's one that politicians of all stripes hate:

I'll ask him simple, honest, direct questions.

All Canadians know what Woodworth is talking about: criminalizing abortion.  Even if he is too afraid to come out and admit publicly what the consequences of his proposal is, we're not stupid.  So the question I posed to my MP is:

If a woman is raped, do you support her right to an abortion?
Anti-abortion activists hate this question because it calls them out in a very direct way: If they answer yes, it alienates their base.  If they answer no, it enflames the moderates. Best part is: It's not even a 'trap' question: It's an honest question because it reflects reality.  Reality isn't always a binary, despite politicians' attempts to make it so.  I don't expect Woodworth to answer, but that's because I know his history. Still, I hope he does answer, for one very important reason:


I've asked Woodworth this question first on March 13,  again on March 14, March 15, March 18, March 21, March 26, and twice on March 30. I asked him this question eight times, and still there has been no reply. I was careful to make sure I only asked him this question after he was recently on Twitter (in some cases, within the hour), so as to make sure he saw them.  It's possible that he blocked me on Twitter, but this question has been re-tweeted and/or replied at least twenty times by as many different twitter users (could be more, various twitter clients telling me different things).

My Member of Parliament, Stephen Woodworth is unwilling to defend victims of rape.

During the 2011 election, his party promised not to re-open the abortion debate, and he did it anyway.  Woodworth lied to the voters of Kitchener-Centre: Stephen Woodworth wants to criminalize abortion, and will not defend women who are victims of rape.

Stephen Woodworth is worth very little.

stats counterWebsite Hit Counters s


Thank you for writing this article. I wish more people took an interest in keeping our politicians actions in the spotlight. My MP, Harold Albrecht, (ex-pastor) recently sent out a flyer about his private members bil C-300 to set up a framework to deal with preventing suicide but 80% of the flyer was him commenting on the importance of spiritual institutions in dealing with it. I may sound cynical, but I can only imagine this is another back door way of outlawing a persons ability to request euthanasia.
Luke C.

rachmanfan said...
April 2, 2012 at 10:48 AM  

This reflects very much the type of twitter conversation I myself had with him at the beginning of this year. There was no name calling but he never answered a question. You could verify this in his timeline or in mine @nevineb.

NevineB said...
April 2, 2012 at 3:07 PM  

excellent discussion post. Thank you.

Cold North Wind said...
April 2, 2012 at 3:23 PM  

Well done with this discussion and especially the screencaps. Sadly, all of Canada is NOT aware of the upcoming debate and vote around Motion 312 and we need more people writing their MPs, their newspapers, etc about it to raise awareness. Women are not second class citzens to the contents of their uteri.

MigiziNse-ikwe said...
April 2, 2012 at 4:13 PM  

Great piece. Exactly my feelings when trying to talk to the guy. (I'm one of the ones who use bad language.)

This petition is gaining steam. Please pass it on.

BTW, Quebecers are beating the ROC's butt as signatories.

fern hill said...
April 2, 2012 at 4:21 PM  

I have a question: why is it important whether your MP thinks abortion is OK for victims of rape? If it was to point out the logical inconsistency of so-called "pro-life" position, then I can understand the question. Otherwise, I strongly dislike the use of the "victim of rape" argument in the abortion debate. Who cares how the fetus got there in the first place? It's no one's business why a woman wants an abortion. Bringing up rape or medical necessity in this debate only serves to put women into two camps: deserving or undeserving, saints or sluts. In fact, regulating abortion is exactly about regulating women's sexuality, and a logically consistent pro-choice view would reject making provisos based on how a fetus was conceived.

Tori said...
April 2, 2012 at 5:13 PM  

Thanks so much for this piece! My own MP is Con Brad Trost, another obsessive fetus-fetishist who has worked thruout his time in Parl to outlaw abortion as well. These guys are all in cahoots - Wentworth, Trost, a couple of others. I have had very similar dealings with Trost. The one thing you didn't mention which I think is perhaps relevant is the religious bent of these MP's. Trost is evangelical "born-again" Christian, & I know Woodworth is v. religious as well, tho' not his particular brand. Trost's church is that of our PM, & the church is very fundamentalist - basically anti-women, anti-abortion, anti-gay, etc. I know Trosts' activism is informed by his evangelical beliefs (he's RIGHT! God said!) Trost has developed a very wide & deep network w. Roman Catholics & other fundamentalists in Canada who, upon his word & notice, sign petitions against abortion, send huge numbers of letters to politicians, etc. Your Stephen doesn't work alone. Trost recently stated that anti-abortion MP's on the Hill work as a group and are actively and presently working on this issue and that Canadians can expect to see more and more of this in the coming months.

CanNurse said...
April 2, 2012 at 5:34 PM  

Brilliantly and entertainingly done!

Those ersatz fetus fetishists' default position when they lose arguments to their opponents, in the debate that they so desperately want to re-open, is quite blatantly "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" - is it not?

deBeauxOs said...
April 3, 2012 at 1:51 PM  

I'm not even Canadian, but I think I once saw a post about this MP and his "when does a fetus become a human being" question, and I tweeted at him that it's a red herring: full grown, adult human beings don't have a right to use another human being's body without their consent either. So the only way it'd matter in this context is if he wants to define fetuses as human beings and THEN define women as not.

colorlessblue said...
April 3, 2012 at 2:16 PM  


I absolutely agree with you: How a fetus got there is irrelevant, and is the woman's business alone.

To answer your question, My point in this article is not an ethical one, but a political one. Ethically, your point holds higher ground. But tactically, it won't work to dissuade anti-abortion activists, or even most moderates.

By singling out rape cases (I have left out cases of incest), it at least gives the moderates something that they can relate to a little easier. A wide-sweeping, all-or-nothing approach never helps any cause.

In other words, abortion in rape cases is a wedge issue: drive a wedge between the moderates and the extremists, and keep pushing. Once people see how anti-choice people like Woodworth actually are, the dialogue can raise to the ethical points you raise.


Steve Thoms said...
April 3, 2012 at 2:40 PM  

Post a Comment

Oot and Aboot with Some Canadian Skeptic - Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column