Saturday, April 16, 2011

James Moore: How far back is going too far back?

In the interests of a bit of non-partisanship, I'm going to call out the Liberals today for a tactic I find distasteful that was used in BC. Liberals in the riding of heritage minister James Moore have released a column that he wrote in a student nespaper over a decade ago, which questions the issue of regulating late-term abortions. Effectively, the local Liberals are all but accusing him of secretly harbouring an anti-abortion agenda, despite a long record of pro-choice statements, and generally being one of the most socially liberal members of the Conservative caucus (with a stellar record on gay rights, for example).

The article in question was written twelve years ago! I shudder to think that someone would dig out pieces that I wrote as a high school journalist or even an undergraduate (when I was deeply in the closet) and take them for my current opinions. People's views change over time, and when a clear record of speaking and voting on issues a certain way has been established, I do think it's reasonable to let people make a break from their past. This is not to say that individuals who have gone quiet on an issue, or release ambivalent statements should be given a free pass. But when a clear pattern of voting and speaking a certain way is established, it seems petty to attempt a "gotcha" attack, especially when there are so many other ways to confront a candidate's actual established positions.

More to the point, Moore's position on this issue hardly paints him as a wide-eyed radical on the abortion question. Although Canada's laws on abortion were struck down by the courts in 1988, the Supreme Court did rule that regulation of abortion was permissible, but not using the procedural mechanisms that were in place under the 1969 legislation, which violated the principle of equal access. Moreover, the main reason that Canada doesn't have an abortion law now is because efforts to pass such a law failed in the Senate, partly because social conservatives considered Kim Campbell's legislation to be too permissive. The procedure /is/ internally regulated by a number of medical authorities at the provincial level, covering the particular types of cases that Moore addresses in the quotes cited in the Globe article. Indeed, one could make the case that clear legislation on when abortions are fully legal might make it easier for women to procure them in provinces such as New Brunswick, where access is notoriously difficult because of these internal regulations.

I think this particular case of going after Moore for this article is petty politics and something that both the local party organizers in BC should have been above, and that the Globe shouldn't have descended to reporting on. Frankly, there's plenty to attack in the current actions of Moore's Conservative benchmates and leader without having to stoop to digging up mud on his pre-office actions of over a decade ago.

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