Canadian women running for office on the Liberal Party ticket will receive a significant financial boost this month, thanks to record donations to the Judy LaMarsh Fund, which supports female Liberal candidates running for parliament.
Fund president Alvah Hanrahan announced on Friday that the 73 Liberal women running for the Canadian House of Commons will each receive $2,500 to assist with campaign expenses, up from the $2,000 candidates received from the fund in 2000. The increase is due in part to a $10,000 donation from Dr. Carolyn Bennett, a member of parliament.
Women currently represent 21 percent of the Canadian House of Commons; 63 percent of those women are Liberal party representatives, according to the National Women's Liberal Commission. The Liberal party has held the majority for the past three elections.
Canadian voters go to the polls to elect new members of the House of Commons on June 28. The number of Liberal women candidates has increased 12 percent from the 2000 election, and half of those women are new to federal politics, according to a Liberal Party press release.
"It is crucial to support women candidates," Hanrahan said in the press release. "The threat to a woman's right to choose and the likely cuts to health care that would come from the election of the Conservative Party are both issues that mean we need strong, Liberal women members of Parliament."
Despite a recent federal court decision calling the federal abortion ban unconstitutional, the Michigan legislature this week approved a restrictive abortion bill that incorporates a new standard for when a legal abortion could be performed.
In vague terminology and language not found in traditional medical literature, the law bans all abortions after human life is created, defining them as when any part of the fetus is expelled from the body. Experts believe this could be interpreted as the first few weeks of pregnancy. No exceptions are made for situations where a women's health is in danger.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm originally vetoed the bill last October, saying it was flawed because it didn't include an exception for the health of the mother and could be interpreted as applying to abortions in the first trimester. Therefore, she noted, it was in direct conflict to Roe v. Wade.
The Republican-controlled legislature, through a seldom-used initiative procedure called a People's Override petition, overrode the veto. Though the majority of the Michigan House and Senate approved the bill, it failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote to make it effective immediately. It is scheduled to be implemented in March 2005, without Gov. Granholm's signature.
Pro-choice advocates hope to prevent that from happening.
"This is a call to arms to elect pro-choice representatives and get a pro-choice president into the White House this November," said Rebekah Warren, executive director of MARAL Pro-Choice Michigan, in a phone interview. "It's time to gear up our forces."
Warren said Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights will all be filing legal challenges to block bill.
Pro-choice Republican groups are also speaking out against the legislation. In a press release yesterday, Jennifer Blei Stockman, national co-chair of the Republican Majority for Choice, called the bill dangerous and said it could force women to find potentially life-threatening ways to have abortions.
"It is yet another attempt to prevent women and their doctors from having the final say in matters that are both personal and private," she said.