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The Unborn Victims of Crime Bill (Bill C-484) should be defeated.

I thought I should make a comment about this particular private member’s bill that Conservative MP Ken Epp is attempting to get passed in the House. If passed, it would allow separate homicide charges to be laid in the death of a fetus when a pregnant woman is attacked. While that may sound reasonable, I believe if you closely examine this bill more closely, you’ll see all this bill is really trying to accomplish is a back-door attempt by Ken Epp and his supporters to re-criminalize abortion.

This proposed bill is attempting to add legal status to fetuses and define them as persons. Right off the bat, this bill conflicts with both the Canadian Criminal Code and the Supreme Court of Canada. Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code states quite clearly that foetuses are not persons until they exit the birth canal alive. Further to that, the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that a woman and her fetus are considered “physically one” person under the law, and that all rights belong to the pregnant woman. Therefore, I believe this proposed Bill is unconstitutional before it’s even been put into law, and would quickly be ruled as such if it managed to be passed by Parliament.

I said earlier I believe this law was an attempt to re-criminalize abortion. The reason I believe that is for a couple of reasons:

1) If a fetus is granted with personhood legal status, and the right not to be killed, it’s almost guaranteed that anti-abortionist groups and their supporters will use this as a pretext to attack abortion as something that violates the right of a fetus, and they will attempt to use this proposed law if it passes as a means of making abortion a criminal offence.

2) Law-makers in the US who have passed fetal homicide laws have openly declared they were trying to use these laws to overturn Roe-vs-Wade, which was what legalized abortion in the US. You will not find such frankness and honesty amongst the anti-abortion MP’s in Canada (most of them in the Conservative Party); they’ll be a tad more subtle about their intentions. I have no doubt though, that they have the same thing in mind.

Further debate on this bill is scheduled for Feb 29, and a final vote on March 5. It is almost guaranteed that the Conservatives will to a person vote for this bill (perhaps a few exceptions on the Red Tory side of the ledger, but there aren’t many left in this predominantly social conservative caucus). The NDP and BQ will to a person vote against – most are against this Bill anyhow, but their leaders will whip the MP’s to vote against anyhow. The Liberals will not be holding a whipped vote on this. I believe that as with a capital punishment vote, it’s viewed as a vote of conscience. So, it is the Liberal Party that will hold the key to this passing or not.

Even though this is a private member’s bill and not an official Government Bill, I have no doubt that the supporters of this bill – mostly from the Conservative government – will attempt to paint the Liberals as not being tough on crime or on violence against women, in an attempt to fearmonger them into voting for this bill. The truth is that there are already provisions in the current Criminal Code that can be used to provide tougher penalties against attacks on pregnant women – this bill is using that as a cover for its real purpose, which is to re-criminalize abortion. Remember that Stephen Harper and his advisers believe you can’t instantly foist conservatism on a traditionally liberal country like Canada. You have to do it in incremental steps. I see that strategy at play here with this bill, and I urge the Liberals, or at least the majority of the caucus who are on record as being pro-choice, to not fall for this line of attack and to defeat this bill.

If you wish to contact Stephane Dion to urge him to vote against this bill, you may do so very easily here. Note: the folks over there have it setup to send an automatic text message to Mr Dion which lists why they feel he and the Liberal Party needs to oppose this Bill, and then asks him at the end to whip the vote on this subject and force his MP’s to vote against. I don’t know how realistic it will be to expect that to happen, so use your judgement as to whether you wish to leave that line in there or not. You can manually add or subtract things from their message form, so I would also point out in this to Mr Dion that this Bill is probably unconstitutional and already in direct contradiction of the current Criminal Code, as stated above.

You may also contact your local MP to state your opposition to this bill – find that information here.

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25 comments to The Unborn Victims of Crime Bill (Bill C-484) should be defeated.

  • Marlon

    Pro-Choice v Pro-abortion.
    The uproar on behalf of some people in response to this bill pulls the "pro-choice" cover away from what really is a pro-abortion stance. You don’t care about women who lose their babies to crime. All you care about is your precious "right" to abortion, and your reactions here prove it.

  • choice joyce

    Just a small but important correction – the scheduled vote on March 5 is the second reading vote, so it’s not the "final" vote unless the bill fails at this vote. But that’s what we’re fighting for, otherwise, the bill goes to Committee with hearings and witnesses etc and we really don’t want it to get that far.

  • Gayle

    "the reason the SCC in Dobson reached the answer it did is because the Court correctly observed that nowhere in law is a fetus defined as a person!’

    Try not to forget the fact that any move to define a fetus as a person will necessarily affect pregnant women, and their right to autonomy over their own bodies.

    It seems perfectly logical to me that a "person" is defined as someone who survives independently of others. There is no way the SCC is going to suddenly rule women’s rights are superseded by a fetus.

    And FICB has it right – this entire argument regarding "partial births" is a strawman argument. No woman waits until the fetus is viable to have an abortion, unless that abortion has been unavailable until then (and that is not the case in Canada). Women who want abortions want them asap. They do not wake up 6 months into their pregnancy and decide they just cannot be bothered anymore.

    Your little friend Steve seems to suffer from the general conservative malady of "ignorethecharteritis". If only it were as simple as "the majority of people we asked like it so it MUST be OK". The Charter protects us from the tyranny of the majority. Thank god for that.

  • Feminist in Cowboy Boots

    In response to: "I, for example, am uncomfortable with the idea of partial-birth abortions (and I am willing to wager that the overwhelming majority of people are) does not mean I’m a pro-life crusader trying to sneakily ban all abortions entirely."

    There is no such thing as "partial-birth abortion." It is a term made up by those opposed to legal abortion full stop. It seems like the term might refer to very rare D & E abortions that are sometimes performed later in pregnancies when the fetus suffers a serious anomaly (i.e. only in tragic cases when the woman wanted to have a baby). However, even this rare procedure is never performed in Canada (the few Canadian women who need it are sent to the US). So be as uncomfortable with it as you want: but taking up that position is in fact agreeing with anti-abortion propaganda.

  • Thank you Scott for an excellent post.

    The laws as you mention provide for tougher penalties if the assault causes such harm as destroying a wanted pregnancy.

    This Bill is an attempt to grant legal recognition of fetus as persons. Anybody with some functioning brain cells knows what is next when such a move occurs. Those supporting this Bill and denying the underlying motive are manipulators and cowards. It’s anti-abortionists who are sponsoring events to support this, including events where MP Epps was invited to speak.

  • Great post Scott, I agree 100%.

  • Paul Says:

    I’m speechless

    ..not speechless enough to leave a comment apparently.

    As I stated in my piece, which you apparently ignored, the Criminal Code can be used now to do tougher penalties on attackers of pregnant women. A separate law that tries to confer personhood and separate rights on a fetus which isnt even considered a person under Canada’s current laws is not necessary, and probably unconstitutional.

    If that isn’t enough for you, another alternative is doing what several US States have done; they have passed laws that mandate harsher sentences or penalties for attacks on pregnant women. I have no objection to going that route. This route though? As I said, it’s a backdoor way to try and get abortion criminalized.

  • [quote comment="13534"]What is the state of the bill at the moment? Is it likely to even come to a vote?[/quote]

    It has had one hour of debate so far. More debate is scheduled for (Sadie Hawkins Day) February 29. Vote scheduled for March 5. If it passes that, it goes to committee with witnesses, expense, grandstanding and fetus fetishists getting their jollies.

    The optics on this are problematic. The threat is real.

    The Bloc and NDP are on side. The women of Canada need the Liberals to stand up for our rights.

    I mean, it’s ok for women to ask on Sadie Hawkins Day, right? 😉

  • Paul

    So you are saying that there is no difference between the murder of a person or the murder of a person that is carrying triplets for 38 weeks. Either that or you figure it is a necessary evil to prevent a slippery slope. I’m speechless

  • BlueBerry Pick'n

    As I pointed out on my posting on the subject, I’m waiting for someone to start arresting women at PROTESTS & DEMONSTRATIONS for ‘endangering the foetus’. I mean, show up @ any protest these days & unless the crowd is proportionally innoculated with enough celebrities, you can expect anything from our ‘Peace Officers’ ranging from a rough arrest to cs gas & rubber bullets… wait for it. that train is never late.

  • JJ

    Steve – "They are so determined to cling to their license to kill their unwanted babies that they won’t let the wanted babies be safe either."

    Please elaborate:  how does a fetal homicide law keep "wanted babies safe"?

    An attack on a fetus is always first an attack on a pregnant woman.  If you were honestly interested in keeping "wanted babies safe", you wouldn’t be supporting a piece of useless legislation that does nothing to that end.  You’d be working to remove the circumstances that propagate  violence against pregnant women.

    Cretin.

  • Lukas B

    Whatever the bill may be trying to accomplish, I am disgusted by your call for Mr. Dion to force Liberal MPs to vote against the bill. As I recall Canada is a democracy, and the MPs1) should be allowed to vote their conscience and2) should represent the views of their constituents!That is why they are in office! And as most Canadians support this law, I think that lawmakers should do their duty and listen to the opinion of those that they represent.

  • Thanks for posting this, Scott. I hope Dion and his Whip (Redmond, no?) do the right thing on this one. Cheers.

  • Gigi

    Thank you, Scott.

    To those who disagree:  I understand that women who have lost their fetuses to violence are upset – and possibly more distressed than those who simply miscarry of natural causes.  The fact still remains that women miscarry, and until the fetus is a delivered baby, there are NO GUARANTEES.

    Yes, women get attached to their fetus while in utero.  Yes, they grieve their loss, but you cannot say, with 100% certainty, that this fetus would have become a baby.

    Now what happens when you cause injury but not death to the fetus?  Who can lay charges? Where does that line get drawn?  Reckless endangerment?  Surgeons nicking the baby while performing c-sections?  Car accidents?  Who is and isn’t included as perpetrators? 

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2004/04/21/newfetalrights_040421.html
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/csection_births/

    And many more cases/stories.

  • Steve:

    It’s nice to see that people employed by the government of Canada have time to read blogs and leave rants…er.. comments.

    You wouldn’t happen to be a Ken Epp staffer, would you? Or one of Stockwell Day’s? Because that little screed you left sure fits what I’d expect to come out of one of their staff members.

    Edit: Never mind.. I just did a looksee of your IP. I would have thought you folks in the Dept. of Finance would be busy with, you know, financial matters… and not have time to read blogs. I am pleased to see I’m not on the Conservative government’s official banned list of blogs however.

  • Steve

    Your compassion for victimized pregnant women is less than underwhelming.

    As you said it yourself, Scott, it is entirely reasonable for a civilized society to have a law that "would allow separate homicide charges to be laid in the death of a fetus when a pregnant woman is attacked."

    Your intolerance for this bill reflects the fact that your pro-choice views seem to supercede any compassion or respect for pregnant women who choose to keep their babies and pursue their pregnancy, but who are denied that right because of a violent attach.

    So if some brute comes along and assaults an expectant mother, thus killing the baby in her tummy, too bad so sad. Get over it girl. It was just a "clump of cells" in your belly.

    Case in point: last week, Alan Bryan of Nova Scotia was sent to jail for his brutal attack on his then-pregnant girlfriend Charlene Knapp. The crimes? Attempted murder of Charlene, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and possession of a dangerous weapon. No murder charge for killing the baby by stabbing it with a sword.

    Charlene was 8 months pregnant. "I lost my son (who) was my future," she said.

    But you don’t seem to have any sympathy for Charlene’s loss.  You’re clinging to the myth that the unborn aren’t persons, which is consistent with medical textbooks from the Middle Ages, when lobotomies were the latest breakthrough.

    Reminds me of smoking. Back in the 1950s, we didn’t know that smoking was bad for our health. Today, anybody with a semblance of a brain knows that cigarettes are toxic.

    Likewise, modern science has destroyed the "clump of cells" myth. Strange how that "clump of cells" in the ultrasound sure looks a lot like a human. What a coincidence that the clump lines up that way, eh?

    Not only does an unborn child have her own distinct DNA, she also has her own heart beat, arms, legs, head, etc. Gee, do pregnant women temporarily grow an extra heart and a few spare limbs? Those spare parts could sure come in handy, especially the brain, which seems dramatically deficient in some pro-aborts.

    Grow up. We’re not in the Middle Ages anymore.

    The pro-aborts, in their typical exemplary altruism, are barking that the grief of women like Charlene must be ignored. In fact, they despise Charlene’s tears and the media attention she gets because it draws Canadians’ attention to a gaping hole in our justice system.

    For the pro-aborts, Charlene is just too emotional. No murder was committed. Just an assault on a woman with an inflated belly. Perhaps she was just overweight? At most she only had a cumbersome "clump of cells" in her womb that doesn’t count. But certainly no baby in there. In fact, you should be happy, Charlene, because it will be easier to fasten your seatbelt now. You’ll also be able to fit into your old clothes again. Your ex did you a favour. We sent him a Hallmark on your behalf.

    Once again, the pro-aborts are showing their true colors. They are so determined to cling to their license to kill their unwanted babies that they won’t let the wanted babies be safe either.

    By the way, an Environics poll released in late 2007 showed that 72% of Canadians and 75% of women support a law that would make it a separate crime to kill a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman. That’s an overwhelming majority.  You won’t find that amount of consensus on virtually any issue in this country.

    If democracy is to be served, our elected officials must pass this law.

  • WLA

    Oh Look, a neo-conservative being "sneaky". We aren’t stupid ALW. You can’t protect a fetus’s life and abort it at the same time. Duh.

  • ALW

    Okay, Scott, not to be condescending, but you really toss around the term "unconstitutional" really casually. There’s nothing unconstitutional about a law being passed defining a fetus as a person – the reason the SCC in Dobson reached the answer it did is because the Court correctly observed that nowhere in law is a fetus defined as a person!
    An example for you. If I alleged that a dog should fall under the definition of "person" and take it to court, the court can simply say "no, nowhere is it written in any law that the definition of ‘person’ includes dogs’. But that doesn’t mean a Parliament can’t then just pass a law that changes the definition of a person. It happens all the time – indeed, that is one of the functions of courts, to draw attention to deficiencies in the law so that they can be corrected.
    What I think you really mean to say is that the law shouldn’t be changed to include fetuses as persons. That’s very different than saying that it can’t be done constitutionally.
    On another note, I think the paranoia about social conservatives is more than a tad overstated. I don’t think there are very many social conservatives with any real power who seriously believe abortion can be banned altogether. But I don’t think it’s radical to simply point out that as it stands, Canada has no abortion law at all. None! And why is that? Not because of Morgentaler, which struck down – correctly, in my view – the existing abortion law at the time. But saying a particular law governing an activity is unconstitutional is very different than saying any law is. Even the most feminist Justice (Bertha Wilson) on the court at the time agreed that it’s entirely reasonable to say a fetus should have some rights – she just said those rights can’t trump the rights of the mother. Put another way, just because I, for example, am uncomfortable with the idea of partial-birth abortions (and I am willing to wager that the overwhelming majority of people are) does not mean I’m a pro-life crusader trying to sneakily ban all abortions entirely.

  • Well argued, Scott.

    We’re still hearing, ‘Wow, I hadn’t heard of this!’ Such sneakiness must be exposed.

    Thank you for this. I hope it generates a lot of discussion.

  • What is the state of the bill at the moment?  Is it likely to even come to a vote?

  • I think a Liberal party with more Scott Tribes and fewer Derek Lees would be a pretty decent one. Thanks for spreading the word, Scott!

  • It’s not too late to rally the troops …. err, caucus members.

    Great post, Scott.

  • They really need to take a stand and whip the vote, the backlash against them if they allow the bill to pass would be far worse (not to mention setting back this country a few decades) than if they force a no vote.

    I’m actually kind of surprised the Liberals haven’t come out against this bill already, especially with such a strong social crusading leader…

  • […] Although not all of the Liberal party is following Lee’s example (notable Liberal blogger Scott Tribe wrote a great post on the issue and prominent Liberal Jason Cherniak also expressed some measured […]

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