Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Bill to protect unborn victims of crime specifically excludes abortion


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In an outburst last week against Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, Dr. Gaétan Barrette, president of the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists, revealed that there is no issue of fundamental justice that is above being sacrificed on the altar of pro-choice ideology.

In painting an alarmist spectre of a rollback of abortion rights, Barrette shamelessly misrepresented not only the intent of the bill, but its actual wording, since it explicitly excludes elective abortion.

Sadly, but predictably, members of the Quebec National Assembly followed suit with a motion also denouncing the bill, which they have clearly either not read or misunderstood. Citizens of the province deserve better from those among their elected representatives, or the medical profession, who oppose closing a legal loophole that lets reprehensible criminals literally get away with murder.

Let us revisit the horrific circumstances that led MP Ken Epp to introduce his private member's bill, which passed second reading in Parliament last month.

In November 2005, in Epp's own city of Edmonton, Olivia Talbot, who was 27 weeks pregnant with her son (already named Lane Jr.) was shot three times in the abdomen and twice in the head by a long-time male acquaintance. No charge could be laid in the death of baby Lane.

Another pregnant Edmonton woman, Liana White, had been slain by her husband in the summer of 2005, and again no charges could be laid in her unborn baby's death. In 2007, pregnant women were also murdered in Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg, in the last case because the woman had refused to undergo an abortion. In every case, the charged assailant was not recognized as having also killed these women's unborn children.
Many Canadians are shocked to learn that when an attacker kills a pregnant woman's unborn child, no charge can be laid in that child's death, even when the attacker purposely intended to kill the child in the womb. This is because our criminal law does not recognize children as victims of crime until they are born alive, a legal tradition that has not changed since it was encoded in English Common Law in the 1490s. It is this gap in Canadian federal law that the Unborn Victims Act is intended to fill.

Who, you might ask, would oppose such legislation? Only a small minority, it turns out. An Environics poll released last October found that 72 per cent of Canadians - 75 per cent of women - would support "legislation making it a separate crime to injure or kill a fetus during an attack on the mother." It is supported across party lines: 77 per cent of Conservative supporters, 71 per cent of both Liberal and Bloc Québécois supporters, 67 per cent of Green Party voters, and 66 per cent of NDP supporters. A recent Angus Reid poll confirmed this support, with 70 per cent national approval of the bill.

Any issue involving crimes against the fetus raises opening up the issue of abortion and, indeed, the Quebec specialists' statement is just the latest in a campaign by pro-choice activists to discredit the bill. But how representative of their own pro-choice members are they?

Not very, according to the Environics poll: Among those who self-identified as supporting unrestricted abortion for the full nine months of pregnancy, 55 per cent supported the proposed legislation. Indeed, an act of such obvious justice has become, in effect, a litmus test exposing those who occupy the most uncompromising fringe of the activist pro-choice movement.

While many on the pro-life side would naturally welcome any bill that offers a minimum of respect to the fetus, those who raise a "hidden agenda" have little to fear: For greater certainty, the bill has a clause that explicitly excludes consensual abortion. Frankly, this aspect of the bill might well disappoint many pro-life Canadians.

Mary Talbot, who would have been Lane's grandmother, told a Halifax talk show this year that she is pro-choice, and is "offended" by the bill's opponents. In a wrenching public statement, Talbot spoke of the "anguish and sense of injustice of losing a beloved family member to violence, only to learn that no crime was committed, only to learn that the one your heart breaks for was of no worth."

For years we have been told by pro-choice advocates that abortion is a necessary solution to the problem of unwanted pregnancies, that "every child should be a wanted child." Yet here we have wanted pregnancies. We have women who have chosen to want their children - and that choice is savagely stolen from them, often along with their lives.

Only the most doctrinaire, uncaring ideology would turn a blind eye to the need to create justice for these women and their grieving families. Fortunately most Canadians agree.

Paul Ranalli is a Toronto neurologist, and an adviser to the deVeber Institute of Bioethics and Social Research in Toronto.


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