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Common sense

  • March 10, 2016

Canadian law permits abortion at any time for any reason during a pregnancy. Despite the Supreme Court’s position that Parliament is entitled to legislate some protections for pre-born children, what has developed instead is de facto government endorsement of an absolute right to choose.

But what about women who choose to have their baby? Do they not deserve to have that right respected and their child acknowledged under the law? Shouldn’t the child in the womb warrant legal recognition and protection? 

Those questions are at the heart of a laudable private member’s bill that wants to cover pre-born children under the umbrella of the Criminal Code. Currently, a child has no legal standing in law until the moment of birth. Conservative MP Cathay Waganstall’s Bill C-225 would amend the Criminal Code to make harm done to pre-born children caused by an assault on an expectant mother a serious crime. 

This is one of those common-sense motions that warrant broad support. Waganstall has it right. These pre-born children deserve recognition and legal protection from third-party violence. Parents deserve laws that watch over the gestating child they will soon welcome into their home. Society deserves criminal and judicial practices that offer compassion and justice for families that become victims of this type of crime.

Yet Waganstall’s bill can expect loud opposition from those who see any effort to extend human dignity to pre-born children as a threat to a woman’s unfettered right to abortion. That has been the pattern whenever Parliament faced debates related to the question of life within the womb. A motion in 2012 to merely explore the question of when life begins fell into a snakepit of abortion rhetoric and was roundly rejected by Parliament. Untangling the bill from abortion politics may be Waganstall’s stiffest challenge.

Dubbed Cassie and Molly’s law, the bill was sparked by the 2014 murder of seven-months-pregnant Cassandra Kaake and her pre-born child Molly. Their deaths led to a campaign by Molly’s father to receive justice for both his wife and child. He was shocked to learn that the child in his wife’s womb was not legally regarded as a human being.

Bill C-225 would address that aberration by making it a separate crime to harm a pre-born child by way of an assault on a woman who an assailant knew to be pregnant. Most often, these types of assaults occur in domestic situations. Women who are happily anticipating childbirth merit laws that hold abusers accountable for harm they inflict on both mother and child.

Any government that vehemently supports women who wish to terminate a pregnancy should find equal resolve to support women who wish to become mothers. Bill-C225 is a worthy step in that direction.

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