Election fears kill unborn victims’ bill

  • August 28, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - An apparent attempt by the Conservative government to keep abortion out of the next federal election has shocked and disappointed pro-life Canadians.

Amid rumours of an October federal election, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson distanced the government from Conservative MP Ken Epp’s Unborn Victims of Crime Bill.

“We’ve heard criticisms from across the country including representatives from the medical community that Mr. Epp’s bill as presently drafted could be interpreted as instilling fetal rights,” Nicholson said Aug. 25. “Let me be clear. Our government will not reopen the debate on abortion.”

But one pro-life leader said Nicholson, a Catholic, moved beyond the Conservative party’s previous refusal to take a stand one way or another on abortion.

“He definitely entered the abortion debate — on the side of the pro-abortion camp,” said Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes. “(Epp’s) private members’ bill had a real chance of being passed and the Conservatives are denying the humanity of the child in the womb.

“Shame on you, Rob Nicholson, for taking part in this charade,” he said, noting that Epp had made it abundantly clear his bill had nothing to do with abortion.

Epp, who refused to withdraw his bill, said Bill C-484 specifically does not criminalize women or doctors who seek abortions, but only protects babies a mother chooses to carry to term. He criticized the “orchestrated campaign” against his bill.

An array of groups, including many powerful unions, joined forces to oppose it.  Liberal Leader Stephane Dion recently called it a threat to “the rights of women to choose,” and demanded Harper reveal his personal views on abortion. In previous elections, the Liberals have tried to paint the Conservatives as having a “hidden agenda” on abortion.

Recently, 88 per cent of doctors attending the Canadian Medical Association’s annual meeting voted to oppose Epp’s bill because they feared it might recriminalize abortion.

Nicholson, who had voted for Epp’s bill last March as had Prime Minister Stephen Harper and all but four of the Conservative caucus, said he will introduce legislation “that will punish criminals who commit violence against pregnant women, but do so in a way that leaves no room for the introduction of fetal rights.”

Epp said pregnancy is already deemed an “aggravating factor” in criminal law.

“By simply treating pregnancy as an aggravating factor without recognizing a second victim in the crime, we reinforce the offensive notion that the unborn child’s fate is irrelevant,” Epp said in a statement. “But the child’s death is very relevant to the mother (and other family members) who want her baby to live.”

Life Canada, the national association of educational pro-life groups, commissioned an Environics poll last October that showed 75 per cent of Canadian women would support a bill to protect unborn victims of crime.

“The Canadian public was ignored,” said Life Canada executive director Gudrun Schultz. “That’s what was so disturbing.”

Schultz said the loud opposition to Epp’s Bill C-484 came from a vocal one-third of the Canadian population who want no restrictions on abortion at any stage of pregnancy. She noted that two-thirds of Canadians want some restrictions on abortion, and half of that number oppose abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

“It’s really astounding to us how intense the reaction to this bill was,” she said. “It shows an element of fear in the pro-abortion camp. It was a disproportionate reaction.”

Hughes said the Conservative government may not be able to duck the abortion issue because of the anger over the awarding of an Order of Canada to abortionist Henry Morgentaler.

“I think a lot of people who would have gone out and voted for the Conservatives because they hate the illiberal policies of the other parties might decide to stay home on election day,” he said, adding that he is advising people to vote, but to support pro-life and pro-family candidates, regardless of party.

Epp urged supporters of his bill to continue to write and phone their MPs so his bill will pass third reading. However, if an election is called, the bill will die. Epp will not be seeking re-election.

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