Unborn would benefit from Bill C-484

By  Archbishop Raymond Roussin, SM, Catholic Register Special
  • September 5, 2008

{mosimage}In the past year there have been a number of high-profile cases where pregnant women have been attacked and killed. And in each of those cases the perpetrators were charged with only one murder, that of the mother.

Bill C-484, a private member’s bill, was introduced in Parliament in the fall of 2007. The proposed legislation — An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence) — is also known as the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. The bill has now passed second reading and has been sent for study to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, where it now sits.

It could die however, as the Conservative government has distanced itself from MP Ken Epp's bill as a federal election looms.

Some may wonder why we need this legislation. After all, isn’t a pregnant mother who is attacked protected under the Criminal Code? Unfortunately, while she is protected, her unborn child is not. Under current law, her child is not given any protection until the moment the baby is born. Only then is it recognized as a human being.

As hard as it may be to believe, if a pregnant woman is attacked and her unborn child is killed, the attacker is not charged with the murder of the child, only with the assault of the mother.

For this reason, Bill C-484 deserves support. It will provide some protection to unborn babies in law. It will make the baby matter. It will give legal protection to both the mother and her unborn child at a time when, in our society, pregnant women are at grave risk of harm.

The legislation will also help grieving families, grandparents, siblings and extended family in their need for justice.

This bill will not bring about a legal change in the definition of a human being. Rather, it would recognize that in this particular situation, as a result of this particular crime, there are two victims.

Opponents of the bill insist there is already enough protection in law for pregnant mothers. Their reasoning is difficult to understand considering it’s possible for an unborn child to be killed without any charge being laid beyond assault on the woman. There is no recognition of the death of the unborn child.

This bill can only help women at a very vulnerable time in their lives, and it’s widely supported by Canadians. An Environics poll commissioned by LifeCanada last year asked whether respondents would support legislation making it a separate crime to injure or kill a fetus during an attack on the mother. An overwhelming number — 72 per cent — of Canadians answered Yes. Of course, we need to be realistic.

The one drawback of this bill is that it does not apply to the lawful termination of a child by its mother. Until we have protection for all unborn babies in law, some of our most vulnerable citizens are still in danger.

While this legislation does not change that, the church has always promoted the right to life of every person, and Bill C-484 takes a step in the right direction.

I urge everyone to write, call or visit their MPs, asking them to vote in favour of Bill C-484. Every life has value and dignity, and this legislation takes a step toward recognizing that by putting in place some protection for unborn victims of crime.

For contact information for your member of Parliament, see www.rcav.org/OLF.

(Archbishop Roussin is ordinary of Vancouver archdiocese.)

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