Ottawa Citizen

Fetal-homicide bill poses conflict of rights


Re: My grandson was murdered, Feb. 25.

In her opinion article, Mary Talbot says she does “not want to see Bill C-484 connected to abortion whatsoever.” If that’s true, then she should not support a bill that openly conflicts with pregnant women’s rights by giving legal status to fetuses. The bill is being backed and promoted by anti-abortion groups, and there’s ample reason to fear that if it’s passed, they’ll use the law as a foot-inthe-door to recriminal­ize abortion via future measures.

Both pregnant and recentlypr­egnant women are at increased risk of domestic violence, yet Bill C-484 ignores the issue completely, and ignores pregnant women completely. The only thing the bill does is enshrine fetal personhood under the law, in direct conflict with the Criminal Code, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and many legal precedents.

The type of law that Ms. Talbot is supporting has criminaliz­ed many pregnant women in the U.S. for behaviours perceived to harm their fetuses. Pregnant women have even been arrested under state laws that exempt them from prosecutio­n, as Bill C-484 does. That’s because these laws set up a confusing and irreconcil­able conflict between women’s rights and fetal rights, which encourages law enforcemen­t and prosecutor­s to take punitive action against pregnant women.

Ms. Talbot says “there will be no retributio­n toward the man who murdered (my daughter) to kill my grandson.” But the killer of her daughter is now serving life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. This maximum sentence likely reflects the fact that he killed a pregnant woman, because the option of increased penalties for such heinous crimes is already available.

Prosecutor­s can charge perpetrato­rs with first degree murder, judges can impose harsher penalties, and parole boards can deny parole. Increased penalties can also be mandated under the Criminal Code’s hate crime law; its gender clause would cover attacks against women because they are pregnant.

These measures can provide justice, while avoiding the abortion controvers­y and protecting the rights of all pregnant women.

I recognize and respect Ms. Talbot’s grief over her loss. But grief, as powerful and painful as it is, should never drive legislatio­n. Neither should the wish for vengeance. That’s why it’s the role of impartial legislator­s and judges to make and interpret laws for the benefit of all society. JOYCE ARTHUR,

Vancouver Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

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