Fe­tal-homi­cide bill poses con­flict of rights

Ottawa Citizen - - Letters -

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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