by Steven Ertelt
September 27, 2006
Ottawa, Canada (LifeNews.com) — A member of the Canadian parliament says he plans to bring back legislation designed to offer further protection for pregnant women and their unborn children from acts of violence. The parliament shot down the first attempt, but the lawmaker says he has more support for a renewed effort.
Leon Benoit, MP for Vegreville-Wainwright, says he plans to reintroduce the bill, which provides for a second crime when a criminal attacks a pregnant woman and kills or injured her unborn child.
Benoit proposed the bill earlier this year but a parliamentary committee shot it down in June.
However, he plans to work with Ontario MP Pierre Lemieux, who will introduce the bill in November in after finishing work on a revamped version of it.
Benoit told the Edmonton Sun newspaper that he thinks the new version will have more support.
"I find support right across the country for this (bill) to happen, and very strong support," he said. "I’m working with [Lemieux] to amend the bill so that it can be supported by our Justice Minister (Vic Toews) and hopefully our full caucus."
But abortion advocates plan to oppose the bill, saying that protecting pregnant women and punishing criminals when they attack their babies before birth would undermine their efforts to keep abortion legal.
"It’s just a backdoor attempt to get rights for fetuses," Joyce Arthur, a spokesman for the Vancouver-based Abortion Rights Coalition Canada, told the Sun.
In June, a parliamentary committee ruled the private member’s bill "non-votable" in a closed-door committee hearing. Benoit said the committee’s position on C-291 was out of step with what other people say about the legality of the bill.
"They believe it clearly contravenes the constitution, which is just out of line with what everybody else says," he said at the time.
Mary Talbot, whose daughter Olivia was six months pregnant when she was fatally shot in November 2005, backed the bill.
The assailant shot Olivia in the head and three times in the stomach. The gunman faces one count of first-degree murder in Olivia’s death but is not charged with the death of her baby.
"It’s excellent. It’s what I’ve been hoping for," Talbot told the Sun about the bill to correct the injustice.
Talbot explains that the bullets grazed the body of her unborn grandson, who the family chose to name Lane.
Benoit was inspired by Olivia and Lane’s death to propose the bill.
"To me it was shocking, just an unbelievably terrible crime. It just tears at you that this could happen and it could be considered just one life," he explained.
Talbot said she would continue to lobby members of Parliament to approve the bill and will do so for as long as it takes.
"I think this is the first step, and as long as it’s being brought up in the halls of Parliament, it’s a big step for us," she said. "It’s an actual law to be enacted. It’s not going to be a hop, skip and a jump to get it through."
Talbot has been campaigning for a law like Benoit is proposing and met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper before he was elected to urge him to allow a vote on a bill. Harper has agreed and said MPs will have a free vote on Benoit’s legislation.
"I felt that there was something wrong with the law, that the fellow who had murdered my daughter and grandson wasn’t being charged with two murders," Talbot said.
"He was 27 weeks’ gestation," said Talbot of her grandson, who she was able to briefly hold after he was removed from Olivia’s womb. "He was just barely nicked by a bullet, which was horrible, but he was perfect. He had long black hair and 10 fingers and 10 toes, and everything about him was perfect."
"To me, this person deliberately wanted the two deaths. So I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t being charged for both," she told the Toronto Star in an interview.
Benoit’s bill would charge the assailant with a second crime, even if he didn’t know the woman was pregnant or intended to kill the baby. That’s consistent with criminal law which holds criminals accountable for killing people whether they meant to or not.
Pro-life groups support the measure and Mary Ellen Douglas, of the Campaign Life Coalition, said Benoit’s legislation is a "common sense" bill and says "in the way it’s worded, I don’t think the Supreme Court would have a problem with this. They shouldn’t."
"I would think pro-abortion women would find this bill something they would absolutely want to bring forward because it relates to the mother and the fact that a mother has accepted this child in that sense," she said.