by Steven Ertelt
December 17, 2007
Ottawa, Canada (LifeNews.com) — A measure that would offer protection and justice to pregnant women and their unborn children who are victims of violence received its first debate last week in the Canadian House of Commons. MP Ken Epp is the main sponsor of the Unborn Victims of Crime Act (C-484).
Unlike in the United States, Canadian law does not recognize the unborn child as a second victim in criminal attacks. A baby is not considered a human being worthy of legal protection until after birth.
“This bill is about giving a woman the freedom of choice to bring her child to term in safety,” Epp said.
“In anticipating the birth of her baby, she has become emotionally attached to it, and has experienced the greatest violation of her right and freedom possible – the criminal assault and death or injury to her child that she loves and wants to protect," he added.
The bill is a response to impassioned pleas by grieving families who can’t believe that criminals who attack pregnant women receive no punishment for killing or injuring the baby as well.
However, abortion advocates in Canada object to protecting pregnant women and offering them justice when their unborn child is killed or injured.
Joyce Arthur, the coordinator for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, strongly opposes the bill and is asking MPs to vote it down.
Arthur alleges that similar laws in the United States have been misused to put women in prison.
“Dozens of pregnant women in the U.S. have been arrested, prosecuted, and jailed for behavior perceived to harm their fetuses," Arthur contends.
But Denise Burke, an attorney who is the vice president of Americans United for Life, says “There are no cases that prosecuted mothers under fetal homicide statutes.”
“Unfortunately, Ms. Arthur’s statements show a lack of knowledge about American law, at best, and an intent to mislead and further her political agenda at the expense of women and their children, at worst,” Burke added.
On the other hand, pro-life groups in Canada strongly support the legislation.
Peter Ryan, the director of New Brunswick Right to Life, told LifeNews.com that his group is working to get support for the bill in Parliament.
Other pro-life groups plan to work for the bill as well, including Women for Women’s Health, which has criticized some lawmakers for erroneously claiming the measure would re-open the debate on abortion.
"Currently, Canada is one of the only democratic countries that does not have some type of protection for unborn victims of crimes incorporated into its criminal code," Marie-Christine Houle, the group’s director, told LifeNews.com.
Houle referred to the cases of Olivia Talbot and Aysun Sessen, women who were killed while respectively 6 and 7 months pregnant.
"They were brutally stripped of their right to give birth to the child they desired and already loved deeply," Houle said. "We feel it is time for the victims and their families to get
the justice they deserve."
Aysun Sesen, 25, died on October 2 after she was stabbed in the stomach and her baby was delivered stillborn.
"The law is wrong," Aydin Cocelli, her brother-in-law, said at the time. "My sister-in-law got killed, but her baby got killed too, and that should count."
This is the second try to get an unborn victims law in place.
Alberta Conservative MP Leon Benoit was denied a vote on his 2006 bill to have Canada’s law recognize both victims.
In June 2006, 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.
The measure became embroiled in the abortion debate after pro-abortion groups complained about protecting both mother and child from assaults.