It looks like the end of legal proceedings in the murder of 27-year-old Arianna Goberdhan, who was killed along with her pre-born daughter Asaara in 2017. Nicholas Baig pled guilty to the murder in 2019 and his latest appeal was rejected after he missed his 30-day window to appeal by almost a year and a half. This closes the legal case, but it’s not a fulfilling ending for the family of Arianna.
Losing a loved one to a violent crime is a hurt that cannot be repaired even by the harshest sentence possible. The problem goes deeper for the Goberdhans, however, as they mourn not only Arianna, but also her daughter Asaara. Arianna and her daughter Asaara were buried together – Asaara a perfectly formed baby who died waiting for emergency services to arrive. Asaara was not recognized by our criminal justice system because she was still in the womb when she was murdered.
Baig could not plead ignorance of the fact that his crime impacted two victims: Arianna, nine months pregnant, was his wife. It is well established that pregnant women are more at risk for intimate partner violence, but our Criminal Code doesn’t recognize this. And there is no recognition of the harm that these crimes do to a pre-born child.
This legal gap exists because of abortion. Even though Arianna and Asaara never went to an abortion clinic, Parliament’s failure to recognize the human rights of pre-born children means that victims like Asaara go unrecognized by the law, even when their death has nothing to do with abortion.
Parliament had the chance to rectify this gap when MP Wagantall introduced Cassie & Molly’s Law in 2015. That law would have introduced additional penalties for offenders who knowingly assault or murder pregnant women and their children. However, Parliament voted the bill down. For many pro-choice MPs, the reason they voted against this bill was their concern over whether it might lead to more conversations about abortion. Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, bluntly stated her concerns this way: “If the fetuses are recognized in [law], … it could bleed into people’s consciousness and make people change their minds about abortion.”
As long as many of our politicians remain unwilling to consider even bans on sex selective abortion or late term abortion, pre-born victims will continue go unrecognized. These victims include those who lose their lives to abortion, but it also includes victims of crime like Asaara, whose murder goes unrecognized. It’s time for Parliament to stop letting abortion politics get in the way of meaningful debate on bills that will have a positive impact for families like the Goberdhans and bring justice for the youngest victims of crime.