Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bill C-484: The Rogues Gallery

By now you probably know that the 'Unborn Victim of Crime Act' narrowly passed its first vote in Parliament yesterday and has gone on to committee. Much to my disgust, Stephane Dion was glaringly absent from the vote. Why? It seems he was too busy attending his wife's fancy schmancy International Women's Week soiree.

Oh, the sickening sweet stench of irony.

Thankfully, Garth Turner voted against the bill. Otherwise I don't think I'd ever be able to SPEAK to him again, let alone vote for him. But even he went through some changes over this and had to actually do his homework to get past the snow job that Epp and his anti-abortion buddies have been pushing, trying to pretend that none of this has anything to do with abortion.

For those of you who still don't get it, Dave at The Beav does his usual brilliant job of explaining why it does - slowly, in small words so you can follow along.

While Epp might be speaking truthfully when he suggests that this amendment would not be used to prosecute women or doctors in the case of an abortion, (although I don't for a minute believe that's the case), he has neatly avoided discussing the one thing that would plant a ticking bomb in Canadian law.

A definition.

The long title of the bill, according to my lawyer friend, contains the time bomb. (emphasis mine)

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of an unborn child while committing an offence)

There's the bomb.

Epp and his gang of anti-choice crusaders regularly refer to the bill by its short title, Unborn Victims of Crime Act, quietly sidestepping the clarity of intent in the long title. If it wasn't so underhanded it would be ingenious.

If this bill moves out the House and goes to committee the amendment will require more than just the rewording of section 238 of the Criminal Code. It will require a written definition of an unborn child.

The current offence specifies "in the act of birth".

It is the definition this crowd is attempting to insert into the Criminal Code. By doing so, if this bill goes anywhere other than the garbage bin, they will have provided a counter argument to the Supreme Court decision in Tremblay v. Daigle in which the court specified that a fetus has no status as a "person" under the common law.

Get it now? Epp can put all the 'provisions' he likes into his bill to preclude its being used directly to prosecute cases of voluntary abortion, but the fact remains that it will provide a legal precedent for the recognition of a fetus as a person with inherent rights, and thus unravel all the legal arguments supporting a woman's right to choose.

And that, as we know, is the whole point.

Now for The List.

There has been a list making the rounds on various blogs today of Liberal MPs who voted in favour of C-484 yesterday, as well as those who were no-shows (including their illustrious leader). It seems to have originated on On close examination, I found several errors in this list that need to be corrected before anyone goes harassing the wrong people. Specifically,

- Gord Brown is a Conservative, not a Liberal
- Liberal John Maloney also voted 'yea'
- Scott Simms did vote, and he voted 'nay'

The corrected list, based on Hansard, is as follows:

Raymond Bonin; John Cannis; Hon. Raymond Chan; Hon. Roy Cullen; Sukh Dhaliwal; Hon. Albina Guarnieri; Hon. Charles Hubbard; Hon. Jim Karygiannis; Derek Lee; Hon. Lawrence MacAulay; Hon. Gurbax Malhi; John Maloney; Hon. John McKay; Hon. Joe McGuire; Hon. Dan McTeague; Hon. Shawn Murphy; Massimo Pacetti; Francis Scarpaleggia; Hon. Raymond Simard; Lloyd St. Amand; Paul Steckle; Paul Szabo; Hon. Robert Thibault; Alan Tonks; Roger Valley; Tom Wappel; Borys Wrzesnewskyj

St├ęphane Dion; Bryon Wilfert; Joe Volpe; Hon. Paul Martin (who is always absent); Nancy Karetak-Lindell; Hon. Mark Eyking; Ujjal Dosanjh; Denis Coderre; Brenda Chamberlain; Gerry Byrne

And then there was the NDP's Peter Stoffer, who broke ranks with his party to vote 'yea'.

Phone numbers and email addresses for most can be found here.

I found a couple of interesting things when I was going though this list. One is that all six Scarborough MPs (all Liberals) voted in favour of the bill. Weird. Apparently Scarborough is a hotbed of crypto-conservatism.

Another curiosity is that almost all of these names are also found on the list of Liberals who voted against same-sex marriage back in the day. This suggested to me that most of them are probably anti-choice as well, and are therefore not likely to be swayed by evidence that C-484 might re-criminalize abortion.

Then I found a better indication of their positions on abortion here.

I would suggest that those who wish to write to MPs on this list focus their efforts on those who are pro-choice or undecided who may have simply been fooled by the 'just protecting pregnant women, nothing to do with abortion here' rhetoric.

Don't yell at them. Educate them. Explain it to them. Convince them that there is more going on here than meets they eye, and that they have an obligation to consider all the ramifications if they allow this Trojan Horse bill to become law.


  1. What I see here is a weak argument which seeks to keep the murky and undefined status of abortion in the state of purgatory, just because women are afraid of what a debate on the issue might entail. I see the choice of some women being superseded the choices of others, in that the rights of those who choose abortion are trumping those who have no protection from malice when they decide to carry to term.

    It is far better to pass this legislation, and then bring into question the legality of abortion, finally putting a limitation on it by restricting it to medical reasons and choice within the first trimester. Like most other sensible liberal nations do.

  2. In what conceivable way is a woman's right to choose to carry a child to term threatened under existing law?!? Or protected by this bill?

    Currently, if you attack a pregnant woman and cause a miscarriage, the charge goes from simple assault to aggravated assault or assault causing grievous bodily harm, resulting in a much higher sentence and often a dangerous offender designation.

    C-484 would not substantially increase the punishments handed out, and would do nothing whatsoever to offer greater protection to pregnant women. It's only purpose is, as you say yourself, to bring into question the legality of abortion.

    As for Canada's lack of laws regulating abortion, there's a good reason for that: abortion is a MEDICAL issue, not a legal one.

    The courts have ruled time and time again that legislating arbitrary limits on when and why a woman and her doctor might find it appropriate to perform an abortion is an unacceptable intrusion of the state into a private matter.

    Sometimes the law is to have no law.

    (Sigh. I remember making exactly these same arguments twenty years ago. I never thought I'd have to do this all over again, and yet here we are.)

  3. In what conceivable way is a woman's right to choose to carry a child to term threatened under existing law?!?

    There is not enough protection for women who have their fetus murdered by violent assaults. At the very least there should be harsher penalties.

    C-484 would not substantially increase the punishments handed out, and would do nothing whatsoever to offer greater protection to pregnant women.

    Then it serves as a stepping stone to further amendments and bills which would strengthen the punishments.

    As for Canada's lack of laws regulating abortion, there's a good reason for that: abortion is a MEDICAL issue, not a legal one.

    So the myriad of other countries which have laws pertaining to the legal status of abortion are all deluded?

    The status quo has gone on too long. Women must have the same rights as the abortionists.