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Frightening Friday: Canadian Politics

March 23, 2012

Motion 3-12: I am Not a Second Class Citizen

On April 26th there will be a vote in the House of Commons after an hour of debate, a vote that will determine whether or not a special committee, with all the powers of a Standing Committee, will be formed to examine several questions put forth by Stephen Woodworth, Conservative back-bench MP for Kitchener Centre, concerning the status of fetuses in our Criminal Code. If the motion passes, the Special Committee will then have one month to debate the questions, then ten months to present its findings to Parliament. The questions Mr. Woodworth wants answered are as follows:

    (i)            what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?,
 
   (ii)            is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?,
 
 (iii)            what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?,
 
 (iv)            what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?

Many of the questions are not in need of answering, as no-one argues that a fetus isn’t human, just that it is not and cannot be considered a full person with rights and responsibilities under the law. After all, if a fetus isn’t human, what is it? Canine? Feline? Tadpole? As for what are the legal impacts and consequences of the current Criminal Code on the fundamental human rights of a child, there are none. A fetus is not a ‘child’, it has no rights, and as has been previously determined several times by our Supreme Court, a woman and her fetus cannot be separated into two entities by the law. Until the moment of complete live birth, a fetus has no rights and cannot have any.

To give the right to life to a fetus would mean eliminating the rights to bodily integrity, privacy and safety that pregnant women currently enjoy in Canada, to open the door to criminal investigations into miscarriages, and to curtailing what women can and can’t do while pregnant, in case those activities may harm the fetus. It would mean eliminating abortion as a safe, legal medical option for women who experience an unwanted or unviable pregnancy. As a pregnant woman, as a mother and as a woman who has had her birth control fail and needed an abortion, this motion, and the future path it lays down, terrifies me.

I am not a second class citizen. The women of Canada will not go back to the dark days before R v. Morgentaler. Our bodies are our own, regardless of the contents of our uteri. It is fundamentally unfair that potentially a group of Parliamentarians, mostly men I am sure, might be able to sit down together and determine that they know what is best for our families, our bodies and our futures, despite the word ‘woman’ or ‘women’ not appearing in their set of questions even once. How can they discuss fetuses without discussing women? It’s a grave and deeply troubling oversight, but I’m not surprised. Whenever this discussion raises its ugly head in Canada it’s always about fetuses, never about women, as if these two ideas can exist one without the other. They cannot, and to even try and make it so would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening.

 Jennifer Rowe

Submitted to Occupy Canada

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