Patrick Craine

Pro-abort prof argues babies not ‘persons’ til 18 months, not an ‘offense’ against child to kill it

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine
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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, March 9, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pro-abortion activists sought, unsuccessfully, to disrupt a debate on abortion at Dalhousie University Tuesday night by ripping down ads, setting off stink-bombs, and covering the ceiling with helium balloons featuring pro-abortion slogans.  In the end, they even turned on the pro-abortion speaker.

Representing the pro-life side of the debate was Stephanie Gray, co-founder and executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform.  Facing Gray was Dr. Mark Mercer, chairperson of the philosophy department at Halifax’s St. Mary’s University, who has in the past won the ire of pro-abortion activists for defending the rights of pro-lifers to express their opinions on university campuses.

While Gray argued that the unborn should be protected in law because abortion is the violent killing of innocent human life, Mercer argued that there is nothing ethically troubling about abortion, at one point suggesting that a baby isn’t a “person” until around 18 months of age.

The event, which was organized by the new student group Pro-Life at Dal, attracted about 150 students and members of the public.

In her remarks, Gray pointed out that the scientific community is unanimous that life begins at fertilization.  At fertilization, she explained, the child “has everything she needs within herself to direct her growth and to move to the next more mature stage of her development.”

Mercer agreed that the unborn are human beings, and that abortion is the deliberate killing of a human being, but argued that the notion of “human being” is not a “morally relevant concept.”  Individuals are not special by virtue of their “species membership,” he said, but become “persons” and worthy of protection because they possess certain “ethically salient properties” such as the ability to experience pain or pleasure, self-consciousness, and rationality.

Gray, however, maintained that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights deliberately speaks of ‘human’ and not ‘person’ rights because the powerful have often sought to subjugate or kill the vulnerable by claiming they are not persons.  She pointed to examples like the Holocaust and the enslavement of African Americans.

“We have a nasty history as human beings of denying our fellow human beings the right to live because we divorce the concept of human and person as to treat them as two separate things,” she said.

She said the criteria used to define personhood come down to non-essential differences - namely size, level of development, environment, and dependency - and that these criteria are constantly changing for an individual.  “Human is an objective term that we can determine scientifically,” she explained.  “Person is a philosophical or legal term which has had a changing definition throughout history.”

“Our humanity, our right to life, should be based on that which is unchanging, which is our human nature - rather than that which is changing, which is our functions and abilities,” she added.

Gray argued that all humans carry intrinsic worth because of our common human nature, by which we are “moral, rational agents.”  If an individual doesn’t exhibit signs of rationality, such as a developing baby or a disabled person, they nevertheless have the “inherent ability,” even if they don’t have the “current ability.”

“I don’t understand what this thing humanity is or the property of being human,” retorted Mercer, “such that an anancephalic infant is a rational being just as the rest of us. ... Here’s a creature who doesn’t have a capability and yet it’s still in the essence of that creature that it has that capability.  That makes no sense to me.”

Gray said, however, “just because some humans are damaged, so to speak, I would say that doesn’t mean that we can end their lives because they’re not as developed or ‘perfect’ as we are.”

According to Mercer, a child likely only gains personhood at around 18 months to two years of age, and he also suggested at one point that adult pigs might be persons.  Though he said he couldn’t imagine a reason to justify killing a born child given the availability of adoption, he said upon further questioning that “if the child isn’t a person, it’s not an offense against the child to kill it.”

A principled vegetarian, he agreed that it could be wrong to kill a pig even though he believes it’s acceptable to kill a child in the womb.

Asked by Gray how he justified defining a person based on his list of properties, Mercer responded, “Why should I take humanity to be ... a morally salient property?”

The most vocal pro-abortion voices at the event were obviously displeased with Mercer’s presentation, slamming him in the open forum at the end of the evening.  “You didn’t even attempt to make any arguments that would convince anybody of anything,” said one activist.  “You did not represent the pro-choice position at all.”

Though inviting them to e-mail him better arguments, Mercer nevertheless defended his view as the only cogent approach.  He dismissed arguments based on “women’s struggle for equality” saying that that they fail to address the “moral status of the fetus,” and disagreed with approaches that claim a woman’s “right to choose” outweighs the unborn child’s “right to life,” saying that these only come into conflict in a “narrow range of cases,” such as rape.

Another pro-abortion advocate even suggested that the pro-life group had deliberately brought in a poor representative for their side, while flying Gray in from Calgary.  Yet Mercer noted that he has published his arguments in national newspapers, and local pro-life advocates insist he’s been the only one willing to even debate the issue, despite efforts to find a representative through local university pro-abortion groups.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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