Patrick Craine

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Abortion coercion law debated in Parliament - vote on Wed.

Patrick Craine
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OTTAWA, Ontario, December 13, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Roxanne’s Law, the Canadian private members bill seeking to ban abortion coercion, is set for a vote at second reading Wednesday, after it was debated Monday morning.

“Mothers should never have to make a choice between protecting themselves or the child they love,” said Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South), the bill’s sponsor, during Monday’s debate.  Bruinooge, who serves as chair of the parliamentary pro-life caucus, introduced the bill in April, and it had its first hour of debate on November 1st.

Also known as C-510, the bill is named after Roxanne Fernando, a Manitoba woman whose boyfriend attempted to coerce her into having an abortion after she became pregnant in 2007.  After refusing to have the unborn child killed, Roxanne was beaten and left to die in a snow bank.

If passed on Wednesday, the bill will go to a parliamentary committee for further consideration.

In his speech Monday, Bruinooge criticized those who claim the bill is “redundant” simply because coercion is already banned in the Criminal Code.  This argument, he said, is simply a “cover” for the bill’s opponents.  “The fact that no one has ever been charged with coercing an abortion in Canada is absolute proof that clarification of the law is desperately needed,” he explained.

Criminal law is meant to “state our most important social values and to send a clear message expressing society’s rejection of, and intolerance of, a specific act,” he continued.  “[Roxanne’s Law] reflects a social value about the unacceptability of forcing a pregnant woman into ending the pregnancy she wants to continue.”

“Should one choose to vote against Bill C-510, it will be seen as a choice to turn a blind eye to a horrible injustice,” he concluded.

The bill was supported with speeches by Bruinooge, Kelly Block (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, CPC), Bev Shipley (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, CPC), and David Anderson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board, CPC).

Speaking in opposition were France Bonsant (Compton—Stanstead, BQ), Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP), and Brent Rathgeber (Edmonton—St. Albert, CPC).

Block emphasized that many women are strongly in favour of this bill, contrary to certain MPs’ claims.  “The evidence completely dispels the notion expressed last month in this chamber that women do not want this protection,” she said.  “Nothing I have seen, heard or read could be further from the truth.”

While not all abortion coercion ends in violence against the woman, she pointed out that “any successful attempt at abortion coercion will always result in the death of that woman’s wanted unborn child.”

“Turning a blind eye to this reality violates Canadian’ high standards of justice and human rights,” she added.

“We need to promote a culture of respect for women who make the choice to be mothers,” she said.  “We need to give Canadian women the assurance that the law would be there to protect them when they take on the monumental responsibility of bringing children into the world.”

Ashton, however, dismissed the bill as “a front to attack a woman’s right to choose,” and expressed outrage that such a debate is still taking place “in the year 2010.”

The bill, she said, “attempts to reintroduce the notion of fetal rights through indirect means, by presenting abortion as a social harm to be criminalized.”

Decrying the efforts of pro-life witnesses outside abortion facilities, Ashton complained that “we see a much greater movement to coerce women not to get an abortion, often with very aggressive tactics.”

She claimed further that the bill is “redundant” because coercion is already illegal under the Criminal Code.

Bev Shipley, on the other hand, pointed out that the bill does not “restrict access to freedom of choice” in any way.  “The truth is the bill actually expands the pregnant woman’s choice and freedom to protect her against anyone who uses coercive means to take away her freedom to continue her pregnancy,” he said.  “The only choice restricted by this bill is the choice of a third party who wants to impose an abortion on a woman against her will.”

Shipley also pointed out that similar laws are in place in other “free democratic societies” like Germany, Italy, France, and some U.S. states.

David Anderson rebuked claims, made by Ashton and others, that Fernando’s death was not related to coercion, and was thus being misused to promote the bill.  “The crown prosecutor at the sentencing hearing was very clear when he talked about the fact that this was specifically a motive by these young men who took her life,” he explained.  “We need to remember that young lady lost her life over this issue.”

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