By John-Henry Westen

  OTTAWA, March 4, 2008 ( – The Unborn Victims of Violence bill C-484, received its second hour of debate in the House of Commons Monday, with a vote on second reading to be held Wednesday.  The debate yesterday had representatives from the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Bloc come out strongly against the legislation, claiming it was a threat to abortion rights.  Meanwhile supporters of the bill pointed out that the bill specifically exempts any act or omission by the mother, seeking only to protect the unborn child killed in an attack on a pregnant woman, by having the murdered child considered in the sentencing of the criminal involved.

  Controversial Catholic priest and Bloc Quebecois representative Raymond Gravel began the debate with a complaint about the negative appraisals sent to his bishop over his stand against the legislation. 

  Rev. Gravel concluded by urging members to vote against the legislation.

  Despite the fact that the legislation specifically excludes abortion, several MPs protested that the recognition of the right to life of the unborn child, even when the mother chooses life for her child, is nonetheless a threat to so-called abortion rights.

  NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, who represents London-Fanshawe, called the legislation a “kind of indirect attack” on women since it may “potentially jeopardize a woman’s right to choose.”

  Liberal MP Marlene Jennings of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Lachine opposed the bill complaining about “its painstaking and yet completely unnecessary focus on the fetus.” Jennings suggested that any attempt to consider the pregnant mother and the fetus as two separate human beings, “would only cloud the issue of a woman’s rights over her own person.”

  Bloc MP Carole Freeman of Châteauguay-Saint-Constant concurred with this analysis, saying that the bill “gives the fetus a totally separate personality under the law. In other words, Bill C-484 opens the door to an automatic quasi-right to life. In my opinion, this would create a direct conflict with the woman’s rights, her personal dignity, her physical integrity and her independence.”

  Interspersed between those opposing the bill were the protestations of Conservative MPs who support the legislation.  Conservative MP Patricia Davidson of Sarnia-Lambton addressed the concerns over abortion, noting, “Bill C-484 could never be used to prosecute pregnant women because it applies only during the commission of an offence against the woman. For greater certainty, the bill states that it does not apply in respect of any act or omission by the mother of the child.”

  Davidson added: “We give more legal protection to animals than we do to the preborn human child. We have cruelty to animal laws, humane slaughter laws et cetera. What message are we sending to the woman when we refuse to recognize that the child growing inside of her is worthy of protection under the law? What message are we promoting about the value of human life?”

  Dave Van Kesteren, a Conservative representing Chatham-Kent-Essex, pointed out that the absence of any recognition of the wanted unborn child in law was an added sorrow to the families of victims of violence. “This is a bill that families of slain women are urging members of Parliament to support,” he said.

  Van Kesteren also noted the general support of the measure by Canadians. “This type of legislation has wide-ranging support among all Canadians across party lines,” he said. “A poll released in October 2007 found that 72% of Canadians and 75% of women would support legislation making it a separate crime to injure or kill an unborn child during an attack on the mother. Voter support was as follows: Conservatives, 77%; Liberals, 71%; Bloc, 71%; and NDP, 66%.”

  Van Kestren suggested that the failure of the law to even recognize the unborn victims of deadly crime gives tacit approval to abusers of pregnant women.  “By our failure as a society to recognize any worth whatsoever in the baby, who the pregnant woman wants and is trying to protect, we are only encouraging abusive behaviour toward pregnant women. We must all share in the blame of the consequences of children maimed or killed in their mothers’ wombs.”

“As for the family members who are left behind to try to cope, their grief goes invalidated,” he concluded. “They try desperately to mourn a death that our law refuses to recognize because it refuses to recognize that a living baby ever existed at all.”

  The bill’s sponsor Ken Epp, of Edmonton-Sherwood Park, called the bluff of Parliamentarians who call themselves “pro-choice”.  Since the legislation specifically exempts abortion and any act or omission of the mother, Epp said, “Certainly, the people who call themselves pro-choice, should say that they support the bill. The bill says that a woman has chosen to have a child and we will put the strength of the law behind protecting the child who she has chosen to want and protect.”

  Women for Women’s Health, an organization representing the families of victims of pregnant women who have been murdered has urged all Canadians to contact their MPs to support the passage of Bill C-484.  The second reading vote which would send the bill to committee is to be held Wednesday March 5, 2008.

  Find your MP and contact info here: