Tuesday April 20, 2010
Canada’s Evangelicals Back Bill Outlawing Coercive Abortion
By Patrick B. Craine
OTTAWA, Ontario, April 19, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) has announced that they are endorsing Bill C-510, the proposed legislation that would criminalize the coercion of pregnant women to obtain abortions.
The bill, introduced last Wednesday by Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South), would “ensure that pregnant women who choose to carry their child to term will have that decision respected and protected,” maintains the EFC.
“This is a bill that, while not addressing the legality of abortion in any way, will make it a criminal offence to coerce a woman into an unwanted abortion,” says Faye Sonier, Legal Counsel with the EFC. “Women are particularly vulnerable during pregnancy and this bill, along with other societal support programs and resources, communicates to women that we as a society care for them and their unborn children.”
Bruinooge has named his bill “Roxanne’s Law” after Roxanne Fernando, the Manitoba woman whose boyfriend attempted to coerce her to have an abortion after she became pregnant in 2007. After refusing to have the unborn child killed, she was beaten and left to die in a snow bank.
Pro-abortion activists, such as the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), have charged that the bill would be used to prosecute abortionists, but Don Hutchinson, EFC’s General Legal Counsel, refutes such claims. “The only exception is where an abortion provider coerced or attempted to coerce a woman into having an abortion against her will,” he notes. “One would think all Canadians can agree that type of violence against women should be criminalized.”
The ARCC have also alleged that the bill is unnecessary because the acts against pregnant women that it would prohibit, such as harassment or intimidation, are already covered by the Criminal Code.
But Sonier told LifeSiteNews (LSN) that a specific provision against coerced abortion would have significant value nevertheless. “While it’s clear that coerced abortions occur in Canada, it doesn’t appear that a single individual has ever been charged with committing this act,” she noted. “This indicates a need for legislative clarity.”
She pointed out that it is common to include a specific provision that is already covered by a broader one, such as the case of assault. While the definition of assault in the Criminal Code is broad enough to include all forms, the Code nevertheless also prohibits assault with a weapon, aggravated assault, sexual assault, and assault causing bodily harm. A provision against coerced abortion “is a specific instance and type of intimidation which deserves special recognition and special condemnation,” Sonier maintained.
“Another reason that a specific provision is useful is that some women may not realize that certain actions committed against them could amount to threatening, intimidation or harassment as the law currently defines it,” she added. “So by having this specific law in place, it would raise the awareness of the criminal act and women would be more knowledgeable of their right.”
Sonier said that they hope “pro-choice” politicians “would be just as vocal in their support of a woman’s choice to have her child as many have been in their support of making abortion services available.”
She also called on Prime Minister Harper to allow the bill to go through unimpeded. Last week, the Prime Minister’s office announced that the government would oppose the bill, and despite repeated questioning by LSN, the Prime Minister’s spokesman refused to say whether a free vote would be allowed in his party.
“One can hope that the Prime Minister will change his mind and allow parliamentarians to follow the parliamentary and Conservative Party tradition of a free vote on a private members bill dealing with a moral issue,” said Sonier.
“No woman should be threatened, intimidated or pressured into aborting a child against her will. Not in a nation such as ours that values life and human rights,” stated Sonier. “This is a well written bill which is clear, precise and defined in scope. It is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee that each person has a right to life, liberty and the security of person. Each woman has a right to choose a safe and secure pregnancy.”
See the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s question and answer sheet on Roxanne’s Law here.