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OTTAWA, May 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A private members’ bill called Cassie and Molly’s Law adding penalties for assaults on pregnant women that injure or kill their unborn children was condemned by the Liberal government and NDP opposition for threatening women’s access to abortion during an hour of debate in Parliament Monday.

Bill 225, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (injuring or causing the death of a preborn child while committing an offence),” is named after Cassie Kraake and her unborn child Molly, both killed in an unprovoked 2014 assault in Windsor, Ontario. According to its sponsor, Saskatchewan Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall, “Cassie and Molly’s law will create a legal mechanism that enhances the safety of Canadian women and recognizes the safety of their family.”

But it is given little chance of passage, because the Liberal government and the opposition NDP both opposed it, claiming that women have a constitutional right to abortion, which they say the bill threatens.

Wagantall told the House of Commons the bill was necessary because pregnant women were “four times as likely” to be targeted with violence as non-pregnant women were.

Anticipating her opponents’ pro-abortion arguments, Wagantall said her bill “protects a woman’s right to choose to have her child”—an emphasis on choice she repeated throughout the ensuing debate.

As well, she noted the bill never mentioned abortion, and applied only to “third parties” who attack both the woman and her preborn child, and could not be used to charge a woman who self-aborted her child or tried.  

“The bill cannot be used to criminalize doctors for performing abortions,” because it could only be laid against people already charged with assaulting the mother, Wagantall said.  As she and several other members noted, abortion has been absent from the Criminal Code since the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1988 decision in the Morgentaler case.

But Liberal and NDP opponents indicated their parties view any legal consideration of the unborn child at all as a threat to women’s “reproductive rights.”  Quebec Liberal David Graham claimed several times that the Morgentaler decision established for all time that the “mother and the fetus are indivisible.”

The NDP’s Sheila Malcolmson, a British Columbia MP, joined the Liberals in worrying the bill would “reopen the abortion debate.” However, another New Democrat from BC, Murray Rankin, noted that “more than 40 bills or motions” had been advanced attempting to protect rights on the unborn since 1988, indicating an ongoing debate.

Malcolmson also claimed that “36 pro-choice groups” had come out in opposition to Molly’s Law.

Malcolmson attempted to piggyback her own interest in a “holistic” approach onto the debate. She called for a big expansion in shelters for women and children.

At a legal level both Liberals and the NDP made the unusual claim that the addition of a charge for injuring or killing the unborn child would actually reduce the sentence the assailant received because concurrent sentencing, they argued, often resulted in reduced sentencing.

While the parliamentary defenders of Molly’s Law, all Conservative MPs, did not address this claim specifically, Andre Schutten, the legal counsel for the Association for Reformed Political Action, told LifeSiteNews it was “baloney.” Because Molly’s Law would give judges the option of making their sentences for injuring or killing the preborn child either concurrent or consecutive.

“If the crime were particularly heinous,” said Schutten, “the judge could add 10 years, for example, to the maximum he would be able to add without this law.”

In fact Molly’s Law could add up to 25 years when the unborn baby is killed and up to 10 years when it is injured during an attack on the mother.

Schutten also weighed in on the contention that the idea that the preborn baby is an “indivisible” part of the woman’s was enshrined by Morgentaler. In fact, he said, all the judges in Morgentaler agreed that Parliament could pass laws to protect the unborn late in their gestation, implying they were divisible at that point.

Ignored by the NDP and Liberals, according to Ian Gentles of the Toronto-based De Veber Institute For Bioethics and Social Research, is the chilling reality that it is often not an accident that the unborn child is injured during an assault on the mother. “One of the major causes of Intimate Partner Violence,” he told LifeSiteNews, “is that the man does not want his partner to be pregnant,” either because of the feared loss of affection, or of control.

In a book which Gentles recently co-authored, Complications: Abortion’s Impact on Women, academic research was supplemented with interviews with 101 women, mostly Canadian. “Two thirds of them said they were pressured or co-erced into having abortions,” Gentles told LifeSiteNews. “Violent assault is obviously a major method of coercion. That’s why we absolutely need Molly’s Law.”

Gentles cited one exemplary account. “When I told my boyfriend I was pregnant he became violent and just about killed me,” recounted one woman. “I jumped out of a moving vehicle to get away from him. He had his tie around my neck. I jumped out, hit my head on a mailbox post (we were out on a country road). I ran across a field to the closest farmhouse. He chased me. Later I had him charged…He was remanded to stay away from me.”