By Hilary White

OTTAWA, April 18, 2008 ( – The upcoming Unborn Victims of Crime Bill has come under criticism from the Quebec physician’s association, which says it is a “back door” assault on “abortion rights”. Bill C-484, put forward by Conservative MP Ken Epp, proposes to make it a separate crime to kill an unborn child during a criminal act against the child’s mother and has passed second reading in the House of Commons.

Gaétan Barrette, a radiologist and head of Quebec’s Federation of Specialist Doctors told media that his organization was taking the side of the abortion lobby in its opposition to the bill. “The back-door objective of this bill is to set in motion a long legal saga that would in the end give rights to the foetus,” he said.

“That will allow someone to go to the Supreme Court and say ‘Look, you’ve passed Bill 484. And because of that, you implicitly gave rights to this foetus. And if the foetus has rights, then abortion should be illegal because it is a murder,’” Barrette said.

The Private Members’ bill is also being unanimously opposed by the Assembly Nationale of Quebec.

Conservative MP Ken Epp, the main sponsor of the bill, responded that the accusation is groundless. “Let us debate the Bill and not a misrepresentation of it,” said Mr. Epp.

“My bill expressly and explicitly excludes elective abortion. Bill C-484 is totally focused on protecting a pregnant woman and the child she has chosen to bring to term. It is her choice to give her child life, love, and care. To the pregnant woman, the well-being of her child is paramount, and this Bill corrects the gap in our justice system that requires her to stand alone in defence of her baby’s safety.”

Marie Christine Houle of Women for Women’s Health who worked with and represented families of the victims, told that the Quebec doctors are “misleading the general public” about the bill.

“It appears to me that people opposing this legislation are bluntly twisting the truth and ignoring the fact that the proposed bill makes a point of stating that this does not apply to a woman’s right to chose. It is either intellectual laziness or pure lies to propagate the notion that this will criminalize abortion,” Houle said.

Houle said that in cases of violence against pregnant women, the intent of the attacker is often specifically against the child as well as the mother. “Some survived the violent attacks but lost their unborn babies and have expressed a tremendous sense of loneliness and outrage that our government and society is not protecting their right to become a mother.”

“If we fail to pass C-484 into law, then we are turning our backs on every woman who is heartbroken by the killing of the child in her womb by a violent criminal, and we are saying, in essence, it means nothing,” Mr. Epp said.

See related coverage:

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Full Text of the Canadian Unborn Victims of Crime Bill

Families of Victims Pleased that Unborn Victims of Crime Act Will Come to a Vote in Canada’s Parliament