The Conservative government’s attempt to criminalize abortion me scared enough that a couple of weeks ago I actually wrote to both my own MP (Judy Sgro) who happens to be vice-chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, as well as to the Prime Minister’s office. So far I’ve heard nothing back from Ms Sgro, but I did get a brief, ambiguous and frankly unsatisfying response from the PM’s Office. Let’s have a look, shall we?
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
As Prime Minister you have stated publicly on more than one occasion that
your government has no plan to reopen the abortion debate. Yet, a member
of your own government, MP Stephen Woodworth, has done just that by tabling
Motion 312 ‘Canada’s 400 year old definition of human being.’ This motion
is a blatant attempt to not only criminalize abortion, but also to infringe
on the rights of all childbearing citizens of this country.
The motion wrongly asserts that the definition of a human being found in
section 223 of the Criminal Code of Canada is founded in a lack of
understanding that a foetus is biologically human prior to birth and that,
having now improved our understanding of human gestation, the definition
can be changed. However, the very wording of the section in question
displays that this definition is borne not of a lack of understanding of
biology, but of a complete understanding of the ramifications of extending
legal protection to an unborn child under the Act.
To extend legal personhood to a foetus is to automatically infringe on the
personhood of the woman in whose body the foetus resides. Whether pro- or
anti-choice, no one relishes the thought of terminating a pregnancy, but
changing the Act in the manner suggested would expose women to prosecution
for all of their personal medical decisions in pregnancy as well as many of
their non-medical choices, and this does every Canadian a disservice. The
best way to reduce the number of abortions that are sought is not to
infringe on the mother’s rights, but rather to strengthen her rights. It
is not to extend rights to the unborn child, but to provide the best care
and opportunities to those who are born. We need to protect the right of
women to choose when and if they become pregnant by ensuring unmitigated
access to contraception and providing protection from sexual violence. We
need to remove barriers to childbirth and parenthood by providing coverage
of maternity services to all residents; by creating a minimum maternity
leave benefit that ensures that low income women can afford to utilize the
benefits offered by their government; and by increasing childcare subsidies
for low income families who must work out of the home.
I urge you to keep your promise to Canadians and end the abortion debate
that your government has now opened. I also ask you to encourage Mr.
Woodworth to prove that he genuinely does care about all human beings by
working to provide these and other protections and services to the women
and children who are already citizens of this country.
Thank you very much,
And now, the response I got:
On behalf of the Prime Minister, thank you for your recent correspondence regarding Member of Parliament Stephen Woodworth’s statement proposing that Parliament lead an examination into human rights protection for children before birth in the later stages of gestation.
This is an emotional issue for both sides. However, the Prime Minister has been very clear that our Government has no plan to reopen this debate.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to write.
So, why do I say this is perplexing? Well, for one, there’s that bit about him having no intention to reopen the debate even though the whole reason I’m writing is because he HAS reopened it. So either he’s confused about what his members are doing or I am… Or, if I let go of my cynicism for a minute I might be able to believe this to mean that he won’t allow the motion to pass vote. But frankly, I’m not holding my breath.
But the bigger issue is this bit: “human rights protection for children before birth in the later stages of gestation.” Who-what now? See, the motion says nothing about what stage of gestation should be examined, it just says before birth. And the way the law works is that you have to spell things out very specifically. Before birth means, legally, everything before birth. The law isn’t able to judge that he meant the last week or month before birth only. So again, either he’s confused about what his party is doing, or he’s a party to what his party is doing and will be spinning the bill in this highly untruthful way when it is debated.
Let’s hope it’s not the latter.