Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Joyce Arthur responds to my op-ed: still doesn't get it

Joyce Arthur responds to my article. And still doesn't get it.

In today's National Post, Joyce Arthur responds to my op-ed that I published on March 10th.

And she still doesn't get it.

When pregnant women miscarry due to a violent attack, they’ve suffered a loss and had their rights violated. That hardly needs stating, but Ms. Fortin bizarrely thinks the pro-choice movement denies it. Everyone, including pro-choice advocates, wants to protect pregnant women from violence. We simply disagree on the best way to do it.

Let's analyze it. Joyce Arthur acknowledges that when women miscarry (note language: not when fetuses are killed) the woman suffers a loss and had her rights violated.

Now, if the loss of her fetus, which is rightfully hers, is a violation of her rights, why do they not support a law upholding the woman's right?

Simple: because they do not acknowledge that there is such a thing as a right to a fetus. Once again, abortion rights trump every other consideration.

Our justice system already allows for harsher penalties for aggravated crimes.

But losing a fetus in those cases is treated as a mitigating factor, NOT a crime in itself. That is the important distinction that seems to escape abortion proponents. Our Justice system does not treat the loss of an unborn child as the criminal violation that it is.

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada supports such remedies, and we’ve also called for better measures to reduce violence against pregnant women, who are at increased risk of domestic violence.

And when will the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada recognize that the loss of a fetus is in and of itself a crime?

It won't.

And that's the problem.

Giving separate legal status to a fetus is an unnecessary approach that could endanger not only abortion rights, but the rights of all pregnant women.

So in the name of preserving a right, women who lose their unborn children are forced to suffer an injustice?

Does that make sense?

Fetal homicide laws are prevalent in the U.S., but have done nothing to reduce violence against pregnant women. Instead, they have been used to arrest and prosecute pregnant women for their behaviour,

And she provides no examples of women prosecuted for their own behaviour under fetal homicide laws. As far as I know, no woman has been prosecuted for acting against her own unborn child.

even when such laws exclude abortion and pregnant women from criminal liability. Our fear that this bill will be used in a similar way in Canada is not unjustified

Which just goes to show that all the abortion lobby cares about is abortion: not justice for women who lose their unborn child. They say it's a loss, but they won't say that losing a fetus is a crime in and of itself. And that is where the dispute lies.

Ms. Fortin repeats the word “fetus” numerous times and claims that Bill C-484 “does not in any way confer personhood or rights upon the fetus.” That is false. The bill never even uses the word fetus! Instead, “child” and “unborn child” are used to refer to even very early pregnancies, as soon as the woman suspects she might be pregnant. This is an unprecedented extension of such language in the Criminal Code and clearly, it confers personhood on the fetus.

An unproven assertion. She's really grasping at straws with this one. It is true that the bill does not use the word "fetus". But "child" and "unborn child" are commonly used in our legal and medical system, and not once has the Supreme Court of Canada ever taken into account that wording in deciding that the fetus lacks personhood in our legal system. It is not "unprecedented extension", it is simply the language used by our legal system. In fact, in Winnipeg Child and Family Services vs. G. (D.F.) The Supreme Court of Canada said: "The law of Canada does not recognize the unborn child as a legal person possessing rights."

So that settles that.

The bill makes the penalty for killing a fetus the same as for homicide

Reflecting the gravity of the loss.

and includes it as an offence “Against the Person and Reputation” (even though that part of the code already defines fetuses as non-persons).

The rights of the woman are violated through killing a fetus.

Just by making it a separate crime to kill or injure an “unborn child,” the bill creates at least some degree of fetal personhood.

There is no such thing as "degrees of personhood" in our legal system. Ms. Arthur is making up our legal code as she goes along. Either you are a person, or you are not. As it stands now, the unborn child is not considered a person.

The bill’s proponents, including Ms. Fortin, are fond of citing a survey from last October that found 72% of Canadians support a bill like C-484. What they never say is that the poll was commissioned by anti-abortion group LifeCanada to measure “Canadians’ attitudes towards abortion issues.” The poll’s question on a fetal homicide law was grouped with other questions on abortion restrictions, with biased wording to elicit a positive answer.

And Joyce Arthur conveniently omits that Angus Reid just did a poll reconfirming the results: 70 per cent of Canadians support this bill.

Other quotes from the same essay contradict Ms. Fortin’s thesis that I discount the importance of a fetus to a pregnant woman: “She has full authority and rights to consider her own personal fetus to be the most important and valuable thing in the world.” “A pregnant woman wants a good outcome for her baby far more than anybody else, so all we have to do is give her the means to make it happen.” That essay argued that it’s up to the pregnant woman to decide how she views her fetus, and that it’s society’s job to support her decision — whether that means providing access to legal and safe abortion, or helping ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.

The essay is against the wider society taking an interest in the fetus, even if pregnant women want it!

Let's take a look at the essay:

There's been increasing demands lately for the American pro-choice movement to "face the fetus," to admit things like abortion kills a human being – or if not an actual human being, then at least something valuable and worthy of sober contemplation. We're supposed to worry that abortion rights may have gone too far, concede that abortion is bad, agree there are too many abortions, and work to reduce them. Towards that end, the anti-choice contingent wants to restrict both abortion and contraception by law to force women to have babies, while some pro-choice people would just prefer to put all women on birth control. Yes, we apparently have only two moral choices when it comes to this most urgent priority of saving babies – produce them fully-fledged, or make sure they never reach the single-cell stage to begin with. It's everyone's job now. Oh, except for women of childbearing age, who are just the passive receptacles for our baby and non-baby programs alike.

Being a woman myself, but not a passive receptacle, I've got a better idea. Let's just butt out of the whole thing.


Oh, but what about the fetus? Shouldn't everyone care about what happens to it? Well...NO, actually. And there are two good reasons for that:

A. Fetuses are not that important.
B. Fetuses are none of our business.

If that shocks and offends you, it's probably because you subscribe to one or more irrational and insupportable beliefs, which I'll get to in a moment.

First, let me emphasize that the crucial exception to both of these reasons is the pregnant woman. She has full authority and rights to consider her own personal fetus to be the most important and valuable thing in the world. Or not. She can judge it however she likes, and then decide whether it should live or die. It's her call and hers alone. Of course, if she's happily pregnant and wants to share her joy, it's incumbent on her friends and family to celebrate her fetus, too. But that's about it.

That's about it. If you think society should get involved and prosecute someone for killing her fetus against her will, there are two rebuttals for that: fetuses are not that important and fetuses are none of our business.

Either fetuses are important enough to recognize legally, and are our business, or they're not. If they are, then act like it and admit it. If not, then say so: fetuses are none of our business and the state should not be in the business of legislating on them.

This essay has to do with abortion. But it applies to fetal homicide. If you say that "fetuses are none of our business" and "fetuses are not that important", the exception, reserved solely to the private sphere, does not disprove what I said: that Joyce Arthur does not think fetuses are important enough to be legally acknowledged.

It’s not the place of the law to decide the legal status or worth of the fetus, because that interferes with women’s privacy and freedom of conscience

And what if that's what women want? Three-quarters of Canadian women want a law that would prosecute a criminal for killing their fetus. When a criminal kills a woman's fetus, it's not a private act any more. Again, whether women consider their fetuses potential humans or full-fledged members of their family, the fact that a fetus was taken from them is a violation of their rights, in and of itself and the culprit should be held accountable.

We need to protect pregnant women first — because when a pregnant woman is safe, so is her fetus.

But she's not addressing the issue: what if the fetus is killed? What should be the standard of justice? Treating the loss of the fetus as an aside in the attack on the woman, or treating it as a fullsquare crime.

Most Canadian women would agree with the latter.

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