Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The easy refutation of Joyce Arthur’s 8 objections to Bill C-484

It really is pathetic the way opponents of Bill C-484 try to manipulate the public with baseless rhetoric. She’s a woman who has been involved in the abortion debate for the past several decades, yet she can make such erroneous assertions about the unborn child with a straight face.

I won’t address every single point of the article—just the 8 numbered points she makes. Only so many hours in a day.

1. The bill negates the current "born alive" definition of human being by disallowing it as a defence. This in effect makes the fetus a human being under the bill.

Of course it disallows it as a defense, because if that defense isn’t disallowed, it could invalidate the whole bill. But saying that it’s not a defense does not automatically mean that personhood is conferred on the unborn child.

2. The terms "child" and "unborn child" are used repeatedly throughout the bill to refer to a fetus, in a way that is unprecedented in the Criminal Code.

The usage made of “unborn child” is not unprecedented in our legal system, nor in policy. The Criminal Code is not the only legal document out there.

That’s because “fetus” is a scientific term that refers only to unborn entities of at least 8 weeks gestation, and it could be argued that excludes babies after 20 weeks gestation. The reason « unborn child » is used is because that is the legal term for an unborn entity at any stage of gestation. It is used throughout the legal and medical community. This makes Joyce Arthur’s criticism of the use of the word “unborn child” spurious. It’s like blaming people for calling a feline a “cat”. “Unborn child” is simply the correct English phrase.

How common is this usage in our legal system? Very. The Supreme Court of Canada regularly used “unborn child” to refer to any unborn entity. If the legal system understands “unborn child” a certain way, then it’s irrelevant that it’s used in an “unprecedented manner” in the Criminal Code.

3. The term "mother" occurs throughout to refer to a pregnant woman, which is also unprecedented and legally inaccurate.

Again, she is blaming people for using plain speech.

“Mother” is a word that is commonly used to refer to pregnant women. In fact, the Government of Quebec just recently issued a new perinatal policy and it uses the word “mother” to refer exclusively to a pregnant woman.

Of course you might object: it’s not a legal document. In a strict sense, no. However, this is the wording used to formulate government policy on dealing with unborn children.

And understand what kind of government is issuing this. It is a government as strongly opposed to Bill C-484 as Joyce Arthur is. Phillippe Couillard, the Health Minister, is so committed to abortion access that he recruited late-term abortionists for Quebec in 2005.

And yet, in their perinatal policy, it is written:

As a matter of fact, few services are offered to mothers and fathers in the case of a loss of a fetus of less than 20 weeks. (p. 113)

The government of Quebec acknowledges that a pregnant woman who has a fetus of less than 20 weeks is a mother.

Yet no one in that government seems fearful that that usage will inaugurate the end of legal abortion.

4. The current use of these terms in the Criminal Code is limited only to the context of childbirth, while the bill uses them to refer to almost the entire pregnancy. This usage is inconsistent with the Criminal Code, contrary to Epp's claim otherwise.

But our legal system recognizes that “unborn child” is used for any unborn entity. For example, in Winnipeg Child and Family Services (Northwest Area) v. G. (D.F.), the Supreme Court ruled :

“The law of Canada does not recognize the unborn child as a legal person possessing rights.”


“As well, courts do not have parens patriae jurisdiction over unborn children. The power of the court in parens patriae, as it stands, does not therefore support an order for the detention and treatment of a pregnant woman for the purpose of preventing harm to the unborn child.”

Now, does this usage of “unborn child” only refer to the context of childbirth?

Obviously not. “Unborn child” is the term used to refer to a legal entity. The Supreme Court used it, and it did not confer personhood on the fetus.

Joyce continues:

5. The bill arbitrarily sweeps aside two well-established legal principles in Canadian jurisprudence: the "born alive" rule under which rights for the fetus materialize only upon birth, and the unity of a pregnant woman and her fetus.

But no rights are conferred. She has not proven any rights are conferred. That is simply a baseless assertion.


6. The bill's official "short title" is the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, but only legal persons can be victims.

Where does it say that? In plain English, animals are considered victims of abuse.

7. The penalties under the bill for killing or injuring a fetus are the same as or similar to those for homicide and attempted homicide.

And? Perhaps because the penalty reflects the value pregnant women and their families place on their unborn children. The crime should be properly punished. To pregnant women who’ve lost their unborn babies, it can be as bad as the killing of a born baby.

This does not say anything about the personhood of the unborn child.

8. The bill's offences are included in the Criminal Code's Part VIII for "Offences Against the Person and Reputation," and the bill specifies that the offences are not against the pregnant woman herself.

The way in which the act works is to make it a crime to kill or injure an unborn child while committing an offense against the mother. That’s why it’s under that section.

I want to address other points in the article. If I do so, it will be in another blogpost—I don’t want this one to drag on.

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