Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Statement on Bill C-484, Unborn Victims of Crime Act

By Ken Epp, MP June 10, 2008

It has become clear in recent weeks that there is, in full swing, a determined and concerted effort to oppose and defeat Bill C-484. The tactic is to overwhelm the media, especially in Quebec, and my fellow MP‟s with so much misinformation that it has become almost impossible to have thoughtful discourse on this Bill.

First, let me be clear. Some are attacking the “Harper government” in connection with this Bill. The Prime Minister declared right at the beginning that this would be a totally free vote in the House with each MP free to study the Bill, discuss it with constituents, and vote wisely based on that study and consultation. The Government, consistent with C-484, has NO intention of bringing elective abortion into this debate. It is our opponents, in a misinformation campaign, that are trying to link it.

This is a Private Members Bill, introduced by me on the heels of a horrifying incident in Edmonton, whereby an expectant mother, Olivia Talbot, was brutally murdered by someone targeting her unborn child, already named Lane Jr.

In trying to bring criminal law protection to a pregnant woman and her not-yet-born child, it is impossible to speak without using certain terms that just make common sense – the same words already in the Criminal Code – words like “mother” and “child.”

Sadly, as soon as these words are mentioned, those who are staunch supporters of “reproductive rights” for women jump into the debate and insist, totally incorrectly, that this is about abortion rights. It isn‟t!

For individuals who supposedly so strongly and passionately support the concept of “choice,” it is beyond ironic that they attempt to marginalize anyone with a different voice or choice, by conveniently lumping them together as either „anti-choice‟, and/or right-wing ideologues, religious zealots, etc. They obviously do so to send the false message to fellow Canadians that these are extremist groups whose views are not valid and should be discounted.

I have no “hidden agenda.” My purpose, my motivation, and my action is clearly spelled out in the Bill. The words are specific and clear. Many advocating for this bill, like Mary Talbot, the mother of Olivia, are pro-choice. But they see the difference between a woman who wants to end her pregnancy and one who wants to keep her child. It is sad that the opponents of C-484 are engaging in ad hominem attacks instead of focusing on the purpose of the Bill, the wording of the Bill, and what it will do to enhance women‟s reproductive rights. You see, when a woman chooses to have a child, she currently has no help from Canada‟s legal system in protecting that child until it is born alive. The goal of C-484 is noble – to stand with her and to protect her choice.

brought in this Bill to do exactly what the Bill says it will do: provide our legal system with the capacity, in very rare, strict and specific circumstances, to lay additional charges against a third-party who knowingly harms or kills the developing life inside a woman while committing a criminal offence against her, often with extreme violence. We know from specific cases that women have even been killed precisely because they refused to obtain an abortion.

I worked with skilled lawyers to draft language that would absolutely inoculate the Bill from any possibility that it could be used “against” the pregnant woman.

I have diligently tried to walk critics through their intentionally fear-creating references to laws in various U.S. states. When researched with accuracy in mind, there are no legitimate comparisons to make, and this Bill, if it becomes law, will enhance the rights of women, and certainly not jeopardize their freedom of choice on the question of abortion.

I have had to remind pro-life supporters of this very point. This Bill is not what some of them are thinking, hoping or wishing it would be. Similarly, it is not what some pro-choice people fear it will be.

I need to emphasize that this Bill, despite what media articles seem to report, has significant and widespread support. Three separate polls done over a period of months have re-affirmed that the vast majority of Canadians support this Bill. This support, importantly, crosses all regions, both genders and all political party lines.

The most recent poll was an online survey which I commissioned, conducted by Angus Reid Strategies on June 4 and 5 in Quebec only, and it shows that fully 50% of Quebecers support the Bill, while 35% are opposed and 15% undecided. Among Quebec women, support is at 53%. Full poll results will be available on my website, www.kenepp.com, later today.

Given the massive misinformation campaign launched against this Bill, especially in Quebec, for the past several weeks, I found the poll results encouraging. Even though many groups, claiming to represent large constituencies, have spoken out viciously against the Bill and made claims that are simply not true, a majority of Quebecers with an opinion on the topic still show a significant majority level of support.

Canadians who support this Bill see it for what it really is: an attempt to recognize the very real loss suffered by a woman who loses her child against her will at the hands of a violent attacker. That said, because so much false information has been repeated over and over, those who support this cry for justice will have to work harder to get the message out about what the Bill is really trying to do: give legal recourse to lay charges against a third-party in the very specific, very narrow circumstance when a pregnant woman is the victim of a criminal attack and her attacker intentionally or recklessly harms or causes the death of the baby that she wants.

To those of you actively campaigning against this Bill I say this: Please stop frightening Canadians about the effect of the Bill based on your misreading of it. If you insist on opposing it, be honest with Canadians and publicly admit that you don‟t support choices that are not in line with your own.

To those not yet sure about where you stand on this Bill and to my Colleagues in the House, I say this: Let‟s follow our natural, protective and caring instincts to protect the innocent. Let‟s protect the expectant mother and her developing child. Let’s not act as though nothing was lost when she was savagely attacked. For her, because of her choice to keep the child, it is immensely important and valuable.

When it comes to a third-party criminally attacking a pregnant woman, knowing she is pregnant, and destroying or harming the baby she in fact very much wants, let us, on this one issue alone at least, set aside our ideological differences and do what we and the majority of Canadians instinctively believe is right and just. If we can rectify this wrong in law, we will have taken one more step toward a more just and compassionate Canadian society.

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