On April 26th Canada’s Parliament debated M-312, a motion that calls for the formation of a special committee of Parliament to review whether the definition of a “human being” as described in the Canadian criminal code can be extended to unborn fetuses.
Stephan Woodworth, a Member of Parliament with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, proposed the motion, after an extensive media campaign that began in December 2011. The campaign propagated his view that the definition of a “human being” in Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada is 400 years old (Canada became a country in 1867) and should be revisited in order “to reflect twenty-first century medical evidence.”
Basically, Woodworth’s motion seeks to give legal personhood to fetuses. If passed, it would allow the prosecution of women for murder if they have an abortion. It would even allow the prosecution of women for accidentally harming their fetus. Above all, it would allow the prioritization of fetuses “rights” over the enshrined constitutional rights of a pregnant woman!
Although Woodworth stated that his motion was merely to allow for “intellectual inquiry,” it is undoubtedly aimed at reopening the abortion debate in Canada. This became blatantly apparent when Woodworth stated on radio that the motion “certainly allows us to have an honest discussion about the abortion question.”
Woodworth seemingly fails to remember that the abortion question was answered more than 25 years ago. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canada’s abortion law was unconstitutional. When ruling on the Regina v. Morgentaler case, a Justice said: “The objective of protecting the fetus would not justify the severity of the breach of pregnant women’s right to security of the person.” Another added, the state cannot let others decide “whether her [a woman’s] body is to be used to nurture a new life.” In short, as Niki Ashton, a Member of Parliament and Critic on the Status of Women with the New Democratic Party, Canada’s main opposition party, said best, the Justices found that the abortion law, “violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because it infringed on a woman’s right to life, liberty and security of person.”