Monday, February 25, 2008

BLOGBURST: One person, one body, one count

On Friday I posited that the "Unborn Victims of Crime" bill coming up for debate this Friday might be good for absolutely nothin' (say it again!). Here's MP Ken Epp talking up his bill:

“This is all about protecting the choice of a woman to give birth to her child,” said Mr. Epp. “It is about condemning the actions of those who would take it upon themselves to criminally assault a pregnant woman and the child she wants and loves, destroying that child against her will.”

Um, yeah... except that "unborn victims" laws like the proposed C-484 simply don't do what they purport to do -- protect pregnant women and their fetuses, and render accountability to those who'd harm a fetus in the commission of an assault on a pregnant woman.

In the US, many states have had such laws in place for long enough to produce statistical evidence of their deterrent and protective effect. Yet no such evidence has been forthcoming -- crimes against pregnant women, assaults where fetuses are damaged, continue apace. Clearly such legislation is neither protective nor deterrent, and those who'd suggest it is either don't know the facts or are willfully ignoring them.

With the "protection" myth so irredeemably kicked to the curb, the fallback position is "justice rendered". Supposedly, because C-484 would recognize an assault on a fetus as a separate crime, it would "render justice" in the form of a separate charge/accountability for that crime. Well, maybe... until you look again at those pesky facts that refuse to be ignored.

Currently, the Criminal Code recognizes that an assault on a pregnant woman is a more heinous crime than simple assault, and accordingly imposes harsher punishment. Further, because Canada has no consecutive sentencing provisions, an Unborn Victims law would actually reduce the ultimate sentence -- because the two charges, individually, would be less than the current single sentence. So in this respect, the supporters of C-484 are onside with those who'd beat pregnant women and harm their fetuses. That can't be the justice they want rendered. What then? What is C-484 good for?

If you guessed "absolutely nothin'", go stand in the corner. You're wrong.

To see what bills like C-484 are good for, one only need look south of the border, where pregnant women are routinely charged for harming their own fetuses. Most of these cases involve substance abuse, and oh yeah, sure, there haven't been many convictions -- yet -- but it doesn't take much imagination to see what eventually transpires when pregnant women and fetuses are put into an adversarial position -- whose rights trump whose?

Taking issue with a proposed "unborn victims" bill 8 years ago, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy nailed it:

"First, this bill unnecessarily injects the abortion debate into our national struggle against violence towards women. The Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade held that "the word ‘person,' as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn." This bill purposely employs terms designed to undermine a woman's right to choose by recognizing for the first time in federal law the legal rights of a person as applied to the earliest stages of development of a fetus, an embryo or an egg." [...]
"Finally, the bill ignores the problems of domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence against women and, in fact, does not even mention violence against women. In short, this bill ignores the reality that an attack that harms a pregnancy is inherently an attack on a woman." (emphasis mine)
Bill C-484 isn't a sneaky foot-in-the-door stealth attack on reproductive rights -- it's a jackboot kicking the door wide open and stomping on the faces of women... forever. Sign the petition. Tell your MP to oppose it. Most importantly, tell Stephane Dion to whip the Liberals to oppose it, let him know that your vote for his party hangs in the balance on this issue.

The pregnant woman and her fetus speak in one voice, and that voice is hers. One voice, one person, one body, one count.