Saturday, February 09, 2008

ONE: body, person, count.

What the hell is a "fetal homicide law"? And why do we need one?

Short answer: it's a legal work-around aimed at banning abortion, which is why *some people* think we need one. We clearly do not.

Long answer: A "fetal homicide" law recognizes that murdering a pregnant woman constitutes two charges, with the fetus being a separate count of homicide. The "Unborn Victims of Crime Act", a private member's bill proposing a "fetal homicide" law, was tabled by Conservative MP Ken Epp and debated just before Christmas. How fitting that an odious bill which could lay the groundwork for a sneak attack on women's rights would sidle stealthily past an electorate whose minds were filled with visions of sugar plums; predictably, it got little attention. On February 29 it's being debated again, then on March 5, this nefarious bill goes to a vote.

The bill is wrapped in the kind of fuzzy emotional language ("unborn victims") that makes it sound "protective", but the facts belie the sugary semantics. The fetal homicide laws in the US, such as "Laci & Conner's Law", haven't reduced the number of pregnant women assaulted or killed (and of course that was never their true intent), so there's no evidence that such laws serve any protective purpose to either pregnant women or their womb-bound offspring.
They say it's about "choice" -- protecting a woman's choice to give birth -- but if no protection is afforded, then what's it really about?

What "fetal homicide" laws do, and no doubt all they were ever intended to do, is recognize a fetus as a separate entity with rights of its own apart from the mother. The next logical step is the granting of legal "personhood" status to a fetus, and once that's done, we're on the slippery slope to an abortion ban. Check out some of the slick wording of this bill:
238.1 (1) Every person who, directly or indirectly, causes the death of a child during birth or at any stage of development before birth while committing or attempting to commit an offence against the mother of the child, who the person knows or ought to know is pregnant,
Yeah. That slippery slope might as well be strewn with banana peels that have been soaked for a week in linseed oil.

"Fetal homicide" is always an attack on the woman first, the fetus second. If the proponents of this bill were serious about protecting pregnant women and fetuses, they'd concentrate their efforts on reducing the domestic violence that's almost always the cause of murders of pregnant women. Yet that's not a concern -- this isn't about protecting pregnant women, it's about making fetuses their equal under the law.

When this thing goes to a vote on March 5, it will be amidst the sound of pro-choice bloggers who'll start getting loud on February 25 and in the days leading up to the debate. Although it's the most likely outcome, we can't assume it'll die on the House floor.

A fetus is not a person: until it takes its first breath, mother and fetus speak with one voice, and that voice is hers.
One voice, one body, one person, one count.