MORE RIGHTS, MORE CHOICES FOR WOMEN
by Sarah Sonne
There is currently a private member's bill that has entered committee in Parliament. It is receiving a lot of attention, and a lot of confusion has surrounded what this bill is and what it is not.
It is Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. If it becomes law, it would make it a separate offence to kill or harm a wanted fetus during an attack on the mother if the attacker knew or ought to have known that she was pregnant when she was attacked.
Violence against women rises dramatically during pregnancy. A pregnant woman is six times more likely to be abused than a woman who is not pregnant. This bill would protect and support pregnant women by clearly stating that she is not on her own in protecting her unborn child. It would fill in the gap that pregnant women currently experience by validating that they want to have their child, and that if they lose their pregnancy because of violence they will be mourning a death that is not recognized.
Canada claims to be a pro-choice nation, but it currently completely disregards the choice to be pregnant. Women have the right to choose to be a mother, or to have an abortion. But if she chooses to be a mother, the nine months leading up to the birth of her child are like a no-man's-land in the eyes of the law. While she gets ultrasounds, decorates her baby's room, picks names and clothes and reads book after book on pregnancy and mothering, she may not realize that her unborn child is not recognized by the law. The law does not consider an unborn child human until it has exited the womb alive. Until that moment the baby and the mother are considered one person, and all rights default to the mother. Except the right to consider her fetus a baby.
If a pregnant woman is attacked and she cannot protect her unborn child, she has no backup in the eyes of the law. Because Canada does not protect the choice to be pregnant, if pregnancy is taken away from her through violence, it is not recognized in the courts.
There have been cases in Canada where pregnant women have been specifically targeted because they were pregnant, even one case where a woman was stabbed in the abdomen with a sword, and yet no charges were laid in the death of her wanted child. If a woman is shot in the stomach for target practice, which has also happened, and she survives but her baby dies, the harshest penalty that can be laid is assault.
It doesn't matter that she has a room waiting for the moment she becomes a mother, it doesn't matter how much she considers her unborn baby her baby and not an extra body part. The fact she has lost part of her future is not recognized by the law because the unborn child isn't legally recognized.
Property is protected under the law. Possessions are protected under the law. Pets are protected under the law. None of these things are human, and yet it's not OK to attack them. It doesn't make sense that anything wanted can be destroyed without recognition. If Canada is truly pro-choice, it needs to facilitate all choices. It needs to empower women to keep their child.
It's simple; if a woman chooses to keep her child, that should be her right. And if Canada says she has that right, but does not recognize in court when that choice is taken away, then she really never had that right. Canada as it stands now, is saying women have the right to be a mother, but they are on their own while they are pregnant because we are pro-choice. There's no middle ground.
Bill C-484 is very clear in what it does and does not say. It deals specifically with a wanted pregnancy. It says if a woman wants her child, no one can violently take it away from her. It says if a woman is attacked and her unborn child dies, she has the right to consider her unborn child a victim. It validates her feelings that her unborn child is one of the most significant parts of her life while she is pregnant.
It gives women more rights and more choices. It is a pro-choice, pro-woman bill and needs to be applauded as such.
Sarah Sonne lives in Guelph.