The recent publicly stated position of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) against Stephen Woodworth's Motion 312 is very troubling. For a couple of reasons.
First, in their statement SOGC says that Mr. Woodworth's motion is:
"yet another attempt to circumvent the direct decision taken by Parliament and the Courts to define legal status and rights as accruing at birth."
No such decision has ever been taken by Parliament regarding the legal status of a human being at birth. In fact, what the Supreme Court actually did rule, was that Parliament is precisely where a conversation regarding unborn children should take place. It never has.
All topics should be open for debate in a democracy. When we allow any discussion to be silenced, democracy ceases.
Second, SOGC states that a woman's:
"interests, needs, or choices would be considered in treatment decisions, but these would be subject to the rights of the foetus she is carrying. The foetus’ unexpressed wishes would be interpreted by proxy by courts and legislators."
The "foetus’ unexpressed wishes" is exactly why Mr. Woodworth's motion is so important. He is trying to change the current situation whereby the most vulnerable of human beings in Canada—voiceless children in the womb—are not recognized by our legal system. A just society demands that we protect and defend the vulnerable and be a voice for the voiceless.
M-312 gives us an opportunity to simply begin a national conversation about how we can best protect and defend vulnerable preborn children’s “unexpressed wishes.”
Third, this is our medical profession speaking. The very people who we entrust our health and our lives to. They are also the people who we entrust the lives of our preborn children to. Why do these doctors not advocate for the other patient in each and every pregnancy? That thought frightens me.
Fourth, the SOGC says:
"This motion opens the door for the further restriction of women’s reproductive and sexual rights and decision-making."
Since there are no legal restrictions on our any-time-any-reason-no-reason-publicly-funded abortions in Canada, this statement is disingenuous.
How can we further restrict something that has absolutely no restrictions? Further restrictions implies that legal restrictions already exist. They do not.
Finally, does this position statement really reflect the views of all members of the SOGC? If it does not, I hope that we will hear from those doctors who do support Mr. Woodworth's motion.
Even better, I hope these doctors write to their society and insist they start speaking for both patients: mother and child. And I hope these doctors will tell their society that their "Position" does not represent their own.
1. I had actually believed that doctors took the Hippocratic Oath, which says "First do no Harm". I have discovered that in most cases doctors do not take this oath. But one doctor, Dr. John Patrick has started the Hippocratic Registry for doctors who practice according to the Hippocratic Oath and who would like to honour this oath:
And more information on the Hippocratic Oath here.