Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The fetus had no legal recognition capable of protection

In an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge (about 5 minutes into the interview), Stephen Harper, when asked if his government received a majority in the next election, whether he would "reopen the abortion issue", responded:
"No, no, no. Look Peter, I've spent my political career trying to stay out of that issue. It's one on which people, including in my own party have passionate views, they're all over the map, and you know what I say to you know, many people I know are pro-life...what I say to people, is if you want to diminish the number of abortions you've got to change hearts and not laws, and I'm not interested in having a debate over abortion law."

What a politically expedient thing to say.

It is true that the Conservatives have done a very good job on the economic and fiscal file. It would be disingenuous to deny this.

But Mr. Harper has to put a stake through the “hidden agenda”'s heart, killing it once and for all. Mr. Harper wants to court those Canadians who just might vote for a fiscal Conservative, but who would never, ever vote for a social Conservative.

Mr. Harper might even get a majority. Imagine that.

But let's go back to his not changing the abortion laws comment.

We all know that the Supreme Court ruled in 1988 when they struck down Canada's abortion law (R. v. Morgentaler, 1988), that Parliament has the right to legislate protection for unborn children (e.g. Chief Justice Dickson said, "Like Beetz and Wilson JJ., I agree that protection of foetal interests by Parliament is also a valid governmental objective.").

Then in 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted by a UN General Assembly Resolution 1386 (XIV).

The Declaration states in its preamble:
"WHEREAS the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth (emphasis added)".

In 1989 this declaration became a Treaty which Canada and all 10 provinces signed.

Here is a good discussion on this Declaration: The Issue of Fetal Rights in Canada written by Colleen D'Orsay Wintermans, student, Cape Breton University, November 25, 2005.

Ms. D'Orsay Wintermans says:
“The purpose of this paper to explore the issue of fetal rights in Canada. I do so from the perspective of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child...In protecting rights of the unborn child to adequate care however, the [Canadian] Criminal Code seems to come up short. In an effort to avoid both the heated and oft politically volatile abortion debate and the rights of the mother to control her own body, no section of the Code exists that protects for the health and well being of the unborn developing child in utero. Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code says that a child becomes a human being when it has "completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother." In other words, the child has no protection until after birth (Byfield, 2002)... Until then, the fetus has no legal rights any more than, say, a pair of sneakers has legal rights. Therefore, the fetus had no legal recognition capable of protection. According to the courts, there is, simply, no one to protect (Bowal, & Wanke, 1998).”

We can and should “change the hearts” of people. But most Canadians also want some legal protection for the unborn. Our judges have said this, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child has said this.

Mr. Harper will not reopen the abortion debate unless he is pressured into it by us.

So what can we do?

Write a letter to Mr. Harper and tell him you want legal protection for the unborn and you want this to be an election issue.
(Prime Minister
Stephen Harper

Write a letter to your MP and tell her or him you want legal protection for the unborn. Tell your MP that since they represent you in Parliament, you expect them to advocate for the unborn.
(MP email addresses)

Write a letter to your favourite newspaper letters’ editor and tell them you want this to be an election issue.
(Here are a few:
Letters at the Citizen
Letters at the Montreal Gazette
Letters at the Globe and Mail
Letters at National Post

It's up to us to speak up for legal rights for the unborn.


  1. Change hearts, not laws?
    Harper sure does know how to weasel out of this particular debate.

  2. In issues relating to human rights, oftentimes 'hearts' do not change until the laws force a person to re-examine thoughts and feelings on an issue. Many people are content to follow the status-quo, never thinking more about an issue than what is fed to them by law. How often have we heard the statement (or some varitation of)'if it weren't right, then it wouldn't be law.'? For this reason, we need real leaders, people who will stand up and provide a voice for those who can not be heard without them. Real change does not just happen. It must be made to happen. Colleen D'Orsay