radicalhandmaids

A few implications of Motion 312 that have nothing to do with abortion

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We saw this on Rhapsody Blue’s Facebook page and thought it was absolutely brilliant. Major appreciations to them for allowing us to re-post it here. You can connect with her on Twitter @BlueBurlesque

Today the House of Commons will debate MP Stephen Woodworth’s motion to form a committee to “review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth”, as well as answer several subsequent questions.

MP Woodworth has chosen to market the motion under the title “Canada’s 400 Year Old Definition of a Human Being”, good-naturedly alleging that the law as it stands is simply out of date, and that lawmakers of the past lacked the scientific understanding of human development that we have today.

Krissy Fair [1] has pointed out the inaccuracy of Mr. Woodworth’s assertion that the current law exists because, at the time of its creation, we did not understand that an unborn child was human, in addition to pointing out that the law itself is only 120 years old. The law was written with the understanding that extending the provisions of the Criminal Code to the unborn would have several unacceptable consequences.

Just so we are clear on the text of the law as it stands currently: “a child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not it has breathed; it has an independent circulation; or the navel string is severed.” Note the language that specifies the context: “within the meaning of this Act” – that is to say, for the purposes of criminal prosecution.

Much has been written about this motion, and a great deal of it focuses on the abortion issue, as it should.

However, as MP Woodworth so kindly reminded me in a form letter reply that disregarded the entire contents of my original letter* to him, the motion “has far wider implications than merely for the abortion issue”.

It is with an eye to this fact, and in the spirit of Prime Minister Harper’s promise not to re-open the abortion debate, that I would like to present several implications of Motion 312 that do not concern abortion.

We need not speculate on the results of declaring the unborn to be legal persons for the purposes of criminal prosecution. In fact, we may simply cast an eye South of the border, where “personhood” laws have been implemented in several states.

If the unborn are declared persons:

These are just a handful of considerations. I encourage you to ponder them, regardless of where you stand on the abortion issue. This motion has implications for all pregnant women, not just those who would like to have abortions.

I think that the moment of birth is the easiest way to define a person in practical legal terms; if an unborn child is to be a person, Canada must presumably begin granting unborn children the full rights of citizenship the moment they are deemed persons. I wonder, will expecting mothers be able to declare unborn children as dependents for tax and other benefit purposes? Does this also include phasing out birth certificates and birth dates in favour of personhood dates?

Take a moment to consider your position… then regardless of what you decide, I encourage you to take action!

* I am aware that MP Woodworth’s office must be very busy. But I was still surprised to receive a form letter reply that, among other things, thanked me for my “kind comments” and implored me to “promote the views we share with the utmost sensitivity and consideration toward those who disagree” and to publicly express my support for the motion.  The email also included a package of media releases, a pro-Motion 312 flyer, and a similarly supportive petition that I could pass around. I was certainly polite, but I wouldn’t have called my email kind, nor did I express any sort of support for the motion. In fact, I encouraged MP Woodworth to conduct a respectful debate in the House, and presented several arguments against the idea of striking a committee, in the hopes that he might decide to vote against his own motion. I assume my email was not read.

Citations:

1. http://thinkmamathink.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/motion-312-wombs-for-woodworth/

2. http://news.change.org/stories/pregnant-iowa-woman-arrested-for-falling-down

3. http://news.change.org/stories/doctor-gets-court-order-to-confine-pregnant-woman-against-her-will

4. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-an-anti-abortion-push-to-redefine-person-could-wind-up-hurting-women/2011/10/26/gIQAQSwGQM_story.html

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