Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Criminalizing Coerced Abortions - "Restricting Access To Freedom Of Choice"?

That's what the opponents of Roxanne's Law say. The words I quoted in the title, were actually said by Nicole Demers, Bloc MP for Laval. Other MPs that spoke against the bill (two New Democrats and a Liberal) used similar arguments. "I urge all members of the House to recognize this bill for what it is, an underhanded attack on women's choice", said Irene Mathyssen, NDP MP for London—Fanshawe. To that, her colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan, Jean Crowder, adds: "Part of the reason that women are so distressed and angry about this private member's bill is that they see it as undermining women's equality."

So, protecting woman's choice to keep her baby from coercive pressure actually restricts that woman's choice... Making it a crime to threaten a woman with violence, eviction, dismissal or loss of financial support, because she doesn't agree to abort her baby, actually undermines women's equality... Sounds quite Orwellian, unless we realize that by the word "choice" those folks mean abortion and only abortion. As for equality - that apparently means access to abortion throughout all 9 months of pregnancy, in a hospital or clinic of the woman's choice and, of course, at taxpayers' expense. Obviously, that kind of "equality" doesn't apply to much smaller women, who are about to see daylight in just a few weeks time.

Marlene Jennings, Liberal MP from Notre-Dame-de-GrĂ¢ce—Lachine, chose to cite a legal precedent:
The Supreme Court of Canada already issued a ruling in a case that was famous in Quebec. A woman wanted to have an abortion, and her spouse at the time tried to prevent it by taking her to court. The Supreme Court ruled that he, or anyone else, did not have the right to force a woman to have an abortion or to stop her from having one, through threats, assault or extortion.
So, she claims, Roxanne's law is redundant, because, she believes, the ruling protects woman's decision to keep her baby as much as it protects her decision to abort him. In reality however, the ruling is more about disallowing the baby's father to intervene when the mother wants to abort the baby, than it is about protecting women from coercion and threats. Ironically, a deadbeat father who wants to pressure his girlfriend or wife to abort the baby, has a lot more chances to achieve his goal than a devoted, pro-life father who wishes to convince his wife to save the baby's life. But for those to whom the word "choice" only means "abortion", that apparently is an ideal situation.

Thankfully, we had Kelly Block, a Conservative MP from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, presenting her testimony:
Whether or not the pregnancy is planned, who has the right to tell that woman that what she is carrying inside her is a burden and must be disposed of? Who has the right to coerce her into ending her pregnancy, thereby ending her chance to give birth to her baby? No one has that right. That is why we need Roxanne's law. We need to protect pregnant women, especially when they are at their most vulnerable, from being coerced into having abortions they do not want.

It is well documented that women can suffer tremendously after having a miscarriage. When a woman loses a wanted pregnancy, she can experience intense feelings of sadness, anger, and guilt for not having been able to keep her unborn child safe. Many people cannot fully comprehend the extent of the grief a woman suffers after a miscarriage, because they do not understand the bond that has already begun to develop between her and her unborn child.

I can imagine that a woman who has been forced to have an abortion would suffer at least as much and perhaps more, because the loss would not be accidental. Instead, the loss results from a cruel and deliberate exploitation of her vulnerability by someone she should be able to trust and depend on.
When enacted into law, Bill C-510 will send a clear message that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong. It will send a message to women that the law is there to protect them, so that if someone attempts to coerce a woman to have an abortion she does not want, she can press charges before it is too late for her and her baby.

When Roxanne's law comes to a vote next month, I will stand up for pregnant women and for motherhood. I will remember Roxanne and be grateful for the small part I have played to bring some good out of her tragedy.
Too bad that Kelly's voice of reason appears to be the voice calling in the wilderness, as Roxanne's law met some opposition even from the Conservative ranks. Daniel Petit, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, criticized the bill for being "difficult to interpret and subject to charter challenges".

Not sure, how long will it take for Roxanne's law to be back at the top of the Order of Precedence - for the remaining hour of debate and the second reading vote. According to Kelly, that could happen as early as next month. If so - we must act as soon as possible. Roxanne's law website has all the information about the bill, including detailed explanation why it's not redundant and by no means difficult to interpret. Please communicate this information to your MPs. We can still turn the tide on Roxanne's law if we put enough effort into it.

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