Should we really stand for a law that says some human beings are not human beings?

April 26, 2012:

“Today, in this House, in the year 2012, because of a Conservative motion, we will be debating a womans right to choose, years after this issue has been dealt with… when will the Conservatives stop rolling the clock back on Canadian women’s rights?” – Angry New Democrat MP Lady: VIDEO: Harper to vote against Tory MP’s fetus motion | The Chronicle Herald.

Re-Opening the Abortion Debate in Parliament? Maybe.

Years after this issue has been dealt with? Not quite…

Doing what is democratically just? I think so.

Let’s see what we’re actually talking about here.

The above quote and video are in response to Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s Motion 312, filed in the House of Commons on February 6th of this year, requesting verbatim: “that a special committee of the House be appointed and directed 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:”[1] He calls this a 400 year old law, as it is based on 17th Century science following British Common Law. Indeed the Criminal Code states:

“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
a) it has breathed;
b) it has independent circulation; or
c) the navel string is severed”

Criminal Code Book of Canada R.S., cC-34, s.205

So no, Niki Ashton, this Conservative motion is not asking you to debate a woman’s right to choose. At least not yet. While Woodworth acknowledges that this would have effects for policy on abortion, he asserts that the implications are wider, because Parliament has a duty to update this 17th Century definition of human beings in light of 21st Century medical evidence, as a law that says some human beings are not human beings is untruthful, misrepresentative, and downright unjust.[2]  According to Woodworth, “once we decide whether or not a child is a human being before birth, then we can have an honest conversation about all of the other issues.”[3]  Regardless of personal views on “other issues,” he maintains that it does not make medical sense in the 21st Century to say that a child is not a human being until the moment of complete birth, and that MPs have a duty to not accept any law that says some human beings are not human.

Clearly, this motion will advance honest discussion about the abortion question, in society and in Parliament.  And that inevitably constitutes a re-opening of the abortion debate, or as Niki Ashton maintains, debating over women’s right to choose.

But please, let’s be clear on what we’re “debating,” or more exactly, on what this Motion in Parliament’s purpose is. Woodworth’s request is to re-examine the section of the Criminal Code where the law gets its definition of a human being: that’s it. Read it for yourself here: Stephen Woodworth : Member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre : Motion 312. For our law to maintain that children in the womb are not human beings until the moment they exit the birth canal, or from a C-Section, is illogical and resolutely unscientific. Unless of course we wish to re-define the meaning of a “human being” to suit our purposes.

So are the Conservatives rolling back the clock on Canadian women’s rights with this Motion? Or doing what is democratically just? Heck, it’s more like they’re acting on common sense.


[2]  Read Woodworth’s entire speech to reporters, “Don’t accept any law that says some human beings are not human beings!”


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