Written by Ken Epp, Conservative MP for Edmonton – Sherwood Park

An orchestrated campaign against my Private Members Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, has now been followed by my own government’s announcement that they will unveil new legislation that will include a victim’s pregnancy as an aggravating factor when judges consider sentencing offenders

This response is politically predictable and misses (intentionally, I am sure) the entire point of my Bill.

I should first highlight that the majority of everyday Canadians (as demonstrated by three separate polls) across the country support Bill C-484. They see it instinctively as a compassionate response to a cry for justice – and that’s what it is.

For these individuals, it is just common sense.  If a pregnant woman is violently attacked by a third party who intentionally kills her unborn child, the violent offender should be held accountable for not only the attack on the woman but also for causing the death of her baby.

Surely, if it were not for politics and ideology, who could argue against this?

The most recent opposition, sadly, comes from the Canadian Medical Association. I had hoped that Canada’s physicians would have continued to show their trademark compassion for victimized women and their preborn children by supporting Bill C-484.

Doctors are trained to save lives, including saving the life of a child not yet born if it is at risk. And the fact that any doctor would fight to save the life of a yet-to-be-born child (which happens routinely) simply demonstrates the instinctive understanding that there is a life there to save, in spite of it not being a “human being” in Canadian law. Somehow, Canada’s doctors have been led to believe they will be charged under my Bill. As consensual abortions in Canada are fully legal under any circumstance, and all abortions are because the woman wants them, a doctor could never be charged.

Those actively campaigning against the Bill are clearly of the view that everyday Canadians are so lacking in intelligence that if opponents constantly raise points that are not true but sound compelling (e.g. the Bill will confer personhood status on a fetus; pregnant women will be charged and sent to prison, etc.), they will successfully scare people into opposing the Bill.

C-484 is crystal clear. It applies only when the pregnant woman is the victim of a crime. It doesn’t make the fetus a “human being” or a “person” under the law nor can it lead to that. It could never be used against the pregnant woman for any harm she might cause to her own fetus. Elective abortion is explicitly excluded.  It’s only about abortion for those who cannot get past their strident ideology to feel any compassion for a woman who is such a tragic victim.

One of my most vocal critics has literally said this: “If the fetuses are recognized in this bill, it could bleed into people’s consciousness and make people change their minds about abortion.” My reaction was, “if opponents are really worried about this, their issue is not with C-484 but about protecting their ideology at all costs.” If their ideology can’t withstand people thinking about what that ideology actually involves, how secure are they in their position?

Importantly, University of Colorado law professor Carolyn B. Ramsey, a strong advocate of abortion rights, says that failure to support laws that recognize that killing a fetus is “in some contexts, criminally wrong; and that the murder of a pregnant woman and the resultant death of her fetus amount to two losses, rather than one – risks corroborating, in the public mind, the allegation that pro-choicers espouse an extreme, anti-life position.” She says pro-choicers “stray from the essential meaning of reproductive rights” when they put so much emphasis on “trivializing fetal life.”

Critics insist that I have a hidden agenda to recriminalize abortion. (In fairness, some have suggested that it is possible I am genuine, just naive or stupid.) Let me be clear about something: yes, I am what some people refer to as “pro-life.” As an elected official I have no difficulty in acknowledging that in public. But why is it that opponents can always simply dismiss an opinion from someone if they are Christian, pro-life, evangelical, supposedly “conservative,” etc.?  Why is it so unbelievable that a “pro-life” MP could actually, sincerely want to enact a law that has nothing to do with banning abortion?

I know the critics of C-484 will continue to spread misinformation. But I continue to hope that thoughtful, everyday Canadians, not influenced by political agendas or strident ideology, will review the Bill in detail so that they will see for themselves that it would actually advance women’s rights and security.

I believe strongly that if Canadians do this, they will continue to support justice, and this Bill. And as a result, MP’s, regardless of party affiliation, will have the courage to do the same.