Liberal MP, Brent St. Denis must not have read Ken Epps’ recent document. (If he’d visit our blog more regularly, he’d be on top of these things.) He “tabled a Bill today that would increase penalties for those who knowingly abuse pregnant women.”
The press release states:
Mr. St. Denis believes that the risks associated with C-484 are too dangerous as the potential repercussions are still unknown. There is a concern that the Bill may establish legal rights for the foetus, which could begin to reverse a woman’s right to choose and punish behaviours and conditions for women that are not criminalized for other people, such as drug or alcohol abuse and mental illness.
As mentioned in Ken Epps’ release:
Only South Carolina has upheld convictions of women under child abuse and endangerment laws, citing South Carolina’s unique judicially enacted “fetal homicide” law of 1984 as a precedent.
There were a few isolated incidents in other states where cases were brought by prosecutors under “fetal homicide” laws… but these cases were later dismissed or distinguished on their facts and are in no way representative of applications of the legislation in the 37 states with these laws.
But the above are mere details. When you get down to it, our politicians are playing chess. Obviously the goal of this newly tabled bill is to draw support away from Bill C-484. If that happens, the subsequent (and nearly inevitable) passing of this new bill will be incidental.
Myself, I’d prefer our laws be formulated based on genuine concern for victims, not on political stratagem.
Rebecca shakes her head: Good grief, what a tangle of poor logic and silly syllogisms.
I have very mixed feelings about criminalizing substance abuse for pregnant women. On the one hand, exposure to alcohol and drugs in utero can inflict a terrible burden on the fetus, and a wholly avoidable one. On the other hand, I’m not generally keen on giving the government or its agents more opportunities to interpose themselves in our lives, and am of the opinion that there are few problems so bad that state intervention can’t make them worse.
But this is just nonsense:
There is a concern that the Bill may establish legal rights for the foetus, which could begin to reverse a woman’s right to choose and punish behaviours and conditions for women that are not criminalized for other people, such as drug or alcohol abuse and mental illness. (emphasis mine)
First of all, how could this criminalize mental illness in pregnant women, for heaven’s sake? Second, the point would be to punish drug or alcohol abuse that harms another person, in this case the baby. We already punish non-pregnant people who use drugs and alcohol in a manner that harms other people. In fact, we punish non-pregnant people who use drugs or alcohol in a manner that has the potential to harm other people, without waiting to see if actual harm occurs; this is the whole concept behind charging people with drunk driving.
I’m all for an honest discussion of how far society can go to protect an unborn baby’s health at the expense of the mother’s liberties. I’m certainly open to objections that, even if we all agree that an adult’s right to abuse their own body is suspended when doing so harms their unborn child, there is no way to criminalize such behaviour without massive unintended consequences. But when the debate stays at this level, I’m forced to wonder if the other side is congenitally incapable of an honest, good-faith debate on the subject.
Véronique wonders: How can you recognize that abusing pregnant women is somehow worst than abusing a non-pregnant one without recognizing what makes a pregnant woman different from a non-pregnant one? Are people that shortsighted?
That being said, I stood up and clapped when I read in the press release:
“The goal of my Bill is clear: to protect a foetus lawmakers must protect the carrier of the foetus which is the pregnant woman.”
Indeed. You can’t protect a foetus without protecting the woman. You can’t hurt a woman without hurting the foetus. When a foetus is aborted, you have to hurt the woman to hurt the foetus. This is why we are prolife because we are prowoman.
Tanya adds: Exactly what I was thinking, Véronique. Is the law now to elevate a pregnant woman above a non-pregnant woman?
If we ignore what is so particular about being pregnant (being with child) then we are simply elevating the importance of one individual above another. What sort of dangerous precedent is that?