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McMaster Lifeline: “Death Talk”

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

This semester, Lifeline has decided to focus on the topic of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Euthanasia: the act or practice of killing hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy; also: the act or practice of allowing a hopelessly sick or injured patient to die by taking less than complete medical measures to prolong life—called also mercy killing.
- Merriam Webster Medical Definition
Definitions of these terms and concepts are important, and must be understood first before dialogue can take place. What are we talking about when we speak of euthanasia and assisted suicide? “Death talk”, to be sure, as Margaret Somerville has aptly named her book: Death Talk: The Case Against Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide.
We are choosing to look at various articles, cases, philosophers and ethicists who speak to this issue, recognizing that it is a dialogue that all peoples should partake in, especially students. All living things eventually die. Death is a process and an event that is inevitable, one that naturally occurs, but for human beings, it is a gravely and considerably significant event as it is a great “marker” of life.

“What we do and choose not to do in relation to both the passing on of human life (genetics and reproductive technologies) and the ending of it (euthanasia) will create the metaphysical reality, the sense of meaning, within which we live our lives. We have always used birth and death, the two great “marker events” of human life, as central to our search for meaning.” – Margaret Somerville, p xvi

As students who will be future physicians, lawyers, teachers, parents, and in positions of care for the elderly (our own grandparents and parents), this is a topic that is in great need of discussion to come to a better understanding of its ramifications and consequences on our individual lives, family lives, as well as the state of society. We have to confront this topic of death with a seriousness, openness, and with a genuine desire to respect and care for life even in the face of uncertainty and lack of clarity on tough issues. Consider Somerville’s words that:

“Euthanasia confirms the power of death over hope, of death over life. It fails to recognize the great mystery that allowing death to occur, when its time has come, is an act of life. Euthanasia is an act of death. There is a vast difference between natural death ad euthanasia.” 

For many, the issue of euthanasia is already a non-issue, a practise that ought to be legalized as it is in other countries.  Philosopher from the University of Toronto, Wayne Sumner, maintains that: “legalizing assisted death responds to a real and immediate need on the part of those who are experiencing needless suffering at the end of life and it is simply cruel to deny them this relief on the basis of nothing more than vague speculation,” in his book Assisted Death: A Study in Ethics & Law. Canada is on the verge of this great decision right now, as  the case of Gloria Taylor in BC who legally won the case for her “right” to die, for having a physician assist in bringing about her death. Wanting to take death into your own hands (your own death) to plan when, where, and how you go, indeed seems like a right that we should have, especially in a society where we are accustomed to choice, to individual rights, and to autonomy over our own decisions and actions. But we need to ask if there is a problem with that. It requires acknowledging that there are many things we CAN do with technology that we OUGHT not do; that there are many actions and choices that we can make but would be wrong to do so. And of course, establishing why that is the case.  Again consider Somerville’s words:

In the debate over genetic and reproductive technologies, as well as euthanasia, we are debating much more than simply the appropriate use of technology.  We are debating matters that include the nature of individual human identity, the ethical and legal tone of society, and the new paradigm for a global community which will guide us into the future and be handed on to those who follow us. – p 9

Our decisions now on issues like euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide will set the precedent for future generations, and determine the ethical and legal tone of our society. In a Westernized society (and country) where there is a great liberalization of rights, morals, and freedoms, what, if any, universal principles can be upheld by all when it comes to how we handle and respect human life and death?

These questions and more are what we as students of McMaster Lifeline intend on discussing this term.

Join us Wednesday January 16th at anytime between 4:30-6:30 in Healthsci B120 for a presentation on euthanasia, given by Teresa Hartnett, chair of Hamilton’s Sexual Health Network, and discussion with students afterwards.

 

Articles for further reading:

How do we want our great, great grandchildren to die? – Somerville

More to come!

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

McMaster Lifeline: New Year; New Theme

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Hey Everyone!

We hope all of you are settling into an amazing school year!

This year, we are choosing to focus on the question: “What does it mean to respect human life?” Specifically, this question will be looked at in light of different bioethical issues that arise at the beginning and end of life stages. As students involved in the club, we are committed to defending the dignity of human life, but we recognize that we need to explore what this means.  As an exec, we are excited to say that we will be exploring this theme in a variety of new ways, including presentations, guest lectures, club discussions, Q&A, and Movie Nights, to name a few.

We’ve found in the past that such bioethical issues are often not open to discussion, and so we want to create an opportunity where people of varying opinions can come together for discussion and questions regarding these issues.

Our first event is happening Wednesday Sept 12th from 5:30-6:30 in Health Science Library 1B20! It will be a brief introduction to some of the questions we’ll be looking at this year, and the ways in which we hope to explore them (as well as seeing what you guys are interested in discussing at future events!)

 Please note: This is not a “pro-life only” event; we hope to reach out to both the people who already want to defend and promote the dignity of human life, and also the people who are curious about discussing this question in light of bioethical issues concerning unborn human life (abortion, embryonic stem cell research, reproductive technologies), and at the end of life (euthanasia).

We hope to see many of your inquisitive selves there! 

PS: For a sneak peek of some of the resources the exec will be using for presentations, check out the World Youth Alliance: a global coalition of young people committed to promoting the dignity of the person and building solidarity among youth from developed and developing nations. http://www.wya.net/ 
We are very excited about the tools and opportunities the WYA presents, especially as they help us to understand and analyze pressing bioethical issues from the perspective of dignity, freedom, and solidarity!

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

McMaster Lifeline: “This is MY body – But I don’t want it!”

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Fellow feminists,

In case you haven’t noticed, women (or “womyn”, if you prefer) are immensely powerful. And I’m not just talking “Lady Macbeth” meets “Charlie’s Angels.” While there is something to be said about feminine beauty and strength, our power lies in the very thing that makes us fundamentally different from men. In case you need a reminder, it’s that women have the extraordinary ability to help create and facilitate the development of another human being- inside her body! The life within her begins as a tiny single-celled human organism which then rapidly grows and develops over the next nine months or so. And she (the mother) can in a way “grow” that little person within her while going for a walk or checking the mail or even in her sleep.

Strangely enough, I know of some people who would actually be offended by some of the simple statements I have just made. Some might accuse me of reducing “womyn” to barefoot baby-making machines who have no other function in society than to be a soft, pretty incubator for the “products of conception” within her. Some might accuse me of overlooking men’s capacity to nurture. I sincerely believe that these accusations are born of a fearful, confused ideology. Since when does the natural function of the womb make a woman less of a woman? Since when does the absence of a womb excuse callous or negligent behavior from our male counterparts?

The differences between males and females (and, yes, they do exist) do not lessen the intrinsic value of either sex. Biologically speaking, the male anatomy and the female anatomy were designed to complete one another, ultimately to bring about the life of a new human being. This is not to say that every man and every woman must “claim” their sexuality by becoming parents- otherwise, what would I be at this stage in my life?

At my university, we dismiss the idea that a woman’s ability to bear children somehow renders her incapable of doing anything else. No one should reduce women to human incubators any more than they should reduce them to objects of pleasure. That is why truly chivalrous men honor women’s unique receptivity to the gift of life as part of who she is as a whole, unique individual, instead of coercing her into rejecting such an integral aspect of herself. As women, we should not have to compromise our ability to bear children in order to keep up with men in the workforce, or elsewhere. Besides, if fertility in women is a sign of good health, why are we using pills and hormones to make her sick? Only a poseur “feminist” would drive a women to reject her womb- it’s a uter paradox.

By Amber Miller

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

McMaster Lifeline: “This is MY body – But I don’t want it!”

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

Fellow feminists,

In case you haven’t noticed, women (or “womyn”, if you prefer) are immensely powerful. And I’m not just talking “Lady Macbeth” meets “Charlie’s Angels.” While there is something to be said about feminine beauty and strength, our power lies in the very thing that makes us fundamentally different from men. In case you need a reminder, it’s that women have the extraordinary ability to help create and facilitate the development of another human being- inside her body! The life within her begins as a tiny single-celled human organism which then rapidly grows and develops over the next nine months or so. And she (the mother) can in a way “grow” that little person within her while going for a walk or checking the mail or even in her sleep.

Strangely enough, I know of some people who would actually be offended by some of the simple statements I have just made. Some might accuse me of reducing “womyn” to barefoot baby-making machines who have no other function in society than to be a soft, pretty incubator for the “products of conception” within her. Some might accuse me of overlooking men’s capacity to nurture. I sincerely believe that these accusations are born of a fearful, confused ideology. Since when does the natural function of the womb make a woman less of a woman? Since when does the absence of a womb excuse callous or negligent behavior from our male counterparts?

The differences between males and females (and, yes, they do exist) do not lessen the intrinsic value of either sex. Biologically speaking, the male anatomy and the female anatomy were designed to complete one another, ultimately to bring about the life of a new human being. This is not to say that every man and every woman must “claim” their sexuality by becoming parents- otherwise, what would I be at this stage in my life?

At my university, we dismiss the idea that a woman’s ability to bear children somehow renders her incapable of doing anything else. No one should reduce women to human incubators any more than they should reduce them to objects of pleasure. That is why truly chivalrous men honor women’s unique receptivity to the gift of life as part of who she is as a whole, unique individual, instead of coercing her into rejecting such an integral aspect of herself. As women, we should not have to compromise our ability to bear children in order to keep up with men in the workforce, or elsewhere. Besides, if fertility in women is a sign of good health, why are we using pills and hormones to make her sick? Only a poseur “feminist” would drive a woman to reject her womb- it’s a uter paradox.

By Amber Miller

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

McMaster Lifeline: Why the pro-choice argument is flawed

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

I just want to highlight a few points from O’Connor’s argument in our previous post on why pro-choice mentality is so alluring – when we think about abortion only in the context of the woman:

  • We should be able to live how we choose – shouldn’t we? As long as we don’t break the law, shouldn’t we be able to make our own choices about matters concerning ourselves? And especially matters that affect our private life. The government has absolutely no place in the bedroom – in the decisions concerning my sexual life, my reproductive actions, and my autonomous choices. I think this video explains it well: http://www.canadiansforchoice.ca/whatif.html
  • No one should impose their beliefs on me – especially pro-lifers. Don’t like abortion? Then don’t have one. It’s that simple. There’s no law in Canada that says women HAVE to have abortions – it’s their choice. For someone to tell me I can’t choose to have one for reason X, Y, Z is just imposing their morality on me, and I won’t have any of it.
  • Debating a women’s right to choose is contesting the equality of women – which feminism has fought for in centuries past. And now a bunch of old white men and their hidden Trojan horse agenda are turning back the clock on women’s rights. We won’t have any of it – the abortion matter has been settled. This video illustrates our commendable progress: http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/images/voices-choices-video.html
  • The decision to have an abortion is a choice, albeit a moral choice, but it is just like any other choice we have over our own bodies. And while it may be an incredibly difficult choice to make, it nevertheless must remain as an option for women in crisis pregnancies (for those that choose it), because no woman should be forced to carry her child to term if she is unwilling, unsupported by her partner or family, or unable to care for it.

So, how do we refute O’Conner’s argument and the pro-choice rhetoric behind it?

  1. We should be able to live how we choose – shouldn’t we? Yes, as long as we don’t break the law, and as long as our choices do not infringe upon the rights, but more importantly, lives, of others. You see, abortion by it’s nature cannot be viewed solely in terms of the woman’s choice. This is evident when we ask, abortion is the choice to do what? It is a choice that involves the intentional killing of an innocent human being. This is a fact revealed when we consider what the unborn are, and what abortion does. So the first premise to O’Conner’s argument fails in the context of abortion – it does not “interfere with the actions of others,” it is an intervention that ends another’s very life.
  2. No one should impose their beliefs on me – Yet in no society do we say, if you don’t like slavery, don’t own a slave. Oh, you don’t like it when children are tortured for fun? Then don’t torture them! Think rape is wrong – then don’t get raped! In all seriousness, we acknowledge that a mother who intentionally drowns her children has done something wrong – not just because she broke the law, but because she’s done something morally wrong. And it would not be “imposing our beliefs on someone” to adamantly insist that a woman who killed her children has done something wrong against another, moreover, to demand that it is wrong to kill the most vulnerable and innocent of humans among us.
  3. Debating a women’s right to choose is “turning back the clock” by contesting the equality of women – but this already assumes a woman has the liberty to make a choice that will kill an innocent child. It’s not like men have the liberty to choose to kill their children which women are missing out on, so how is this an equality issue? Pro-choice advocates use the guise of feminism to advance their argument for equal women’s rights. But it so blatantly fails in the face of abortion, because it is a choice that advocates for the killing of innocent children.
  4. &  5. The decision to have an abortion depends on one’s personal autonomy; it is a choice – but is it a choice like choosing to get a tattoo? You have autonomy over your body in the case of getting a tattoo; it’s a choice you can freely make. Obviously, abortion is not like that. Why the insistence that it’s a moral choice? Are other medical procedures moral choices – getting wisdom teeth removed? Tonsils? Appendicectomy?  It’s obvious, again, abortion is different because it is  more than just the removal of a part of a woman’s body, but the killing of a distinct, developing human being!

The conclusion that the only thing a woman must consider in having an abortion is her own conscience is based on flawed assumptions. Abortion is NOT a matter of personal choice, conscience, or individual beliefs – because we are talking about the killing of innocent human beings. When refuting pro-choice ideology, we must be clear on these 2 things: what the unborn are (and indeed, that they are innocent human beings), and what value/moral status the unborn have (that is, valued as persons with inherent dignity as human beings).

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

McMaster Lifeline: The Pro-Choice Response to Motion 312

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

As you know, a Conservative member of Parliament has requested to pass a Motion that is an investigation into the Criminal Code’s definition of a human being, as the code currently states that a child is not a human being until the moment it exits the womb (and this definition has stood the same since the 1800s, when it was created).

The way pro-choice MPs are responding to this Motion (about the legal definition of a human being), as if it were a full-frontal attack on Canadian woman’s rights, helps us to better see two things: 1) the ludicrousness of the pro-choice position, but also 2) the lure of the pro-choice position, and why so many are duped by its rhetoric.

See what Hon. Gordon O’Connor, one of the most senior and conservative members of the Conservative Party, had to say in the first hour of debate on Motion 312:

“Whether one accepts it or not, abortion is and always will be part of society,” … “No matter how many laws some people may want government to institute against abortion, abortion cannot be eliminated. It is part of the human condition.” … “I cannot understand why those who are adamantly opposed to abortion want to impose their beliefs on others by way of the Criminal Code,” … “I want all women to continue to live in a society in which decisions on abortion can be made, one way or the other, with advice from family and a medical doctor and without the threat of legal consequences,” … “I do not want women to go back to the previous era where some were forced to obtain abortions from illegal and medically dangerous sources. This should never happen in a civilized society.”… “The Supreme Court has also declared that the right to liberty guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting private life. The decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision, and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount and take precedence over that of the state.” … “I firmly believe that each of us should be able to pursue our lifestyle as long as it is within the boundaries of law and does not interfere with the actions of others. Trying to amend the legal rules governing abortion, as is intended by this motion, will not improve the situation. It will only lead to increased conflict as the attempt is made to turn back the clock. Society has moved on and I do not believe this proposal should proceed.”

(emphasis added, see his full speech at the bottom of the Official Report * Table of Contents * Number 111 (Official Version).

The main gist of O’Connor’s argument is as follows:

1. We should be able to live how we choose as long as we are within the boundaries of law and do not interfere with the actions of others.

2. Those who oppose abortion and wish for a law restricting it are imposing their beliefs on others.

3. Living in a society that legally opposes abortion would be turning back the clock on women’s rights, which is uncivilized, undemocratic, unconstitutional, etc and also unsafe – because women would resort to illegal and medically dangerous methods of abortion (such as coat hangers, “back-alley abortions”, etc).

4. Legally, the right to liberty guarantees an individual personal autonomy over decisions that affect their private life – and decisions over their body.

5. The decision over whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a moral decision affecting the private life of the individual woman.

6. Thus, the only thing a woman must consider in having an abortion is her own conscience, and not the laws of the state.

7. Therefore, abortion is and always will be a part of society, a part of the human condition.

But is his argument true?

Not in accordance with reality: abortion is not about a woman’s right to choose – for her choice directly and intentionally kills the life of an innocent child in the womb. That is why we need to unmask choice for what it is – and cut through the ludicrous but luring layers of the pro-choice “onion,” if you will.

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

McMaster Lifeline: Why the pro-choice argument is flawed

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

I just want to highlight a few points from O’Connor’s argument in our previous post on why pro-choice mentality is so alluring – when we think about abortion only in the context of the woman:

  • We should be able to live how we choose – shouldn’t we? As long as we don’t break the law, shouldn’t we be able to make our own choices about matters concerning ourselves? And especially matters that affect our private life. The government has absolutely no place in the bedroom – in the decisions concerning my sexual life, my reproductive actions, and my autonomous choices. I think this video explains it well: http://www.canadiansforchoice.ca/whatif.html
  • No one should impose their beliefs on me – especially pro-lifers. Don’t like abortion? Then don’t have one. It’s that simple. There’s no law in Canada that says women HAVE to have abortions – it’s their choice. For someone to tell me I can’t choose to have one for reason X, Y, Z is just imposing their morality on me, and I won’t have any of it.
  • Debating a women’s right to choose is contesting the equality of women – which feminism has fought for in centuries past. And now a bunch of old white men and their hidden Trojan horse agenda are turning back the clock on women’s rights. We won’t have any of it – the abortion matter has been settled. This video illustrates our commendable progress: http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/images/voices-choices-video.html
  • The decision to have an abortion is a choice, albeit a moral choice, but it is just like any other choice we have over our own bodies. And while it may be an incredibly difficult choice to make, it nevertheless must remain as an option for women in crisis pregnancies (for those that choose it), because no woman should be forced to carry her child to term if she is unwilling, unsupported by her partner or family, or unable to care for it.

So, how do we refute O’Conner’s argument and the pro-choice rhetoric behind it?

  1. We should be able to live how we choose – shouldn’t we? Yes, as long as we don’t break the law, and as long as our choices do not infringe upon the rights, but more importantly, lives, of others. You see, abortion by it’s nature cannot be viewed solely in terms of the woman’s choice. This is evident when we ask, abortion is the choice to do what? It is a choice that involves the intentional killing of an innocent human being. This is a fact revealed when we consider what the unborn are, and what abortion does. So the first premise to O’Conner’s argument fails in the context of abortion – it does not “interfere with the actions of others,” it is an intervention that ends another’s very life.
  2. No one should impose their beliefs on me – Yet in no society do we say, if you don’t like slavery, don’t own a slave. Oh, you don’t like it when children are tortured for fun? Then don’t torture them! Think rape is wrong – then don’t get raped! In all seriousness, we acknowledge that a mother who intentionally drowns her children has done something wrong – not just because she broke the law, but because she’s done something morally wrong. And it would not be “imposing our beliefs on someone” to adamantly insist that a woman who killed her children has done something wrong against another, moreover, to demand that it is wrong to kill the most vulnerable and innocent of humans among us.
  3. Debating a women’s right to choose is “turning back the clock” by contesting the equality of women – but this already assumes a woman has the liberty to make a choice that will kill an innocent child. It’s not like men have the liberty to choose to kill their children which women are missing out on, so how is this an equality issue? Pro-choice advocates use the guise of feminism to advance their argument for equal women’s rights. But it so blatantly fails in the face of abortion, because it is a choice that advocates for the killing of innocent children.
  4. &  5. The decision to have an abortion depends on one’s personal autonomy; it is a choice – but is it a choice like choosing to get a tattoo? You have autonomy over your body in the case of getting a tattoo; it’s a choice you can freely make. Obviously, abortion is not like that. Why the insistence that it’s a moral choice? Are other medical procedures moral choices – getting wisdom teeth removed? Tonsils? Appendicectomy?  It’s obvious, again, abortion is different because it is  more than just the removal of a part of a woman’s body, but the killing of a distinct, developing human being!

The conclusion that the only thing a woman must consider in having an abortion is her own conscience is based on flawed assumptions. Abortion is NOT a matter of personal choice, conscience, or individual beliefs – because we are talking about the killing of innocent human beings. When refuting pro-choice ideology, we must be clear on these 2 things: what the unborn are (and indeed, that they are innocent human beings), and what value/moral status the unborn have (that is, valued as persons with inherent dignity as human beings).

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

McMaster Lifeline: The Pro-Choice Response to Motion 312

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

As you know, a Conservative member of Parliament has requested to pass a Motion that is an investigation into the Criminal Code’s definition of a human being, as the code currently states that a child is not a human being until the moment it exits the womb (and this definition has stood the same since the 1800s, when it was created).

The way pro-choice MPs are responding to this Motion (about the legal definition of a human being), as if it were a full-frontal attack on Canadian woman’s rights, helps us to better see two things: 1) the ludicrousness of the pro-choice position, but also 2) the lure of the pro-choice position, and why so many are duped by its rhetoric.

See what Hon. Gordon O’Connor, one of the most senior and conservative members of the Conservative Party, had to say in the first hour of debate on Motion 312:

“Whether one accepts it or not, abortion is and always will be part of society,” … “No matter how many laws some people may want government to institute against abortion, abortion cannot be eliminated. It is part of the human condition.” … “I cannot understand why those who are adamantly opposed to abortion want to impose their beliefs on others by way of the Criminal Code,” … “I want all women to continue to live in a society in which decisions on abortion can be made, one way or the other, with advice from family and a medical doctor and without the threat of legal consequences,” … “I do not want women to go back to the previous era where some were forced to obtain abortions from illegal and medically dangerous sources. This should never happen in a civilized society.”… “The Supreme Court has also declared that the right to liberty guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting private life. The decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision, and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount and take precedence over that of the state.” … “I firmly believe that each of us should be able to pursue our lifestyle as long as it is within the boundaries of law and does not interfere with the actions of others. Trying to amend the legal rules governing abortion, as is intended by this motion, will not improve the situation. It will only lead to increased conflict as the attempt is made to turn back the clock. Society has moved on and I do not believe this proposal should proceed.”

(emphasis added, see his full speech at the bottom of the Official Report * Table of Contents * Number 111 (Official Version).

The main gist of O’Connor’s argument is as follows:

1. We should be able to live how we choose as long as we are within the boundaries of law and do not interfere with the actions of others.

2. Those who oppose abortion and wish for a law restricting it are imposing their beliefs on others.

3. Living in a society that legally opposes abortion would be turning back the clock on women’s rights, which is uncivilized, undemocratic, unconstitutional, etc and also unsafe – because women would resort to illegal and medically dangerous methods of abortion (such as coat hangers, “back-alley abortions”, etc).

4. Legally, the right to liberty guarantees an individual personal autonomy over decisions that affect their private life – and decisions over their body.

5. The decision over whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is a moral decision affecting the private life of the individual woman.

6. Thus, the only thing a woman must consider in having an abortion is her own conscience, and not the laws of the state.

7. Therefore, abortion is and always will be a part of society, a part of the human condition.

But is his argument true?

Not in accordance with reality: abortion is not about a woman’s right to choose – for her choice directly and intentionally kills the life of an innocent child in the womb. That is why we need to unmask choice for what it is – and cut through the ludicrous but luring layers of the pro-choice “onion,” if you will.

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

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

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

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.


[1] http://www.stephenwoodworth.ca/canadas-400-year-old-definition-of-human-being/motion-312

[2]  Read Woodworth’s entire speech to reporters, “Don’t accept any law that says some human beings are not human beings!” http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/02/06/dont-accept-any-law-that-says-some-human-beings-are-not-human-beings/

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/02/06/pol-abortion-conservative-motion.html

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

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

This post was written for McMaster Lifeline by Julia. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

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.


[1] http://www.stephenwoodworth.ca/canadas-400-year-old-definition-of-human-being/motion-312

[2]  Read Woodworth’s entire speech to reporters, “Don’t accept any law that says some human beings are not human beings!” http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/02/06/dont-accept-any-law-that-says-some-human-beings-are-not-human-beings/

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/02/06/pol-abortion-conservative-motion.html

Read the comments at the McMaster Lifeline website.

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