By Garnet Van Popta
Garnet Van Popta is an alumnus of uOttawa Students For Life and a guest blogger for NCLN. He is currently studying at Humber College.
Yesterday, November 1st, Bill C-510, Roxanne’s Law was debated in Parliament. The bill had its second reading, and the debate was on the topic of whether or not the bill should be “sent to committee” where it will be tweaked and adjusted before a third reading in the House of Commons. The actual vote to decide whether it will go to committee is scheduled for early December.
MP Rod Bruinooge spoke first. He told Roxanne’s story (which you can learn more about at roxanneslaw.ca), and explained why this bill is needed in Canada. He said,
“Bill C-510 would communicate to all Canadians that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong and unacceptable in a nation that values compassion, justice and human rights.
Roxanne’s Law would not affect women’s access to abortion in any way. With this law in place, Canada will continue to have no legal restrictions on the procedure permitted in all nine months of pregnancy. However, for those women who choose to have their baby, this law would give them added protection to fulfil their hopes and dreams of having a family.”
Conservative MP David Anderson spoke briefly, asking for clarification on whether the bill will restrict state coercion or personal coercion. MP Bruinooge replied that the bill dealt with personal coercion.
Next, Bloc MP Nicole Demers spoke against the bill. According to her, the abortion debate is over (a line I’ve heard a few too many times).
“They can try to dress this bill up and manipulate people in all kinds of ways, but the fact is that it would restrict access to freedom of choice. That debate is over. We do not need to talk about it again. It was clear last year when we debated maternal and child health.”
Wait a minute. The debate on maternal health last year proved the abortion debate was over? Didn’t Parliament decide not to fund abortion overseas? I would argue that this proved the abortion debate was (and is) not over.
NDP MP Irene Mathyssen argued next that this bill is another anti-women initiative by the “Harper Conservatives”.
“Bill C-510 will do nothing to reduce violence against women. Like the other anti-choice private members’ bills introduced by government backbenchers, it is a Trojan Horse.”
The reason MP Mathyssen believes this is because the bill refers to an unborn child as a child, not a fetus. This, according to Mathyssen, translates into fetal rights and infringes on the rights of women (quite a leap, according to my thinking). MP Bruinooge pointed out in his introductory speech that using the word “child” is consistent with the rest of the Criminal Code, in which the word “fetus” does not occur. This would be something, according to Bruinooge, that could be addressed by the committee.
Conservative MP Daniel Petit spoke against the bill because, according to him, it does not define some terms well enough, and is too vague.
Liberal MP Marlene Jennings also opposed the bill because of a perceived redundancy. According to Jennings, coercion is already prohibited by law, and therefore another bill is unnecessary.
Another MP, NDP Jean Crowder, was basically a mouthpiece for the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC). Almost her entire speech was made up of quotes from press releases of the ARCC. Take a look at this quote:
“The right to autonomy includes both a woman’s right to choose to have children and a woman’s right to choose not to have children. In both circumstances, we would look to the state to provide the tools and resources to support women in their decisions.”
This seems to argue in favour of Bill C-510. Roxanne’s Law would certainly be a tool of the state to support women in their making of autonomous decisions. It’s really quite clear. Crowder outlines several reasons, as taken from an ARCC press release, why this bill is not needed. One reason is as follows:
“…counsellors already screen for possible coercion in women seeking abortion. Clinics do not perform abortions on women who are conflicted or being coerced. That protection is already in place.”
I find it hard to believe that the ARCC and MP Jean Crowder say this. Even if women are not often coerced into having an abortion, one cannot say it never happens, as Crowder does here. As Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research at the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada as well as a blogger at ProWomanProLife.org, writes in the Calgary Herald,
“There are even those who report similar stories from the pro-choice side. Antichoice is anti-awesome is the blog of a volunteer co-ordinator at an abortion clinic in New Brunswick. In February 2010, she wrote about a woman who was being forced to abort by her parents. ‘The patient clearly did not want to have an abortion; while in to have her ultrasound she freaked out about the finger prick test, and then told the nurse, her mother and anyone who would listen that it was a blessing to be pregnant, a beautiful gift from God,’ she writes.”
Coerced abortion does happen, and that is why Bill C-510 is needed. I am glad Conservative MP Kelly Block spoke last, since she accurately described the purpose of the proposed law:
“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.”
I would like to end by quoting Andrea Mrozek again. I believe her article, “An abortion law we can all choose to support” (Calgary Herald, Nov. 2, 2010) very accurately frames this issue. I especially like her last two paragraphs:
“Many women who experience an unplanned pregnancy would keep the child if they thought they had support — physical, financial or emotional. And all too often that is absent. ‘It’s your choice,’ is just another way of saying ‘I don’t care.’
No law can prevent the myriad soft coercions that push a woman toward abortion. But Roxanne’s Law is a small voice empowering at least some women who, in the face of overwhelming odds and even violence, choose to say no. That’s a choice we can all support.”
All quotations from the debate taken from a transcript of the debate on OpenParliament.ca.
N.B. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.