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Where do we go from here?

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.

I’m sure most of you have heard the discouraging news from Parliament Hill.  Roxanne’s Law, Bill C-510, was defeated last Wednesday after the second reading in the house.  Am I surprised?  Sadly, no.  It seems that politicking is more important than standing up for what is right these days.  But even though I’m not surprised, I am discouraged.

Roxanne’s Law would have been a law that stood up for women in Canada.  It did not alter or restrict access  but abortion but would have ensured that a woman’s choice to keep her baby was protected.  It protected choice.  But of course, this was seen as a “back-door way” to restrict women’s rights.  Two thirds of MPs voted against the bill and among them was our prime minister.

Mr. Harper, with respect, I’m  sick of hearing about how you don’t want to open up a debate about abortion.  The debate is open. I would think that it’s getting hard to ignore.  It’s in the newspapers, on TV, on university campuses across the nation, and on the streets of our cities.  Now please do your job and talk about it.  Since 1988, Canada has had no law on abortion.  The Supreme Court, in R. v. Morgantaler, threw out the abortion law of the time and left it up to Parliament to enact a new one.  Well, it’s been 22 years (pretty much my whole life).  I think maybe it’s about time to address the legal vacuum abortion finds itself in.

If you feel the same way, why don’t you write our prime minister an email (pm@pm.gc.ca)?  Find out how your MP voted and email him or her about it.

To Mr. Bruinooge and the 96 other MPs that voted in favour of this bill, I thank you.  It took courage to take such a stand in an environment in which lies are held up as the truth.  Event though the bill was defeated, you were successful in getting the issue of coerced abortion on the minds of Canadians.  Moreover and most importantly, you stood up for what is right and just.

I hope you, the reader, are also feeling discouraged by the defeat of this bill. Your discouragement means you’re not satisfied when our elected officials sacrifice the truth for a lie.  But don’t simply be discouraged; take that and run with it.  We must continue to work for change in Canada.

I’m convinced that this change must happen at the grassroots level.  We need to talk to people: with coworkers, classmates and friends.  If you want a good conversation starter, why not talk about Roxanne’s Law?  “Did you hear about that bill that got voted down this past week…?  What do you think about abortion anyway?”  I, myself, resolve to do this more.

We must not allow the failings of our government to drive us into despair and inaction. Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Let that inspire you to press on.


N.B.  The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.


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uOttawa Students For Life: How to Support Roxanne’s Law

This post was written for uOttawa Students For Life by uOttawa Students For Life. It does not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

A vote on Roxanne’s Law will be held on Wednesday, December 15, in the House of Commons. The goal of Bill C-510 is to provide legal protection for women who are being coerced into having an unwanted abortion. There are a few things we can do to show our support for this worthy initiative. First, write to your MP to let him or her know that you support the bill. You can use sample letters or print off and mail in a postcard. Next, sign the online petition. And then make a video! Click here for straightforward guidelines and see the sample above for inspiration. (The project is led by a religious group but all are invited to participate.) Don’t delay in showing your support!


Read the comments at the uOttawa Students For Life website.

From the IMFC: 10 Questions about Bill C-510

For your general information:

The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada has put out the below Q & A sheet to help people understand Roxanne’s Law, or Bill C-510.

Ten questions about Bill C-510

Life is busy. A cheat sheet to understand the basics about one bill being discussed on Parliament Hill

By Andrea Mrozek, Manager of Research and Communications, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada

1. What is Bill C-510? 

Bill C-510 is a private member’s bill that aims to add coercing or attempting to coerce to have an abortion as an offence to the criminal code. 

2. Why is it also called Roxanne’s Law?

Bill C-510 is named after Roxanne Fernando, a Manitoba woman whose boyfriend viciously beat her and left her in a snow bank to die because she would not have an abortion. She died in 2007 at age 24. 

3. Why do we need this bill?

In Canada today, we overwhelmingly sanction and support the abortion choice in the following ways: the legal void on abortion, meaning that a woman can freely obtain an abortion for all nine months of her pregnancy, private abortion clinics funded by taxpayers, “bubble zone” laws around clinics, which force protestors to keep a distance, public funding for Planned Parenthood, among others. This bill offers support for women who want to keep a pregnancy to term in face of intimidation and violence. 

The bill also identifies  threatening a pregnant woman as a unique form of intimidation, one we should expressly identify is wrong. Faye Sonier, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada explains in one media interview: “You could compare, for example, to the crime of assault. In the criminal code it’s broad; it includes all forms of assault. So one could easily ask why do we have a section dealing with assault with a weapon, or sexual assault or aggravated assault? It’s because the legislator and Canadians want to single out some crimes as being specifically worthy of condemnation. So for this case we want to make it clear that it is wrong to try and force a woman into aborting a child she wants to keep.” 

4. Who brought it forward?

This bill was brought forward by Conservative Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, Rod Bruinooge. He is also chair of the parliamentary pro-life caucus. Mr. Bruinooge does not have the support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Bill C-510.

5. What is a private member’s bill? 

A private member’s bill is a piece of draft legislation brought forward by a Member of Parliament who is not a Minister of the Crown or a parliamentary secretary. The order in which they are debated is subject to a random lottery. Following introduction in the House of Commons, there are two hours of debate on two separate occasions and then a vote. If the vote passes, the bill progresses to the committee stage where it is studied and changes are suggested. Once through the committee stage, the bill returns to the House of Commons for a final vote. It is then introduced in the Senate. 

6. What stage is Bill C-510 at?

It has just had its first hour of debate in the House of Commons on November 1, 2010. The second hour of debate will likely be December 6 or 7, followed by the Second Reading vote on December 8. If it passed on December 8, it would go to committee. 

7. Is there precedence for Bill C-510?

Germany, Italy, France and 13 U.S. states have similar laws.  

8. What chances does this bill have of becoming law?

There’s no real way of gauging this and support or opposition shouldn’t be based on a preconceived idea of whether the bill will pass or not. Historically, private member’s bills have had a harder time passing into law than other bills. 

9. What is accomplished if Bill C-510 doesn’t pass?

First of all, it honours the victim of a terrible crime, Roxanne Fernando. Were it not for Bill C-510, many of us would not have heard of her. Secondly, it raises the point that pregnant women can be more vulnerable, and may need additional protection be it under or outside the law. Thirdly, it raises the issue of how to protect pregnant women—a positive framing of a question we hear less and less. Finally, this bill is generating public discussion on abortion. 

10. What are possible areas of opposition? 

Some (those who are pro-abortion) have expressed concern that this bill is intended to be a first step in recriminalizing abortion. 

Others are concerned the language in the bill is too vague, and that it would be too difficult to enforce, also that our criminal code already has provisions to deal with intimidation.

Still others (those who are pro-life) are concerned about section four in the bill, which expressly states that the bill does not apply to doctors who counsel women to have an abortion to save their health or life. “This section does not apply in the case of a physician who attempts to convince a pregnant female person to have a medical intervention that results, or may result, in the death of the child when, in the physician’s best medical judgment, that medical intervention is necessary to avoid a serious threat to the female person’s physical health.”

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Roxanne’s Law: The First Debate

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.orgwrites 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.

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Roxanne’s Law (Bill C-510) Update

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.
N.B.  The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of NCLN.

A debate on Bill C-510 is scheduled for Monday’s (November 1st) session of Parliament. A vote on the bill is scheduled for December. Bill C-510, also called Roxanne’s Law, is a private member’s bill introduced by Rod Bruinooge, an MP from Winnipeg.

Essentially, the proposed amendment to the Criminal Code would criminalize the act of coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will. Under this law, a pregnant woman could press charges against a boyfriend, parent or someone else who attempts to coerce her into having an abortion. There is an exception for physicians who might counsel a woman to have an abortion to protect her life.

For the full text of the bill, click here.
This bill has proven to be controversial, even among pro-life people.  Some say it’s useless; some say it’s not enough. The fact is, however, that this bill may save the lives of unborn children, and may prevent a woman from having an abortion against her will. It may have saved Roxanne Fernando’s life.
We need to get educated about this bill, and support it. Start a letter-writing campaign. Attend the parliamentary debate (this might be easier for clubs in the Nation’s Capital). Spread awareness on your campus. As MP Bruinooge says in the video, the only way this bill will pass is if the people of Canada speak out about the value of human life.
For more information, check out www.RoxannesLaw.ca.


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