If we’re going to re-open the abortion debate, let’s ask serious questions

MP Rod Bruinooge is the new Chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. In a National Post op-ed (http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/story.html?id=1121520), he cites two reasons for wanting to reopen the abortion debate.

First, we value kidneys more than we value fetuses because it is illegal to remove your own kidney and sell it on E-Bay, but it isn’t illegal to remove an unborn child.

Second, he says that devaluing fetuses leads to a decline in the birth rate. Given the massive numbers of children living in poverty or dysfunctional situations around the world, having children simply to pump up the birth rate seems like dubious public policy. But we’ll set that aside.

Here are some questions that Mr. Bruinooge and the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus should answer – seriously. They are issues of law, not emotion and belief.

1. If the fetus is given the “right to life” inside the womb, will it also have the right to protection? For example, what if the mother deliberately engages in risky behaviour while pregnant (such as x-treme skiing or strenuous aerobics) that results in the death of the fetus. Does the angry father, or the state on behalf of the victim,  charge the mother with negligent homicide now that the fetus is legally a person?

2. Will the fetus also have the right to a good quality of life in the womb? What if the mother chooses to smoke or drink? Could the state  physically constrain the mother (say, in an institution) to prevent her from causing harm to another person?

3. Is “life” the only human right we are going to extend to the fetus, or does extending the “right to life” also accrue other legal human rights? For example, would it have the right to inherit if a relative died, before the pregnancy was even known, leaving the estate to be “divided equally amongst the grandchildren” – including one or more he had no knowledge of?

Surely any pro-life legislation would make perfectly clear the limitations of the fetus’ human rights, but creating two classes of “persons” is tricky business. Someone, somewhere, will challenge those boundaries in the Courts when it suits them to do so (often about the money) and Courts tend to err on the side of awarding more human rights, not fewer.

As a Conservative, I did not support Ken Epp’s Private Member’s Bill to allow the state to charge a person with two counts of murder if he killed a pregnant woman. While emotionally appealing, the Bill opened up all of these questions without answering them. If a third party can be charged with a fetus’ death, why not a mother if she is careless? If the fetus is a person for purposes of murder, how can it not be a person in other circumstances? How can we legally put in place sensible limitations that would stand up in Court?

I am a Conservative. I believe in individual responsibility and accountability and I don’t like government making decisions on my behalf. I don’t understand why some of my Conservative colleagues are determined to restrict government interference in the economic marketplace, and yet eagerly meddle in private matters where thoughtful and intelligent people disagree.

Abortion is between a woman and her God. The state has no business getting in the middle of that relationship.


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