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Pro response #1

04/02/2012 01:54 EDT | Updated 05/19/2012 05:12 EDT

I appreciate the willingness of Ms. Arthur to debate the policy of my motion (M-312).

I'll begin with what Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson said in her ruling in R v Morgentaler in 1988:

"The precise point in the development of the fetus at which the state's interest in its protection becomes "compelling" I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive guidance on the subject from all the relevant disciplines. It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester."

Clearly this jurist, with impeccable feminist credentials, believed it was wrong to refuse any recognition whatsoever to children before birth. Clearly she felt it is Parliament's duty to remedy that situation, a view shared by other courts subsequently.

Almost 80% of Canadians think that our law already does provide recognition of the rights of children during the third trimester of their development before birth. They are unaware that it does not. When informed of this, over 70% of Canadians tell us they believe our law should provide such recognition during at least the third trimester of the child's development.

Canadians know from their own experience that a child is a human being before the moment of complete birth. In other words, they know that subsection 223(1) is dishonest about children before birth.

Subsection 223(1) is, purely and simply, a law that says that some human beings are not human. And in Canada in the 21st century, we should never accept any law that says some human beings are not human.

That lesson was learned when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1859 that blacks were not persons under U.S. law. Wouldn't you and I have objected if we had been there?

We learned to reject any law that treats some human beings are not human when the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that women were not persons under some Canadian laws. Wouldn't you and I have objected if we had been there?

Now that we have discovered in the 21st century that Canada has a law which says some children are not human beings until the moment of complete birth, why would you and I fail to object?

The law that a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth entered Canadian law from British common law, where it was developed over 400 years ago. Perhaps it made medical sense in the days when leeches and bloodletting were standard treatment, but does it make medical sense in the 21st century?

Does this law make sense when parents can watch their child sucking her thumb with ultrasonography before birth? Does this law make sense when doctors can actually operate on a child before birth? Does this law make sense when we can measure a child's brain-waves and count her heartbeats before birth?

Does it make sense to say a child is not a human being when her organs are perfectly formed and she has her own unique blood type before birth?

How can we possibly justify denying that such a child is in fact a human being at some point before the moment of complete birth? This is not merely an academic question.

Canadians, of all people, understand instinctively that any law that denies fundamental rights without cogent evidence and sound principle is not legitimate. Would we want a Canada where any person or lobby group, because of their political power, can arrange a law to declare some human beings as not human simply to suit their purposes or ideology? If we accept one law that says some human beings are not human, who's next?

The question of who's next was answered on March 2, 2012 in the Journal of Medical Ethics online. The authors, Professors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, recognize that the status of a fetus is equivalent to an infant. However, they conclude that neither is a "person," and therefore claim "that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be." Although this idea pushes the envelope, it is being advocated in a respected journal by academics affiliated with respected institutions. Ideas which at first appear unthinkable often become accepted over time.

The logic of the after birth abortion proposal is compelling if you accept that our laws can legitimately say that some human beings are not human. It shows why the study of that idea, as proposed in my motion, is urgently needed.

Once the committee delivers its report, Parliament can choose to act on it or to take no action. Whatever course it chooses, Canadians will at least have the benefit of being informed by the relevant disciplines, as recommended so many years ago by Justice Bertha Wilson. It is Parliament's duty to do at least that much.

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