When MP Steven Woodworth’s private member’s Motion 312 is debated in the Canadian House of Commons on Friday, September 21, Woodward will have a lot of backing.
Woodworth’s motion states “That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth.” Specifically, the committee would study four questions:
- What medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?
- Is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?
- What are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?
- What are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?
On September 18, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement in support of Woodworth’s motion. The statement said, “The Catholic Church holds that a human being comes into existence at conception. The lives of human beings are, therefore, sacred at every stage in our existence — from beginning to natural end…The Bishops of Canada invite all members of the Parliament of Canada to take into full account the sacredness of the unborn child and each human life. We also encourage Canadian Catholics, and all people of good will, to pray that our legislators be blessed with wisdom and courage to do what is best to protect and further the common good, which is based on respect for the human dignity of all.”
On September 19, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) issued a statement in support of Woodworth’s motion. The statement said EFC President Bruce J. Clemenger “has joined other Canadian leaders in signing the Declaration of Support for Parliamentary Study of Canada’s Legal Definition of “Human Being”. Over 60 organizations have signed the Declaration.
Clemenger stated, “With the developments in medicine and science over the last century, it’s time to revisit this outdated law.”
The EFC statement said that Subsection 223 (1) of the Criminal Code “was drafted based on scientific and medical knowledge of centuries long since passed.” (The wording is borrowed from a 400-year-old British law.) It added that there was also “a companion section in the Criminal Code that noted the interest of the state in the pre-born child. That section was revisited by Parliament in 1969, and its revised form struck down in 1988 because the amended form did not allow equal access nation-wide to therapeutic abortion committees.” However, the court left open the possibility of Parliament acting to protect children before birth.
EFC Vice- President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson stated that while the motion would lead Parliament to consider laws regulating abortion, “Motion 312 is not about abortion. It’s about the state’s concern for the best interests of the child prior to birth.” He explained, “The courts have been faced with many challenging situations dealing with the pre-born child – potential medical malpractice, intentional effort to kill a child in the womb, efforts by children’s aid societies to protect children in the womb from abusive mothers. In all of these situations, the courts have felt bound by the decision of Parliament to avoid debate and declaration of whether or not Canada has an interest in children prior to birth.”
In addition to organizations speaking out on the issue, there have also been grassroots campaigns in support of Woodward’s motion.
Alexandra Jezierski, a 17-year-old Ontario girl, started Letters4Life last March, with the goal of sending to Parliament 100,000 letters that “speak out against abortion.” Her efforts, combined with the MP Postcards founded by Miles Driedger (see separate article), actually resulted in 116,000 submissions being sent to Parliament. That is about the number of abortions carried out in Canada every year. In fact, so many letters were sent that LifeSite News reported it clogged the postal system in Ottawa.
Woodward admits that it is unlikely that his motion will pass (it was to be debated September 21 and will be voted on on September 26) since no party supports it, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that he will vote against it in keeping with his promise not to reopen the abortion debate
Harper apparently stated in an interview earlier this year with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, “If you want to diminish the number of abortions, you’ve got to change hearts and not laws.”
Yet the EFC notes that polling shows a large majority of Canadians are in favour of some restrictions on abortion, including forbidding abortion when the child is old enough to survive outside the womb and when abortion is used for sex selection. That information is summarized in the EFC report, Abortion Polls in Canada: A Compilation by Topic of Opinion Polling in Canada from 2007-2012.