May Warns of Sabotage to Women’s Rights

Conservative Stephen Woodworth’s motion M-312 on the legal status of abortion to be introduced in the House of Commons today for debate will, if passed, effectively re-open the tragically divisive abortion debate – thus threatening the hard-won reproductive rights of Canadian women.

“This motion is a back-door attempt to re-open the abortion debate,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands.  “The Green Party opposes any move by the Harper Conservatives to diminish the right of a woman to a safe, legal abortion. We fully support a woman’s fundamental right to choose.”

What some have labelled the “Men Who Stare at Zygotes Motion” calls for a special parliamentary committee to examine whether the Criminal Code definition of when a child becomes a “human being” should be changed to extend legal personhood to fetuses.

“If that were to happen, it would remove women’s rights as full human beings, and possibly even criminalize their decision-making during pregnancy,” said May.

M-312 is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money because it raises issues which have already been dealt with by Canada’s Supreme Court (including in Tremblay v. Daigle, Dobson v. Dobson, Winnipeg Child & Family Services v. Ms.G.D.F., Borowski v. Attorney General of Canada, and R. v. Morgentaler.)

The law has always treated a pregnant woman and her fetus as one person. The courts have stated that the intimate connection between a woman and her fetus cannot be considered in isolation, and that giving rights to fetuses would impose a duty of care on a pregnant woman that could result in extensive and unacceptable intrusions into her bodily integrity, privacy, and autonomy.

Fetal personhood would seriously undermine the constitutional rights of women who need abortions, but also the rights of any pregnant woman.  

“In the U.S., hundreds of women have been prosecuted because of so-called “fetal homicide” laws and thousands more have been subjected to punitive and counter-productive child-welfare interventions that treat what women do or experience during pregnancy as evidence of child neglect or abuse,” May warned.  “This is cruel and short-sighted.

Through the Green Party’s “pro-life, pro-choice” position, it is committed to expanding programs in reproductive rights and education to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place, thus reducing the number of abortions in Canada.  Greens have also advocated the expansion of supports for low-income mothers who wish to have a child, but may consider abortion due to lack of resources.

“It is vital that safe, legal abortions be available to the women of Canada – and the world. Contrary to the Harper Conservatives, we also fully support federally-funded maternal health programmes to ensure access to family planning and primary health care, including access to safe, legal abortions.  These are rights we should be expanding, not threatening,” May concluded.