Many other groups sign declaration
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has issued a statement in support of Motion 312, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s private member’s personhood motion that comes to a vote on Sept. 26.
The CCCB’s statement also complements a separate declaration signed by 60 high-profile groups and individuals in support of Woodworth’s private member’s motion that is scheduled for its second and final hour of debate Sept. 21.
“As the House of Commons prepares to debate Motion 312, 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,” said CCCB President Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith in the Sept. 18 statement. “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.”
Archbishop Smith stressed the Church’s teaching on human life. “The Catholic Church holds that a human being comes into existence at conception,” he said. “The lives of human beings are, therefore, sacred at every stage in our existence -- from beginning to natural end.”
The CCCB’s statement issued Sept. 18 came out as The Declaration of Support for Parliamentary Study of Canada’s Legal Definition of “Human Being” was sent to Members of Parliament. The Declaration was released to the public on Sept. 19.
“We the undersigned express our support for Motion No. 312 and the establishment of a special committee of the House of Commons to review the declaration in subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only ‘when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother,’” says the Declaration.
“The Declaration is the result of a group effort to encourage Parliamentarians to do the right thing. It comes from the realization that we, as Canadians, can accomplish things working together better than we can pursuing similar goals separately,” said the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) vice president and general legal counsel Don Hutchinson, who is director of the EFC’s Centre for Faith and Public Life in Ottawa.
“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,” he said. “In all of these situations, the courts have felt bound by the decision of Parliament to not debate and declare whether or not Canada has an interest in children prior to birth. Canada stands with China and North Korea in that regard.
“It is Parliament’s responsibility to examine that issue; and, it will necessarily involve consideration of whether Canada’s abortion law should be changed from no restrictions to some form of restriction.”
“The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) decided to sign on because of its conviction that a civilized country must respect every human being's inalienable worth and dignity,” said COLF director Michele Boulva. “People today swear by science. Why then be afraid of what science has to say about the beginning of life? “
“Why refuse to debate? When a law is unjust, it is each citizen's duty to demand a new one,” she said.
In addition to COLF, the declaration is signed by Priests for Life Canada, the Canadian association of the Knights of Columbus, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), evangelical churches from Baptist, Pentecostal, Mennonite and Reformed traditions, REAL Women of Canada, the Christian Legal Fellowship, and various pro-life organizations such as the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform and WeNeedaLaw.ca.
“We, each from our respective theological, philosophical and professional traditions, understand human life to begin at some point in time prior to that defined in subsection 223 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada,” it says. “A significant number of theologians, philosophers, jurists, doctors and scientists consider human life to begin at fertilization.”
The declaration, also signed by several physicians and lawyers, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, and Canadian Physicians for Life, notes that most mothers consider the baby developing in their womb is human.
“Fetology recognizes the pre-born child as a patient along with the mother,” it says. “The courts are regularly called upon to assess the best interests of the child, including assessment of the interests of the state in the pre-born child.”
The declaration also points out some ethicists have argued the recognition of child as a human being “comes to early” and have recommended it should “be put off until up to three years” after birth.
“A parliamentary committee would bring the nation’s best interests to bear on the contrast between these attitudes toward children,” he said.
As the Declaration arrived in the mailboxes of MPs, one of the groups organizing a postcard campaign reported the House of Commons mailroom is clogged up with mail in support of Motion 312. Miles Driedger founder of MP Postcards said he had printed 69,000 cards and quotes Woodworth in a Sept. 18 news release saying “I understand the volume of messages received through this postcard campaign has tested the limits of the House of Commons postal service.”
Letters4Life, another campaign begun by Alexandra Jezierski, 17, last May is pushing towards a goal of 100,000 letters to the Prime Minister in support of the motion.
The Archdiocese of Toronto endorsed Motion 312 in a Sept. 12 blog post.
“As Catholics, we firmly believe that life begins at the moment of conception. Yet our criminal code seems to suggest otherwise. Motion 312 provides an opportunity for us to affirm that belief, to dialogue with our elected representatives and respectfully express our views to them,” it says. “There are many within the Catholic community, people of other faiths and no faith at all that have been working on life issues for decades, trying to re-open the debate and determine the best way to move pro-life legislation forward in our country.”