Liberals and NDP accuse Conservatives of trying to take feminism backwards
By Nathan Rumohr
The B.C. Catholic
A motion to update Canada's 400-year-old definition of a person was taken as an attack on women by Canada's left-wing political parties April 26 on Parliament Hill.
Pro-life Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth tabled his private member's bill calling for a parliamentary committee to review subsection 223(1) of the criminal code. That section says a human being becomes a person only at the moment of complete birth.
"How many Canadians believe that birth is a moment of magical transformation that changes a child from a non-human to a human being? Very few," Woodworth said during his speech introducing Motion 312. "Most Canadians know that our existing definition dishonestly misrepresents the reality of who is a human being."
Woodworth said Canada's 400-year-old definition is out of date and unethical. He compared it to an early 20th century Supreme Court decree that women were not persons under Canadian law. He asked the house if current parliamentarians had been there would they not have voiced their opposition to that unjust ruling.
"Now, in the 21st century, we discover that we have a 400-year-old law that decrees some children are not human beings. Why not put up our hands and say that is wrong?"
Woodworth asked who would be next if the law continued to be accepted. He said that question was answered in an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics online by Professors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.
"They point out there is no difference between a child before birth and a newborn. Since we have already decreed that a child before birth is not a human person and a newborn is no different, then, they say, we can and should decree that a newborn infant is also not a person."
The article stated that because abortion is legal it should be legal to kill or euthanize a newborn. "This might sound like a spoof, but it is not," Woodworth commented. "It is a serious conclusion from serious academics."
The Giubilini-Minerva article shows, he said, why Parliament must reject any law that denies that some human beings are human.
Female MPs from the opposition parties accused Woodworth's motion of being a Conservative attack on women's rights. NDP MP Francoise Boivin said Woodworth had already answered his own questions in his opening speech.
"The impression that I got from listening to the honourable member's entire speech was that, in the beginning, he was trying to make us believe that his motion, Motion M-312, was a serious one and that he really wanted to conduct a comprehensive study, Boivin said, "yet he already has all the answers."
"The only point at which my views have been inserted into the motion is that it is true I have concluded that the point of complete birth is not a rational or a reasonable point at which a child suddenly transforms from a non-human into a human being," Woodworth replied.
Liberal MP Hedy Fry said the motion would make women's rights comparable to the characters in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. "Are we going to lock women up and force them to carry a child to term?" She added the debate was a waste of Parliament's time.
Niki Ashton, the NDP Status of Women and Equality Critic, also said women are being attacked by the Conservatives, accusing the party of rolling back the clock on women's rights.
"Abortion was settled in 1988 when the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional. This came after women fought hard for the right to choose."
Ashton also said that if abortion became illegal it would lead back to the days of back-alley abortionists. The 29-year-old MP said "her generation" would not go backwards on women's rights.