OTTAWA, ON January 5, 2012 – Canada’s Criminal Code provisions surrounding the legal rights of the unborn child are confusing and not in step with medical and social realities. Therefore the Catholic Civil Rights League supports recent statements by MPs, including Stephen Woodworth and Jeff Watson, recommending that the provisions be discussed in Parliament.
“While most people acknowledge that human life is present from conception onward, legal personhood is a different story; it is denied until complete, live birth has occurred,” notes Joanne McGarry, League executive director. “Medical science has seen numerous advances in pre-natal treatments for the fetus, so we believe many Canadians would like to see laws affecting personhood updated to reflect today’s realities.”
As MP Stephen Woodworth stated in a December 21 media release, Section 223 (1) of the Code “defines a human being as a child who has completely proceeded in a living state from the mother’s body, whether or not the child has breathed. This means that in Canada a child is legally considered to be sub-human while his or her little toe remains in the birth canal, even if he or she is breathing.” Mr. Woodworth added that this law is based on 400-year old jurisprudence that has never been updated.
Section 223(2) also speaks to this issue, stating that a homicide occurs when a person deliberately injures a child before or during its birth and the child dies after exiting the birth canal. If the child dies before birth as a result of the same act, no charges are possible under this Section.
These laws do not reflect modern medical realities, and Parliament is the best setting to discuss whether they reflect today’s understanding of human rights and personhood. The League would support appropriate legislation to update the provisions.
Canadian MP calls for abortion debate in Parliament, LifeSite News, January 4, 2012
“We want the debate” website by Alliance for Life Ontario