In Canada, there is a pro-life caucus in Parliament that allegedly spans all three major parties. No one really knows what this caucus actually does, but I feel that the fact that it exists is bad enough.
Well, I can tell you one thing this caucus does. They come up with really shady ideas for how to sneak anti-choice language and concepts into Canadian law. Two years ago, it was Bill C-484, otherwise known as the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, a private member’s bill introduced by Conservative MP Ken Epp. Ostensibly this bill was to protect pregnant women from violence, by making killing a pregnant woman some kind of double homicide. Never mind that this bill would be completely about punishment and would do nothing to prevent violence. The real problem was that it was a sneaky way for anti-choice Members of Parliament to characterize a fetus as a person, and thus to get the ball rolling on “protecting” said “person.” A foot in the door.
Bill C-484 caught the pro-choice lobby off guard, across the country. It failed to pass, but it got much further than anyone expected, and we came frighteningly close to the kind of fetus-as-person slippery slope legislation that is happening increasingly in the States (I’m looking at you, Nebraska). Now, C-484 has been blogged to death. But there’s a new bill in town that’s starting to look suspiciously similar.
On April 15, the Star reported that Ron Bruinooge, the chair of the aforementioned pro-life caucus, has introduced a private member’s bill to criminalize “coerced abortions”. So anyone who coerces a woman into having an abortion will be penalized (no word yet on what kind of punishments we’re looking at).
We can all agree that forcing a woman to have an abortion is wrong, yes? So whatever is the problem here? Well, the red flags came up for me as soon as I saw who was introducing the bill, because I happen to know that Bruinooge is an anti-choice douchebag. I feel like there is no good reason for him to be wading into this topic unless it’s a sleazy, backhanded attempt to reopen the abortion debate. But heck, I’m feeling generous, so let’s give Bruinooge the benefit of the doubt for a moment and assume he is really concerned about women’s safety and has a good reason for introducing this legislation.
From the Star:
“Bruinooge, who hopes that debate on his “coerced abortion” bill will start in the Commons in coming months, said he was moved to draw up this legislation because of the 2007 murder of a young woman in his riding, Roxanne Fernando.
Fernando was killed after her boyfriend attempted to force her into having an abortion and she backed away from the decision. Bruinooge says he’s satisfied that Fernando’s killers have been punished severely, but he’s hoping that a more specific law against coerced abortions would deter similar crimes in the future.”
Uh-huh, ok. So clearly if we had a law that says you can’t coerce women into having abortion, things would have turned out differently in this case…how?
As far as I can see, there was a very clear crime committed here: murder. We have laws for that. But the underlying problem is evident in this story, too: intimate partner violence. Obviously this young woman was in an abusive relationship, and while I don’t know this particular situation, maybe instead of legislating against coerced abortions, we should do something about enforcing the laws we already have about abuse and violence? Not to mention social programs and preventative measures.
I feel that in most cases, someone being coerced into having an abortion (or being coerced into carrying a pregnancy to term, something about which Bruinooge seems strangely unconcerned) is in an abusive situation. The coercion is not the problem here; it is a symptom of the main problem, ABUSE. This is something we know about and which politicians don’t pay enough attention: except, of course, when abortion is involved.
In this way, the proposed “coerced abortions” bill is similar to C-484, in that it uses domestic abuse and violence against women as an excuse to sneak limitations on abortion into law. It’s quite simply disgusting, like a cruel joke played on violence survivors who couldn’t get the help they needed from the police or from these same politicians. Ron Bruinooge, if you care about women in coercive situations, step up and start actually working against domestic violence. There are plenty of organizations (including government-funded agencies whose funding your government has cut severely) who would be happy to help you find a way to do so. But if all you care about is abortion (and I suspect this is the case), then there are many ways to join the fight in preventing the need for abortion without resorting to using women’s suffering as a step up into limiting women’s rights.