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Response to ColesCountyDem (Reply #65)

Tue Jan 20, 2015, 08:57 AM

69. Fetal homicide laws are a slippery slope and wrong.

Like "Unborn Victims of Crime Acts"

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=171ab1e2-a77b-4791-a646-0ebc27512b9a

Fetal homicide laws are not the answer

Margaret Somerville ("New life matters, Nov. 6) and others in these pages have called for legal recognition for fetuses when pregnant women are murdered, which has occurred five times in Canada since 2004. The victims and families of such horrific tragedies deserve our deepest sympathy. However, creating a "fetal homicide" law that would allow murder charges to be laid for the death of a fetus would be an unconstitutional infringement on women's rights, and would likely result in harms against pregnant women.

When pregnant women are assaulted or killed, it's a domestic violence issue and it's well known that violence against women increases during pregnancy. What we need are better measures to protect women in general, and pregnant women in particular, from domestic violence. A "fetal homicide" law would completely sidestep the issue of domestic abuse and do nothing to protect pregnant women.

Canadian women have guaranteed rights and equality, while fetuses do not. Legally speaking, it would be extremely difficult to justify compromising women's established rights in favour of the theoretical rights of fetuses. The Supreme Court has ruled (in Dobson vs. Dobson, 1999) that a womanandher fetusareconsidered "physically one" person under the law. Separating a woman from her fetus under the law creates a harmful, adversarial relationship between a woman and her fetus. For example, if pregnant women are threatened with arrest for abusing drugs, they are less likely to seek pre-natal care.

...

In the U.S., pregnant women have been arrested even under fetal protection laws that exempt the pregnant woman herself from prosecution. That's because a law that recognizes fetal rights creates a confusing legal contradiction. If a fetus has the right not to be "murdered" in the womb by a third party, why doesn't it have the right not to be "murdered" by its own mother? In practice, these contradictory laws create a dangerous slippery slope towards criminalizing pregnant women for their behaviours while pregnant.



In Canada, the judicial system routinely takes aggravating circumstances into account. In the case of an assault or murder of a pregnant woman, even though a third party cannot be charged separately with harm to the fetus, prosecutors may recommend more serious charges, judges may impose harsher penalties and parole boards may deny parole to convicted perpetrators.

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