National Affairs Rory Leishman

National Affairs Rory Leishman

In a remarkable article entitled, “New Life Matters,” which was published in the National Poston Nov. 6, Margaret Somerville, the founding director of the Centre for Law, Ethics and Medicine at McGill University, acknowledged: “The fetus is a new human life” and she added: “That matters ethically and should matter legally.”

Quite so. Somerville advanced this argument in the course of discussing criminal assaults on pregnant women. She noted: “In the past three years, at least five pregnant women, along with their babies, have been killed in Canada in violent attacks.” Yet, in every case, the offender could only be charged with killing the mother. There is no provision in the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting the deliberate killing or injuring of a baby in the womb.

That does not sit well with most Canadians. In a recent Environics Poll, 72 per cent said they would support legislation making it a separate crime to kill or injure a fetus during a criminal attack on the mother. In this same poll, Canadians were asked: “At what point in human development should the law protect human life?” In response, 34 per cent of the women and 26 per cent of the men said from conception on. Altogether, 62 per cent said the law should protect babies at some time prior to birth.

As it is, thanks to the calamitous 1988 ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in Morgentaler, Canada has no law protecting human life in the womb from abortion. Canada also has no law prohibiting the killing or wounding of a baby in the womb by any means other than abortion because, in conformity with the policy preference of the Supreme Court of Canada, Parliament has specified in Section 223 of the Criminal Code that: “A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.”

One is reminded of the immortal words of Mr. Bumble: “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass – a idiot.”

Somerville observed in her article: “Seeing the fetus as an unborn victim of crime … causes us to see the fetus as what it is, an early human life. Those who support abortion must be able to square that fact with their belief that abortion is ethical in certain circumstances.” Somerville counts herself among those who believe that abortion is ethical in certain circumstances. It follows, by her own logic, that she must also believe it is ethical in certain circumstances to kill an innocent human being.

That proposition is dead wrong. Our Judeo-Christian civilization is based on the principle: “Thou shalt not kill.” And it follows that no circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being either inside or outside the womb.

As a medical ethicist, Somerville should champion the sanctity of all human life, but, like so many of her trendy academic colleagues, she fails to do so. At least, though, she supports an unborn victims of crime act as well as some restrictions on abortion, including the enactment of an informed-consent law stipulating that prior to consenting to an abortion, “the woman must be given information about the mental and physical health risks abortion poses.”

Somerville also favours the adoption of a fetal pain awareness act requiring a physician to advise a woman who is contemplating a later-term abortion about scientific evidence indicating that after 20 weeks, an abortion causes the fetus to die “in excruciating pain.” Somerville furthermore proposes that under this same law, the woman would “have to be offered anesthesia for the fetus, which it would be her choice to take or decline.”

The mind boggles. How can anyone suggest that the law should allow a mother to refuse anesthesia to her baby prior to an abortion and thereby condemn the child to death in excruciating pain? Surely, Somerville will promptly reconsider this barbaric suggestion.

In concluding her article, Somerville underlined what should be an obvious truth – that “having no law (on abortion) is not a neutral stance. It contravenes values that form part of the bedrock of Canadian society.”