National Affairs Rory Leishman

What accounts for the frenzied reaction by advocates of legalized abortion to the private member’s motion introduced by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth. If passed, M-312 would mandate a committee of the House of Commons to determine if the preponderance of medical evidence is consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code that, for the purposes of the law, a child becomes a human being at the moment of complete birth?

After all, the outcome of such an inquiry is a foregone conclusion. Even most proponents of abortion on demand no longer pretend that a baby in the womb is less than human.

Evidently, leaders of the abortion movement oppose Woodworth’s bill for fear that any inquiry in Parliament about when human life begins could reignite the national debate on abortion. And they have good reason to feel apprehensive about their arguments for justifying the deliberate killing of babies in the womb cannot stand up to reasonable examination.

Consider the views of Joyce Arthur, executive director of the so-called Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. In a statement opposing Woodworth’s bill, she admits: “Fetuses are biologically ‘human’.” Furthermore, she states: “Women do not decide to have an abortion because they think the fetus is a ‘clump of tissue’ or even because it’s their ‘right to choose.’ They have abortions because they don’t want to have a baby.”

That’s the plain, dreadful truth: tens of thousands of Canadian women annually choose to have an abortion of convenience, although they know that a baby in the womb is a living human being.

To justify such brutality, Arthur trots out the threadbare argument that human beings have no right to life until they acquire the key aspects of personhood including, she says, “the ability to experience human emotions.”

In a public debate with Arthur, Woodworth countered that the personhood argument can also be used to condone infanticide. As evidence, he cited the notorious recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics in which two Oxford-affiliated academics argue that both newborns and  babies in the womb have no right to life because they are only “potential persons” that are incapable of attributing any value to their own existence. On this basis, the authors perversely conclude: “What we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

At least, Arthur rejects this appalling justification for killing infants. She alleges that academic bioethicists who sanction both abortion and infanticide fail to recognize the fundamental difference between fetuses and newborns. She explains: “A fetus is totally dependent on one particular woman for its survival, unlike a newborn that can be placed in the care of another. A pregnant woman has no such option with her fetus, which is why her rights must prevail.”

That’s the best that Arthur can offer to defend the indefensible.

The proponents of abortion on demand in Parliament can do no better. Leading off debate on Woodworth’s bill in the Commons for the NDP, Françoise Boivin, NDP justice critic, stated: “The Criminal Code stipulates that the fetus is not a human being. This definition makes sense.”

Supposing that Parliament takes Woodworth’s view that a child in the womb is a human being, Boivin added: “Imagine what will happen. We will end up criminalizing abortion again. If a child becomes a human being from the moment of its conception, will someone in this chamber then turn around and say that we are going to kill a human being? No way.”

Evidently, Boivin does not grasp that most members of Parliament understand that regardless of what the Criminal Code might provide, a baby in the womb is a living human being. Yet apart from a few stalwart pro-lifers, these same MPs, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will do nothing to rectify the scandalous vacuum in the laws of Canada that allows a mother to kill her baby in the womb for any reason and at any time during a pregnancy up to the moment of birth.

Woodworth deserves credit for provoking this debate. In doing so, he has helped to demonstrate once again that legalized abortion can never be justified.