Bill C-484, Ken Epp’s private member’s bill entitled the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, has passed First Reading and has had its first hour of debate. Thus far, there has been no political maneuvering to try to prevent discussion on it, nor have Department of Justice shenanigans declared the bill unconstitutional because it infringes on a woman’s “right to choose.” It is still a longshot to get passed, despite the fact nearly three-quarters of Canadians (72 per cent, according to an Environics poll) want legal protection for unborn victims of violent crime, because abortion supporters dubiously claim Epp’s bill will restrict abortion.

Joyce Arthur, a mouthpiece for the abortion industry in Canada, has said “fetal homicide” laws have been used in the United States “mostly against pregnant women themselves, not third parties who assault pregnant women.” She claims “dozens of pregnant women … have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed for behaviour perceived to harm their fetuses.”

But Denise Burke, legal director of Americans United for Life, has stated unequivocally that “there are no cases” of “prosecuted mothers under fetal homicide statutes.” As Ken Epp has said, “Anyone who takes the time to read the text of C-484” will see that it “protects pregnant women and their babies by making it a crime to injure or cause the death of a woman’s pre-born child when the woman is the victim of crime.”

Epp is being excessively kind in saying that Arthur is “misinformed” about his bill. Others might say she is knowingly misrepresenting it.

That said, it has not been lost on the public that pro-lifers are supportive of this bill, but not because it will outlaw abortion. Pro-lifers support an unborn victims law because it is plain common sense.

Pro-abortionists don’t believe the bill’s supporters when they say such legislation is unrelated to abortion, in part because many pro-lifers have not explained clearly why they support the bill. To understand this point, imagine a scenario where abortion is illegal and unborn victims of violent crime still have no recourse to justice. Would pro-lifers still support an unborn victims of crime law?

Of course they would. Pro-lifers are not concerned only with abortion, but also with any issue that fails to recognize the sanctity of human life. That is why pro-lifers who oppose abortion also oppose euthanasia, unjust war, extreme poverty, slavery and other degradations of human life. When the law does nothing to recognize that the child in the womb is a human being worthy of recourse to justice, that law abrogates the dignity and rights of the unborn child. Is this bill pro-life? Yes, in as much as it recognizes a human life previously unrecognized in law.

Unborn victims of violence (or crime) laws address the injustice of not recognizing the humanity of the unborn. That is a good and worthwhile thing, whether or not abortion is legal or illegal and whether or not the legislation affects abortion. It is notable that some of the families of victims – families who have lost not just daughters and sisters, but grandchildren and nieces – who support Epp’s (and before his, Leon Benoit’s) bill recognizing unborn victims of crime, also support legal abortion. It is ludicrous and desperate for pro-abortionists to frighten the public as if this type of legislation would restrict abortion.

The bill is written narrowly, so that it only comes into effect when crimes are also committed against the mother. It cannot, by definition, be used to punish abortionists (unless the abortionist harms the child while committing a crime against her mother), because abortion is legal is Canada. The bill uses language that describes injury or death to the unborn child during the commission of a crime committed against the mother.

To the chagrin of some pro-lifers, Epp’s bill explicitly recognizes the legal legitimacy of abortion and employs the use of pro-abortion and “choice” language in making clear “this section does not apply in respect of … conduct relating to the lawful termination of a pregnancy.” Unfortunately, the cost of getting the bill passed may be by addressing the worries of less radical abortion-rights supporters.

Pro-life activists are seen as leading the fight for legal protection for unborn victims of violence, because there are not many constituencies demanding this type of legislation. Other than the families of violent crime victims who have lost unborn grandchildren, nieces and nephews, there are few other constituencies demanding a change to the law.

That said, the pro-life community in Canada has tried to take a backseat in this debate. It has offered its support to the victims’ families and worked with politicians when asked, but it has not mounted a large-scale public campaign for the legislation. At this time, such a strategy has not been deemed necessary.

Some pro-lifers are privately skeptical about the chances of C-484 passing. Pro-abortion opposition and political maneuvering could prevent it from passing and the issue will die on the House floor if an election is called. But even if it doesn’t pass, the debate this time might serve to change the terms of debate the next time it is introduced, build support for such legislation and open the door to such legislation passing in the future. Recall that it took three attempts to get partial-birth abortion prohibited by federal law in the United States.

Whether or not C-484 passes, this is one fight not in the battle against abortion, but in the fight for life.