On a bid to divide and confuse the public on the issue of abortion, some pro-abortion zealots have taken to asking pro-lifers how much jail time they think a mother should serve for procuring an abortion for her child. In response, many pro-lifers have been tongue-tied and for good reason: the question is not amenable to any simple answer.

The Criminal Code of Canada is a flexible instrument. Rather than specify a fixed penalty for each offence, it typically authorizes a wide range of potential punishments. In determining upon a just and fair penalty for a particular crime, a judge is almost always required by law to take many pertinent factors into account, including the specific circumstances of the crime as well as the character of the accused and any prior criminal record.

Consider, in this respect, Section 251 of the Criminal Code, which was introduced by the Trudeau government in 1969. This provision stipulated that anyone who attempted to perform an illegal abortion was guilty of an indictable offence punishable by up to life imprisonment and that any pregnant female who attempted to procure the abortion of her child was likewise guilty of an indictable offence, but punishable by only up to two years’ imprisonment.

Here, then, was the viewpoint of former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau and the Parliament of Canada in 1969: any mother who attempts to have her child illegally aborted should be subject to up to two years’ imprisonment.

Few pro-lifers today would quarrel with that judgement. The problem with Section 251 was that it also authorized a so-called “therapeutic abortion committee” at an approved hospital to sanction an abortion if, in the committee’s opinion, the continuation of the pregnancy was likely to endanger the life or health of the mother. In this way, the law virtually legalized abortion on demand in Canada.

Nonetheless, in the 1988 Morgentalercase, a majority on the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Section 251 on the ground that even the few restrictions it retained on abortion were incompatible with the rights of women under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thanks to this rogue ruling, a pregnant woman can now legally obtain an abortion in Canada for any whimsical reason whatever.

In a cover story published last year in The Western Standard(June 5, 2006), Andrea Mrozek of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada cited evidence that it has become commonplace within some ethnic communities in Canada for a mother to have her baby girl aborted because she and her husband prefer a boy. The great majority of Canadians deplore such lethal discrimination against baby girls. And the same goes for most members of Parliament. In the Assisted Human Reproduction Actof 2004, Parliament banned the sex selection of embryos for in-vitro fertilization, except to prevent a sex-linked disorder or disease.

In the name of consistency and common sense, Parliament should also ban sex-selection abortions. And to make that ban effective, Parliament should stipulate in the Criminal Code that any person who kills a child in the womb solely because the mother prefers a baby of the opposite sex is guilty of a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.

The same goes for any mother who would procure such an abortion. She, no less than the abortionist, should be subject to a severe criminal penalty. Otherwise, there would be nothing to prevent a Canadian mother from obtaining a sex-selection abortion in the United States.

Let us not forget the notorious example of Chantal Daigle. In 1989, she headed off to Boston and obtained a late-term abortion in defiance of a Quebec court order. Nonetheless, she got away with this clear defiance of the law, because in a bizarre ruling in Tremblay v. Daigle, the Supreme Court of Canada retroactively authorized her abortion.

Such outrages to law and order should not be permitted. Just as Canadians have no compunction about the imposition of severe criminal penalties for conspiring to commit murder or manslaughter, so they should have no qualms about insisting that Parliament restore a provision to the Criminal Code that prescribes up to two years’ imprisonment for any mother who procures an abortion for her child.