If there is anything of value to come out of the recent decision in the Brenda Drummond case, it is that it has at least got more people thinking about the humanity of the unborn child.
To be sure, pro-lifers are distressed and saddened by Madam Justice Inger Hansen’s decision not to proceed with charges against the Ottawa-area postal employee who shot her unborn child with a pellet rifle in an attempt at self-abortion. This is not a case of simply seeking retribution against a desperate individual. While we can offer sympathy to anyone driven to such drastic measures, we should not overlook the other victim in this incident. Nor should we lose sight of the kind of message this case puts forth about the humanity of the unborn.
Drummond’s son Jonathan, who thankfully survived the assault and appears to have made a full recovery, represents millions of pre-born children who have fallen through the cracks in the Canadian justice system. As far as the current law is concerned, the unborn are non-persons, occupying a legal vacuum until the moment they come into the world and are at last afforded rights and recognition.
As Alliance for Life executive director Anna Desilets says in a letter in this issue of The Interim, “An act of aggression was carried out on what everyone knows was a baby a few days before birth –yet he was a nothing to the legal minds… What the Drummond case reveals is a crying need for law in Canada to recognize the personhood of the unborn child so that it can be accorded the legal protection given to all other human beings under our Constitution.”
Desilets and others are correct in arguing that anything short of a change in the law is simple discrimination against the youngest and most vulnerable members of our human family.
Both Crown and defence attorneys in the Drummond case recognize the gaps in Canadian law when it comes to protecting unborn children. An official with the Attorney-General’s office even referred to a 1989 report by the Law Reform Commission of Canada, which recommended the drawing up of new legislation to prevent similar abuses to unborn children.
It all comes down to the definition of personhood. Until such time as the unborn are recognized as distinct human beings from the moment of conception, they will continue to be exposed to a host of perils.
It’s time for Parliament to take up this matter in earnest. The current law, which holds that unborn children have no legal rights until they fully pass from their mother’s womb, is woefully inadequate for today’s realities.