On March 21, 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a baby who died in the process of being born was not a “legal person” and therefore could not be counted as a human being.
The Supreme Court judgment in the midwives case was welcomed by representatives of radical feminist groups. “It’s a good decision …consistent with the Women’s equality,” said Helen Orton, a lawyer with the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. Similarly Judy Rebick, head of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, described it as a “very positive decision” because it denied legal status to the unborn.
However, Peter Stockland of the Ottawa Sun was shocked by the decision, and wrote a column on it entitled “Evil Logic.” Quoting a nurse who pointed out that the child’s head had emerged from its mother’s body and who asked: “What did they think that head was if it was not part of a human being?” He asked his own questions: “What, indeed! Was it, perchance, some part of a dolphin? Or perhaps it was a chimpanzee? Anyone vote for a cocker spaniel?
Mr. Stockland should not have been so surprised. This judgment was consistent with the Court’s Morgentaler (1988) and Daigle (1989) decisions, as well as with the radical feminist understanding of what women’s equality implies.
The late philosopher George Grant, in an article entitled “The Triumph of the Will,” was highly critical of the majority’s reasoning in the 1988 Morgentaler decision. :When society puts power into the hands of the courts,” he wrote, “they had better be educated.” In a footnote he added, “The more the justices quote philosophy or religious tradition the less they give the sense they understand what they are dealing with.”
But, like Peter Stockland later, he himself did understand. In their judgments dealing with life issues, the judges have made decisions which are perfectly consistent with one principle: never let the facts of life interfere with the facts of law.
The ancients knew that the child in the womb counted for something.
Justina’s Digest of Roman Law said that in that legal tradition pregnancy conferred temporary immunity upon women: if condemned to the extreme penalty, they could not be executed until they had given birth. Similarly they could not be examined under torture, since this brutal procedure would undoubtedly result in the miscarriage of the fetus (baby).
As many an English novel of the eighteenth century makes clear, the Roman custom became the basis of the English common law; women could be hanged for thievery, but not if they were with child.
Through the centuries, then, society was perfectly well aware that the child in the womb actually existed and deserved protection. In our more ‘enlightened’ times, however, we know ‘better’. That’s how we end the darkness.
In the Borowski case in Regina (1983) and again in the Borowski hearing before the Supreme Court (1988), the courts were given all the evidence they needed. Expert testimony by fetologists of great renown showed that child in the womb is a human being. The justices had no right to ignore such evidence and continue repeating the nonsense that the child is not a human being until it is completely severed from its mother’s body.
One of those same expert witnessed, Dr. Jerome Lejeune, testified again in the frozen embryos case in Tennessee in the fall of 1989. His testimony, wrote Dr. J. C. Wilke in summarizing it in the National Right to Life News, was “overwhelmingly … scientifically, minutely accurate.”
The facts he brought forward were reflected in the judge’s conclusion that “From fertilization, the cells of a human embryo are differentiated, unique and specialized to the highest degree of distinction,” and so “human life begins at conception.”
Dr. Lejeune gave a minutely detailed description of fertilization. There are 23 pieces of genetic information carried by the sperm, he said, and 23 carried by the ovum. Because each sperm and each ovum are not exactly the same, the union of the two creates a new human who ”has never occurred before and will never occur again.” Contained within the first cell is all that is needed to build an individual, the particular person we will later name and raise and love.
The expert witness for the husband in this case had used the term ‘pre-embryo’ to describe the new human being during his or her first fourteen days of life. The term is now being used, apparently to dehumanize these tiny human beings so that they can be experimented on.
Dr. Lejeune said that he was surprised when he first heard the expression: all the authorities have agreed that when the fertilized egg splits into two cells this is called a two-celled embryo. Once you have a zygote (a fertilized egg), it divides into an embryo and that is all there is to it. The amount of information in the one-celled body, the fertilized egg, if spelled out, could not be contained in all of NASA’s computers.
In part his testimony dealt with recent discoveries; at one point he said, “Two years ago I would not have been able to give you this very simple but extremely valuable information which we now know beyond any doubt.”
In summing up what we know about fertilization, he declared, we now have proof that these early human beings “are not parts that we can take at random, not experimental material that we can throw away after using, not commodities we can freeze and defreeze at our will, not property that we can exchange.”
Science has a very simple concept of man, he added. “As soon as he has been conceived, a man is a man.”
When the father’s attorney asked him whether it was his opinion that a fetus is a human being, Dr. Lejeune replied, “It is not my opinion, but the teaching of all genetics. It’s no doubt a human being because it’s not a chimpanzee.”
Asked about abortion, he replied, “it’s no good, it’s killing a member of our species.”
Our Supreme Court justices appear as unscientific as distinguished members of the Flat Earth society.