A stabbing incident in 1981, antiquated medico-legal definitions, and the overwhelming desire to preserve the fiction that abortion does not kill a human being, have combined to create a curious court case in Manitoba.

On New Year’s Day 1981, Sandra Prince stabbed Bernice Daniels in the abdomen; Daniels was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. As a result of the stabbing, an infection developed, an infection developed in the amniotic fluid surrounding the unborn child and six days later Daniels went into premature labour and delivered a baby boy weighing 400 grams. The baby lived for only 19 minutes after birth. Sandra Prince was subsequently charged with both assault and manslaughter.

At trial, Prince’s lawyer successfully argued that the assault plus manslaughter charges constituted double jeopardy. In other words, his client could not be charged with two crimes resulting from a single criminal act against Bernice Daniels. The Court found Prince guilty of “assault with intent to maim Daniels,” and sentenced her to six months in jail. The manslaughter charge was dismissed.

On appeal, the Manitoba Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the lower court. The Crown then appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, and, in November 1986, the Supreme Court reversed the rulings. On October 26, Prince was again in court charged with the manslaughter death of the baby.

Dr. Wei Sek Hwang, a pathologist, testified that the “fetus” had breathed after birth but due to inadequate development had been unable to sustain an independent existence.

Hersh Wolch, Prince’s defense. First is the matter of “forseeability.” Did Prince know of the pregnancy, if not, she could not forsee injury to the child. Secondly, Wolch will argue that Prince’s right to trial within a reasonable time,” has been violated. The legal wrangling over the double jeopardy issue has taken six years to resolve.

The most interesting aspect of the defense concerns Wolch’s intention to raise questions “relating to the legal definition of a human being.” How this latter line will develop is still unclear. The trial, however, seems to have sparked pro-abortion concern.

One might speculate that a manslaughter conviction in the death of a 24-week-old infant could call attention to the terrible contradiction which exists in the alleged “right” to kill babies of the same age by abortion. Another conundrum results from the fact that if the baby had died 19 minutes in the womb, Prince could not have been charged with manslaughter. What about the doctors who are responsible for the deaths of babies who die after birth in hospitals across this country, following an assault by an abortionist?

Section 206 (1) of the Criminal Code states “A child becomes a human being when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not it has breathed, has an independent circulation of the navel string has been severed.” Subsection (2) further states that “A person commits homicide when they cause injury to a child before birth, as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.”

Both definitions are medically and scientifically inaccurate and would in fact be laughable if it were not recognized that they play a major role in “legitimizing” the destruction of more than 60,000 unborn babies in Canada each year.

Newspaper headlines following the first day of the trial were indicative of the semantic gymnastics which are necessary to maintain the fiction that a 25 week-old unborn child is something less than a human. A Winnipeg Sun headline announced “Manslaughter Trial will hinge on Legal Definition of a Fetus.” The headline in the Winnipeg Free Press was even more obtuse, “Fetus Slaying Trial Expected to Focus on Start of Life.” (emphasis added) Again such headlines would be hilarious if they did not deal with such a deadly serious subject.

Following the first day of testimony the trial was adjourned. It was expected to resume in mid-November.