On July 29, the London Times carried an account of the judgment handed down by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, Q.C., in a case involving housing.  “Regina v. Newham London Borough Council.”  For the purposes of the Housing Act of 1985, the judge ruled that an unborn child was “a person who might reasonably be expected to reside” with a pregnant homeless woman.  He said it was unreasonable of Mrs. Janet Dada to refuse accommodation to the woman as unsuitable.

His Lordship declared that person normally meant a living person but could include an unborn child.  The housing legislation was designed for the purpose of bringing a family together, if not keeping families together.  Given that legislative framework, an unintentionally homeless couple awaiting the arrival of their baby was entitled to assume that the accommodation being made available to them would accommodate the extra person.  Section 75 of the Act was phrased in the future:  “any other person who might reasonably be expected to reside with him,” and that “other person” could linguistically include an unexpected baby.

Since the purpose of the legislation was to confer a right on the homeless person, and benefit members of his family, it could hardly  be said that Parliament intended to exclude the unborn child.  The local authority, when assigning accommodation, had to take account of the impending addition to the family.  Indeed a section of the Act gave priority to a pregnant woman; the priority arose from the very fact that she was with child.  It would be odd if she had to occupy accommodation which would be rendered unsuitable almost immediately after her taking up residence in it.

Henry Morgentaler has often described the fetus as merely a blob of tissue, something of hardly any account whatsoever.  The judges on our Supreme Court, in the Daigle decision, referred to the child in the womb, a child which had nearly reached viability, as merely potential life.

English legal precedents often have an impact on Canadian judicial proceedings. Let us hope that our own lawyers and judges pay due attention to this decision, which treated the child in its mother’s womb as something which has to be accommodated, because, after all, that child is a person.