The Conservative government in Ottawa has nearly impeccable credentials when it comes to its tough-on-crime agenda. From minimum sentences to lessened tolerance for drug pushers to more tools for police, this government appears serious about tackling crime in Canada.

That makes it all the more disturbing that in 2006, the Prime Minister’s Office helped scuttle a private member’s bill from Conservative MP Leon Benoit that would have provided legal protection for unborn victims of violence and recourse to justice for their families.

Most American states, including liberal California, have some form of unborn victims of violence legislation, as do most European countries. In fact, Canada is an anomaly in providing no protection for the unborn child. Under Section 223, subsections 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code, a human being is defined in law (for the purpose of crime being committed) as a child who has proceeded from the body of the mother and drawn a breath.

Listening to the impassioned pleas of family members of murdered pregnant women, it is hard not to be moved to recognize that when a pregnant mother is killed, there are two victims. Mary Talbot, the mother of 19-year-old Olivia Talbot, who was killed in 2005 when she was seven months pregnant, tells the heart-wrenching story of holding her slain grandson, Lane; from her moving testimony, you can tell she feels the sting of losing her grandson as strongly as she does losing her daughter. Perhaps the pain of losing an unborn family member to crime is greater because the law signals that such a loss is not worth pursuing legal action over.

Common sense dictates that there are two victims when a pregnant woman is killed or assaulted. Polls show that nearly three-quarters of Canadians want unborn children to have some legal protection when they and their mothers are victims of violent crime. Studies show pregnant women are disproportionately the victims of abuse. A law to protect unborn victims of violence will also protect women.

The only case to made against such a law is the hyper-sensitive one to protect the legality of abortion. Never mind that such a law can be written very narrowly to preclude any limits on abortion, as most such statutes do in Europe and the United States. But the abortion industry will go to any length to prevent the codification of fetal rights.

Establishing fetal rights when the unborn child is a victim of crime not because it will lead to retrictions on abortion – it probably won’t – but because it is just plain common sense. Human beings have a right to recourse to justice when wronged. It is ludicrous that people who target pregnant women will get a free pass on one of their victims simply because it frightens the abortion lobby. Protecting unborn victims of violence is not abortion, it is about crime.

Stephen Harper and the Conservative government have a chance to show that their rhetoric defending the victims of crime has real meaning. At the very least, Harper and the government should add legislation recognizing unborn victims of violence to their omnibus crime bill. Preferably, so to not muddy the issue, it should introduced as a stand-alone bill. All MPs should support this legislation, which would protect women and their unborn children. Who can be against that?