The Canadian Medical Association, the largest association of doctors in the country, voted August 15 to maintain the current wording of the Criminal Code definition of human being and oppose M-312, a private member’s bill that would require Parliament to examine scientific evidence as to whether the child in the womb is a human being and the human rights and Criminal Code ramifications of those findings.

Delegates to the CMA’s 145th annual general meeting in Yellowknife voted on the motion opposing what was labelled a “backdoor” attempt to reopen the abortion debate. They voted to pass a resolution supporting Section 223 of the Criminal Code which states that a child “becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.” The resolution rejected M-312, Stephen Woodworth’s (CPC, Kitchener Centre) private member’s motion that would have Parliament re-examine the Criminal Code’s definition of human being.

According to a CMA report, Dr. Genevieve Desbiens, who brought forth the motion, “said her aim was to prevent a ‘backdoor’ attempt to reopen the abortion debate by changing the wording of this particular section of the Code,” stressing, “the CMA has a long-established policy supporting the right to therapeutic abortion.”

Andrea Mrozek of the ProWomanProlife website noted on Sun News that not many doctors made the trek to Yellowknife for the annual CMA annual meeting, so she questioned how representative the vote was of Canadian physicians.  While the CMA boasts a membership of 76,000, only 250 attended the annual meeting.

Canadian Physicians for Life condemned the CMA’s move, saying that “every Canadian doctor knows that the unborn child is a live human being.” Dr. Will Johnston, president of Canadian Physicians for Life issued a statement pointing out the hypocrisy of the Canadian Medical Association which has a long-established policy of supporting the destruction of human life through abortion. “CMA delegates worry about children not exercizing enough or not wearing bicycle helmets, while over one hundred thousand children go missing from our playgrounds every year because they were killed by abortion.” He added: “The mismatch between this problem and yesterday’s conversation from the CMA annual general meeting defies parody,” he said.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition condemned the CMA’s motion which he said “just shows the sorry state of the leaders of the CMA who have drifted so far from the oath of Hippocrates.” He noted that the Hippocratic Oath, which had previously been sworn by all doctors, vowed health professionals would not do harm and even, for a while, had them swear they would not procure a woman’s abortion.

Aside from medical ethics, Hughes condemned their blindness to the reality of abortion: “As doctors,” he explained, “they should know that human life begins at conception, and that abortion kills a preborn child.” He criticized their “putting politics ahead of science.”

Mrozek said much the same thing on her blog. “I’m sure the ob-gyns who do surgery in utero are pretty confident there’s something going on in there,” she wrote. “This is a purely political statement from a medical body.”

Dr. John Shea told LifeSiteNews that the delegates to the CMA meeting should be “ashamed of themselves for failing to recognize when human life begins.” He explained: “The biological fact is what counts here, which is when the ovum and the sperm unite, a single-celled human organism is formed. Period. This organism is a human being, a person at the single-cell stage. From that point in time he or she has rights. Anybody who denies that fact is denying biological reality; they are lying.”

Mrozek said on Sun News that most university biology textbooks acknowledge that human life begins at conception.

Woodworth issued a statement that said he “was given no opportunity” to address the CMA “to explain the context of Motion 312.” He added: “There is no indication any consideration was given to the wider human rights implications of giving the State authority to designate some human beings as not human, or to the wider implications of freezing in time, without democratic review or governance, a 400 year old law which denies equal and universal human rights.”

Dr. Carole Williams, of Victoria, B.C., was quoted in the National Post saying M-312  “is a back-door way for government to reopen Roe versus Wade,” the 1973 decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Campaign Life Coalition project manager Matthew Wojciechowski told The Interim he found it amusing that doctors could  make pronouncements on matters before Parliament when some of their most outspoken members “do not seem to know the difference between Canada and the United States.

The CMA’s Code of Ethics states that doctors must “refuse to participate in or support practices that violate basic human rights.” Yet, for more than a quarter-century, the CMA has defending “the right of  therapeutic abortion.” In a 1988 CMA policy paper, it stated, “The decision to perform an induced abortion is a medical one, made confidentially between the patient and her physician within the confines of existing Canadian law.” The CMA agitated for liberalizing of the abortion law in the 1960s in order to protect physicians from prosecution for carrying out abortions.

In 2008, the CMA also opposed C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, which would have added criminal sanctions to perpetrators of crimes against pregnant women.

According to media reports, Dr. Desbiens told delegates at the Yellowknife meeting, “I’m not asking you whether you are for, or against abortion: I’m asking for you to recognize that women must retain their full and complete rights.”

Not all doctors supported the motion. The Post reported that Ontario physician Dr. John Ludwig said the Criminal Code is “ancient and does need to be revised,” noting the absurdity of the definition of human being: “If an assailant plunged a knife in the 38-week gestational belly of your spouse, we would all consider that murder. But the Criminal Code says that, because that fetus did not leave the body alive, it doesn’t have any rights.”