Yesterday, Bill C-510, Rod Bruinooge’s private member’s bill that would add “coercion of pregnant women to abort” to the Criminal Code, had second reading. The bill is also known as Roxanne’s Law. LifeSiteNews covered the debate. We have written about Roxanne’s Law previously. Andrea Mrozek wrote in the Calgary Herald that C-510 should not be controversial — how can so-called pro-choice advocates oppose legislation that would penalize those who coerce women into having abortions? Yet, they do. Mrozek writes:
New Democrat health critic Megan Leslie told the media over the weekend with regards to Bill C-510 that “if we can open that door even a crack to this idea of fetal rights — which in my opinion promotes anti-choice ideas — that has an impact on women’s rights and freedoms when it comes to the very personal decision about abortion.” What Leslie seems to want is a freeze on freedom of thought.
You can read the comments made by the MPs in yesterday’s Hansard — it is the first item. The Bloc and NDP MPs make the same point as does Leslie: C-510 is written to endanger “choice” (read: abortion) because it would criminalize the activities of abortionists and acknowledge that the unborn child has rights. Those are both dubious points, but they are nonetheless the chosen talking points of the pro-abortion side. (A third talking point is that the abortion issue is settled so why are we talking about this again?) Irene Mathyssen (NDP, London-Fanshawe) said:
If the bill is passed, it may restrict women’s access to abortion even more, by criminalizing abortion providers.
And Mathyssen again:
This bill recognizes the fetus as a child and therefore a person with legal status. Such an initiative could have significant ramifications in a number of different areas of law and opens a Pandora’s box in the abortion debate.
The bill goes out of its way to say it does not interfere with abortion. Bruinooge told The Interim last Spring that as long as an abortionist does not coerce a woman to have an abortion, he has nothing to fear. So who are the extremists?
Lastly, you should read Kelly Block’s (CPC, Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar) speech in Parliament during the debate — the only MP other than Bruinooge to speak in favour of the bill — in its entirety. It is reproduced below:
Mr. Speaker, I would like to reflect for a moment. I remember when I became pregnant for the first time. My husband and I were thrilled that our hopes and dreams of raising a family together would soon become a reality. I was so thankful that I had a loving and supportive husband to accompany me on this journey to motherhood.
As any woman anticipating the birth of her child will tell you, the unique experience of pregnancy is exciting, scary, exhilarating, and emotional. It is filled with many ups and downs. With all the changes and challenges, hopes and fears that pregnancy and expectant parenthood can bring, pregnant women need much support. I cannot imagine the loneliness and rejection a vulnerable young woman must feel when those closest to her, like a boyfriend, husband, mother, or father, would not be there to support her decision to have a baby and who would, even worse, actually threaten, intimidate, and pressure her into terminating the pregnancy she wants to bring to term.
As soon as I realized I was pregnant, I began bonding with my baby. I cannot describe what that feels like. Only the pregnant woman who is carrying that baby, fetus, child, whatever you want to call it, inside her womb can know exactly what it means, what it feels like to be the sole source of sustenance for this tiny human who is totally dependent on her for survival.
Whether or not the pregnancy is planned, who has the right to tell that woman that what she is carrying inside her is a burden and must be disposed of? Who has the right to coerce her into ending her pregnancy, thereby ending her chance to give birth to her baby? No one has that right. That is why we need Roxanne’s law. We need to protect pregnant women, especially when they are at their most vulnerable, from being coerced into having abortions they do not want.
It is well documented that women can suffer tremendously after having a miscarriage. When a woman loses a wanted pregnancy, she can experience intense feelings of sadness, anger, and guilt for not having been able to keep her unborn child safe. Many people cannot fully comprehend the extent of the grief a woman suffers after a miscarriage, because they do not understand the bond that has already begun to develop between her and her unborn child.
I can imagine that a woman who has been forced to have an abortion would suffer at least as much and perhaps more, because the loss would not be accidental. Instead, the loss results from a cruel and deliberate exploitation of her vulnerability by someone she should be able to trust and depend on.
Research shows that when women feel pressured into having abortions they are at increased risk of suffering negative psychological outcomes. A 2005 study published in General Hospital Psychiatry found that male pressure on women to abort was significantly associated with negative abortion-related emotions in the two years following an abortion. A 2004 study in the Medical Science Monitor found that pressure to abort was predictive of adverse psychological adjustment following the abortion experience.
Some people have said that we do not need such a law because coercion does not happen. In many cases, women freely choose their abortions, but we also know from anecdotal evidence that many other women are coerced.
When enacted into law, Bill C-510 will send a clear message that coercing a woman to end her pregnancy against her will is wrong. It will send a message to women that the law is there to protect them, so that if someone attempts to coerce a woman to have an abortion she does not want, she can press charges before it is too late for her and her baby.
When Roxanne’s law comes to a vote next month, I will stand up for pregnant women and for motherhood. I will remember Roxanne and be grateful for the small part I have played to bring some good out of her tragedy.