This issue has emerged again because the murder of a pregnant mother in Toronto resulted in the death of her unborn child. The husband has been charged with killing his wife but no charges were laid in the death of the seven-month fetus.
Under our Criminal Code a child is only considered a human being when it has emerged from the mother’s womb alive. Last year a Conservative member introduced a private bill that would make it a separate criminal offense to harm a fetus when the woman is assaulted or murdered but the bill was defeated in the House of Commons.
Other jursidictions do have laws governing the killing of the fetus. In 2002 in a high profile case in California, the husband was convicted of murdering his wife, eight months pregnant, and also convicted of murdering the unborn child.
The issue of when the developing child reaches viability – is able to survive outside the uterus – has taken on greater significance in recent years with advances in medical technology that have enabled fetuses to survive outside the womb long before 40 week’s gestation.
The distinguished ethicist, Dr. Margaret Somerville at McGill University, says she would change the law: “I’d change it because we’re being ostriches with our head in the sand, pretending that the baby does not exist…. Not to draw any lines, which is the case at the moment, or to draw the lines pretending we’re not dealing with a human life, warps our moral intuitions.”
Do you believe the developing child in the womb is a person?
Would you favour placing a law in the Canadian Criminal making it a separate offense to harm a fetus when the mother is assaulted or murdered?
I’m off to Ontario for the weekend. Back Sunday. Have a great weekend.