Canada abortion debate rekindled as bill passes

Thu Mar 6, 2008 5:51pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The long-dormant issue in Canada of when life begins has reemerged with the backing by the House of Commons of a bill that would make it a crime to cause the death of an unborn child when a pregnant woman is attacked.

The House gave approval in principle on Wednesday evening to the "Unborn Victims of Crime Act," a bill opponents say is the thin edge of the wedge in reimposing abortion restrictions, but which proponents say merely protects unborn children who are wanted by their parents .

The bill is the private initiative of Conservative Member of Parliament Ken Epp and won the vote of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and some, but not all, members of three of the four parties in the House.

"It's plainly the start of the recriminalization of abortion, and that's why the NDP opposes it," Jack Layton, leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party, told reporters outside the House on Thursday.

The bill says the argument "that the child is not a human being" would not have merit as a legal defense, but it also specifies that the bill would not apply to abortion to which the mother has consented.

Epp said it was a red herring to talk about abortion.

"It has nothing to do with it. It specifically excludes elective abortion," he said.

He said his bill should be attractive to proponents of choice since it is designed to protect the babies of women who have chosen to carry their pregnancy to term.   Continued...