Abortion rights not up for debate

  • August 02, 2023

The Women Lawyers Forum of the Canadian Bar Association, in a May 29, 2023 letter to Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Marci Ien, expressed its opposition to Bill C-311, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (violence against pregnant women). The bill was defeated in the House of Commons a few weeks later.

Had it been adopted, the bill would have amended the Criminal Code to specify that knowingly abusing a pregnant person and causing physical or emotional harm to a pregnant victim, would be considered aggravating circumstances for sentencing purposes.

The CBA Section believes this bill was “a misguided attempt to interfere with abortion access and destabilize abortion rights, by effectively giving separate legal status to a fetus.” It fully supports and wishes to amplify the position paper on the bill prepared by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

The CBA letter makes three additional points: 1) That abortion is robustly protected in Canadian law, and rightly so, 2) that criminal law is too blunt and insufficient an instrument to address gender-based violence properly, and that 3) efforts like this private member’s bill are an unwelcome and unproductive distraction from the necessary work of expanding access to procedural and medication abortion across Canada.

“We respect the parliamentary process but remind our elected officials that abortion access is well-protected in Canadian law, and these legal protections should not be up for debate,” the letter concludes.