2.26.2008

ken epp shows his hand: it's all about the "unborn"

Last night I got a phone call alerting me to watch the show "Legal Briefs," simulcast on CP24 (a 24-hour news station) and CourtTV Canada. The subject would be the "Unborn Victims of Crime Act," and activist Carolyn Egan would be debating Ken Epp, the Member of Parliament who introduced this private member's bill.

I know Carolyn from the War Resisters Support Campaign, but she also is a stalwart of the women's movement. (As it happens, many Campaigners have been very involved in the pro-choice movement, which is wonderful for me on a personal level.)

I had never seen "Legal Briefs" before, so I didn't know what to expect. The show is a full hour; the moderator, Lorne Honickman, is a lawyer, and seems very knowledgeable. People are given an opportunity to express their views, there's no screaming or people talking over each other, and in general it seemed very fair. (How Canadian!)

Throughout the debate, Epp repeatedly claimed that this bill has nothing to do with granting legal status to a fetus, is not anti-abortion, could not be used to prosecute pregnant women... on and on. Carolyn and others (it's a call-in show) were insisting that if the goal truly is - as proponents of the bill claim - to bring harsher penalties for attacks on pregnant women, why not put forth a bill that would make pregnancy an aggravating circumstance which would automatically trigger a harsher sentence? Why put the emphasis on the fetus?

Honickman asked Epp if he would support such a bill. Epp claimed he would - in addition to this bill. And why would his bill still be necessary? When Honickman posed this question directly to Epp, for the first and only time on the show, Epp had no immediate answer. There was a long pause.

Finally, he replied, "Because we want to recognize the humanity of that unborn child. Whether that child was killed three months before birth or three months after birth, it was still a child, there was still a loss of life. The other side might wish to deny the humanity of that unborn child, but we want the law to recognize it."

This is not a direct quote. I wasn't taking notes, because I was waiting to get on the air, and wanted to stay focused. But I assure you, it's a very close paraphrase.

They want to recognize the "humanity" of the "unborn child".

Do they now.

And this is not a springboard to legal personhood for fetuses?

Towards the end of the show, a caller turned out to be Mary Talbot, whose daughter, Olivia Talbot, was murdered while six months pregnant. (I can't provide a link, because almost every link I found was from an anti-choice group! They are obviously using this poor woman's death as a weapon.) Naturally everyone expressed tremendous sympathy for Mary Talbot; she was allowed to go on at length about how she held her "grandson," touched his silken hair, how she knows he (the fetus) was her grandchild because she's a grandmother... It was rough.

However, much to his credit, Honickman followed up with both Epp and Talbot. And guess what? Even under this proposed law, the murderer of Olivia Talbot would be serving the same exact sentence that he is serving right now. He is already serving the harshest sentence possible under Canadian law. So how would this "unborn victims" law bring Mary Talbot justice? It would recognize that "two people" were killed, not just one.

We cannot allow a survivor's grief to make our laws. And we cannot allow anti-choice legislators to exploit that grief for their own anti-woman agenda. Please contact your MP, ask where she or he stands on this matter, and urge her or him to vote against this bill.

I was afraid the show would end with Mary Talbot, but they got one more caller in - a pro-choice, female police officer from Mississauga. Her voice came through loud and clear: pregnant women are more vulnerable to assaults. We should be protecting women. Period.

18 comments:

L-girl said...

After Ken Epp made his opening statement - going on and on about how this is not about fetal rights, fetal personhood or abortion, why do people keep saying that? - the first caller said, "I support this bill because it's about time fetuses have rights in this country! The feminist death cult is against that, but fetuses need rights, too!"

jj said...

Wow, good catch, L-Girl.

These lying liars never stop.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Great post!

L-girl said...

Yeah? Thanks!

Lone Primate said...

I'm with you on this but I'm saddened to see you using "anti-choice" to calumny people who feel differently on the matter from most of us here. Their chosen means for self-identification is "pro-life", and I think that ought to be respected. After all, anyone who self-identifies as "pro-choice" would object, strongly and rightly, to being characterized as "anti-life". I think civility in a debate over matters this divisive is crucial, and surely those of us who are respecters of opinions and persons ought to be able to claim the high ground by example.

redsock said...

Their chosen means for self-identification is "pro-life", and I think that ought to be respected.

And the Bush/Cheney gang refer to themselves as "defenders of freedom and democracy" -- but I don't think that'll catch on much here.

It's been well proven that those people don't care about "life" at all -- if they did, they'd (for starters) support social programs to assist young babies and their mothers -- their foremost, and really only, concern is limiting a woman's "choice".

those of us who are respecters of opinions and persons ought to be able to claim the high ground by example

"High ground"? Fuck that noise.

L-girl said...

The expression "pro-life" is propaganda. It's extremely clever propanganda that has caught on, but propaganda nonetheless. It's the equivalent of calling a liberal a commie, or a calling a peace activist unpatriotic.

I will not use the language of people whose views I despise, people who seek to limit my freedom and my full participation in society.

We've been around this before. Within the reproductive rights movement, the people who oppose abortion rights are called anti-choice. That accurately describes them, so that's the word I use.

impudent strumpet said...

After all, anyone who self-identifies as "pro-choice" would object, strongly and rightly, to being characterized as "anti-life".

I really wanted to respond with "If someone called me anti-life I'd kill them. But after this I don't think that would be a good idea.

Now back to your regularly scheduled topic.

L-girl said...

But after this I don't think that would be a good idea.

Wow. Wo-ow. Wild.

By the way, the pro-choice movement is called pro-death all the time. Geez, we're the Feminist Death Cult. It's the natural extension of the anti-abortion-rights movement deciding to call itself "pro-life".

impudent strumpet said...

Pro-death should mean pro-euthanasia. And then at least some of us can say "Yeah, that too, but we're talking about abortion at the moment."

L-girl said...

I especially love when people call me pro-abortion. Abortions for everyone! Abortions are great! Let's all have abortions!

Uh, no. Pro-abortion-rights. Pro-choice. Big difference.

impudent strumpet said...

Abortions for all!

BOO!

Abortions for none!

BOO!

Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!

YAAAY!

impudent strumpet said...

So the next logical step would be to give miniature american flags to abortion protesters.

M@ said...

I'm saddened to see you using "anti-choice" to calumny people who feel differently on the matter from most of us here.

I used to think that calling the one side "pro-life" and the other side "pro-choice" was a fair and equitable way to frame it. After a while I saw that that's not fair, because it implies that the pro-choice side is also anti-life (though I don't think it's unfair to characterize the anti-abortion folk as anti-choice).

So I started to see it as pro-abortion and anti-abortion. But that too doesn't work, because it doesn't express the dichotomy correctly -- as L pointed out, "pro-abortion" does not adequately express the anti-anti-abortion side's position.

I also noticed that "pro-life" people almost always took pro-war, pro-capital punishment (aka "tough on crime") positions. Hardly fair to characterize them as "pro-life" unless they frame their argument as no one should ever be killed, under any circumstances.

So where I ended up is framing the arguments as follows:

- Pro-choice: abortions are legal and the woman (as defined as "is woman enough to be pregnant") has the ultimate (and only) authority over whether to have an abortion

- Anti-abortion: as long as it's not born it's a person. Also, I am an asshole.

Oh, did you think I actually had a genuine point? Sorry. I figure that someone who thinks they should have power over women's sexuality are assholes. Hope I didn't mislead anyone there.

Note: if you think it's okay to make moral judgements about women based on their sexual activity, you are an asshole. Sorry.

Also note: I'm not really sorry; you're just an asshole.

L-girl said...

So the next logical step would be to give miniature american flags to abortion protesters.

In the US, they wear them next to their little fetus pins.

Fetus pins. I'm not kidding.

L-girl said...

Anti-abortion: as long as it's not born it's a person. Also, I am an asshole.

LOL

and

I AGREE

Deb Prothero said...

Here's a couple of links you might appreciate:

First is the Hansard record (scroll nearly to bottom of page) of the debate on Bill C291 put forth in May 2006 by Leon Benoit. Notice that the Attorney General has said this is unconstitutional so the legislation is unvoteable. It gets one hour of debate and then is dropped from the Order Paper.

http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?pub=hansard&mee=40&parl=39&ses=1&language=E

This angered the anti-abortion community:

http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/aug/06080809.html

But after a bunch of polling and now a nation-wide billboard advertising campaign, we are subjected to another round of legislation exactly like the first one.

L-girl said...

Deb, thank you for those links.

But after a bunch of polling and now a nation-wide billboard advertising campaign, we are subjected to another round of legislation exactly like the first one.

It's not like the other side is every going to stop trying. We have to be prepared to fight them every step of the way.