Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Finally, (Relatively) Straight Talk On Bill C-484

Although we are still talking National Post blog-space, not the body of the main newspaper. So I'm not sure whether this counts as MSM coverage or not. My favorite bit:

Ms. Fortin repeats the word “fetus” numerous times and claims that Bill C-484 “does not in any way confer personhood or rights upon the fetus.” That is false. The bill never even uses the word fetus! Instead, “child” and “unborn child” are used to refer to even very early pregnancies, as soon as the woman suspects she might be pregnant. This is an unprecedented extension of such language in the Criminal Code and clearly, it confers personhood on the fetus. The bill makes the penalty for killing a fetus the same as for homicide, and includes it as an offence “Against the Person and Reputation” (even though that part of the code already defines fetuses as non-persons). Just by making it a separate crime to kill or injure an “unborn child,” the bill creates at least some degree of fetal personhood.

This part I wonder about, however:

The bill’s proponents, including Ms. Fortin, are fond of citing a survey from last October that found 72% of Canadians support a bill like C-484. What they never say is that the poll was commissioned by anti-abortion group LifeCanada to measure “Canadians’ attitudes towards abortion issues.” The poll’s question on a fetal homicide law was grouped with other questions on abortion restrictions, with biased wording to elicit a positive answer.

Given the source, the Lifesite poll was almost certainly biased in the manner noted. However, an Angus Reid survey conducted just last month month gave very similar results:

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 70 per cent of respondents support the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, while 19 per cent express opposition.

See full release here.


I am still of the opinion that the Tories made some clever tactical moves on C-484 by insisting loudly (though disingenuously) that it was not about abortion, and by making their vehicle a private member's bill. This way Stephen Harper can step back and say, "Look! Abortion has been regulated, but it isn't my fault!"

(Finally, I'm not really sure who the author of the Natty Post essay is. It looks as though Marni Soupcoff has allowed Joyce Arthur some blog space).

Update: Fern Hill analysed the Angus Reid Poll a couple of weeks ago and found it wanting.

Update: Joyce Arthur responds in the comments:

The National Post piece is by me, Joyce Arthur. They sent me a version yesterday to edit, but didn't bother waiting for my response, even though I sent an updated version later the same day.

Because of the newer Angus Reid poll that came out since I submitted the piece to the Post over THREE weeks ago, I had added the following sentence to the paragraph about the polls, which didn't make it in:

"Polling results on this issue are also misleading because the public is not generally aware of the risks the bill poses to women's rights."

The point being, this is a complex issue. The Angus Reid poll made no attempt to explain the problems with the bill, which are not going to be readily apparent to the average Joe and Jane. Everybody of course wants to protect pregnant women, but most will not realize what a Trojan Horse this bill is. Unfortunately, the majority public support for this bill is a red herring, at least for now.

19 comments:

ALW said...

I still can’t believe how badly all you progressives have been duped on this one. Bill C-484 doesn’t establish personhood for fetuses, it doesn’t make harming a fetus an independent, actionable crime, and anyone who claims that there’s any legal basis contained in C-484 for criminalizing or even regulating abortion which doesn’t already exist as a result of Morgentaler is simply out to lunch.

You people constantly insist the social conservatives are clueless, but for some reason you still worry when they get excited. Ridiculous.

skdadl said...

BCL, the Angus Reid poll is just as suspect as the Environics poll. See fern hill's reading of it at Birth Pangs two weeks ago. First task always with these surveys is to read the questions; second is to ask who paid? In the case of the AR poll, apparently no one. You believe that?

Mike said...

So why have the bill Aaron? As a lawyer you must know that it won't result in any more jail time and do nothing to prevent the crimes it claims to protect women against.

So why do we have this superfluous bill at all?

April Reign (aka Debra) said...

Quite right alw. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain stamping Government Property on womens uteruses.

choice joyce said...

The National Post piece is by me, Joyce Arthur. They sent me a version yesterday to edit, but didn't bother waiting for my response, even though I sent an updated version later the same day.

Because of the newer Angus Reid poll that came out since I submitted the piece to the Post over THREE weeks ago, I had added the following sentence to the paragraph about the polls, which didn't make it in:

"Polling results on this issue are also misleading because the public is not generally aware of the risks the bill poses to women's rights."

The point being, this is a complex issue. The Angus Reid poll made no attempt to explain the problems with the bill, which are not going to be readily apparent to the average Joe and Jane. Everybody of course wants to protect pregnant women, but most will not realize what a Trojan Horse this bill is. Unfortunately, the majority public support for this bill is a red herring, at least for now.

bigcitylib said...

Skdadl,

You may be right. I was assuming that an Angus Reid Poll would be less suspect, and the fact that it did not seem to have been sponsored would be an argument in its favor.

bigcitylib said...

Joyce, Mind if I bump your comment into the main article itself?

Ti-Guy said...

Slight off-topic:

The National Post doesn't earn any points with me by publishing well-known pseudo-science and blatant illogic, thus forcing sensible people to have to waste time refuting it. No aspersions cast on those who do so, but the fact remains that none of us, at this point, should be obliged to by the media of this country.

Carry on. Aaron? Go fuck yourself.

choice joyce said...

Please feel free! Thanks bigcitylib.

Btw, another new point that didn't make it in was this, in the paragraph about fetal personhood: "The bill tries to negate the Code's definition of 'human being' by saying it can't be used as a defence for a crime against an 'unborn child'."

Reality Bites said...

Angus Reid polls these days are strictly internet-based from a recruited response base. They recruit by placing google text ads on blogs, etc., dealing with hot-button issues. I've seen several recently asking if people are in favour or opposed to same-sex marriage, or Harper/Dion's leadership, etc.

People recruited because they already have strong opinions on issues are by definition not a balanced sample. It's barely better than the "polls" on newspaper web sites.

The best you can say about any Angus Reid poll, on any subject is, "Uh, that's interesting."

In this case, as Joyce points out, it's a question asked on a (literally!) motherhood issue, where the public hasn't been informed about the issues. Obviously every sane person believes in protecting pregnant women as a general concept. Very few would believe in the specific action of protecting them by locking them up in solitary confinement until they give birth.

choice joyce said...

In answer to "alw" here's a few points clarifying why the exemptions in Bill C-484 for abortion and pregnant women are essentially meaningless:

Any type of fetal rights automatically conflicts with women's rights, which makes the exemptions contradictory. Because if a fetus has the right not to be murdered, then how can you logically allow the right to abortion, or allow women to engage in potentially harmful activities during pregnancy? It sets up a confusing conflict in the law, putting women in opposition to their fetuses, and this can invite arrests and prosecutions of pregnant women, as has happened in some U.S. states that have similar laws with similar exemptions.

The exemption is only for "lawful" terminations. This means that if any woman tries to self-abort illegally, anyone who helps her (e.g., a boyfriend) can be prosecuted under this law. If an abortion provider does anything wrong in relation to an abortion procedure, even something minor like an expired permit, the procedure might not be deemed "lawful" anymore and the provider could be prosecuted for murder.

A clause in the bill says it is not a defence under the law that the fetus is not a human being. This essentially negates the current definition in the Criminal Code that you don't become a person till you're born alive, and together with the language of "unborn child" in the bill, extends personhood to very early in pregnancy.

Finally, even though this particular law might not be used against abortion or pregnant women, any other law in Canada could now be interpreted to include fetuses as persons, using Bill C-484 as authority. This commonly happens in the U.S., where the fetal homicide law is cited as the authority for arresting women under child endangerment laws or laws prohibiting drug delivery to minors.

bigcitylib said...

RB,

I've criticized (and others have) AR online polls in the past. Another assumption I've made is that they've changed their methodology to make their results less wonky than they used to be. Not that I have any proof of that.

Jason Hickman said...

Although we are still talking National Post blog-space, not the body of the main newspaper...

You may have already caught this but it is in the body of the paper, at least in the Toronto edition (pg. A15).

Ti-Guy said...

Oh, by the way, Aaron, why is it that supporters of this bill say things like this (over at The NatPo link)

"Full protection of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for those persons who happen to be in their mother's womb is one of the last great battles left for the civil rights movement. Those who believe in and love freedom, those who believe in and support expanding the Charter and its protections as far as possible, support C-484. Those who know and understand science support C-484, for the science is clear - from the moment of conception, the fetus is really and truly human life. Is it not the place of the law to protect that life? Yes, if the law is just, if the law reflects a culture of life, a culture of reason, and a culture of freedom."

Since this is what you're accusing everyone who doesn't support this bill of thinking, why don't you challenge that? Too lazy? Or are you really just a grubby little propagandist?

God, the nightmare of conferring full human rights on something that has no discernible conscience is something that should frighten the hell out of everyone, and women most of all.

Reality Bites said...

"Those who believe in and love freedom, those who believe in and support expanding the Charter and its protections as far as possible, support C-484. "

Funny, isn't it then, that those supporting this bill were virtually unanimously opposed to Charter rights for gays and lesbians, not merely in the case of marriage, but even in employment, housing and pension rights.

Ti-Guy said...

Funny, isn't it then, that those supporting this bill were virtually unanimously opposed to Charter rights for gays and lesbians...

It should be a crime against humanity for the media and polling companies in this country to blatantly exploit the levels of dangerous ignorance that people have of their own rights and freedoms.

You wonder just how much CanWest could destroy the lives of Canadians if it wanted to. You really do wonder sometimes.

fakename said...

"the majority public support for this bill is a red herring"

Easily the funniest line I've read this year. It bears repeating:

"the majority public support for this bill is a red herring"

Wow, usually radical feminists are a lot more subtle in expressing their hatred of their fellow citizens.

Beijing York said...

I would love to see a legal opinion on the validity of this ridiculous Bill.

On the one hand, it casts a broad net on the interpretation of crime against a person as has been pointed out already. That contradiction begs a Charter challenge. On the other hand, it narrows the criminal act against a pregnant woman to a select set of circumstances: the accused must know that the woman is pregnant, the accused must not have been provoked (?!?!?), the accused must not be a licensed abortionist fulfilling his duties (:-)).

So the proposed legislation will protect what % of women who are victims of violence? Not too many is my guess.

The whole exercise is bogus and meant to provide a wedge issue for Harper and his so-con supporters, while pretending to keep their promise to not re-open the abortion debate.

Ti-Guy said...

Wow, usually radical feminists are a lot more subtle in expressing their hatred of their fellow citizens.

Too bad your mother hadn't been radical enough to think of aborting you before you grew up to be such a horrific adult.

I'm sure you didn't miss the entire discussion referring to issues of suspicious or biased polling and an electorate that may not be as informed enough about the repercussions of this bill to have a sensible understanding of it.

Regardless of how you feel about abortion, those issues should be of real concern to you. Majority opinion is what got the Americans stuck in Iraq and majority opinion about a bill that privileges the rights insensate entities over the rights of real people is equally invalid as an arbiter for the common good.

But you hate everyone too much to realise that. Oh well..tant pis.

Anyway, I seriously doubt it could withstand a constitutional challenge and it is worthwhile to see the intellectual and moral bankruptcy that's required to support it, or to distract the discussion about it.

Don't like abortion? Don't have one. Concerned about the care of pregnant women? Help pregnant women. Otherwise, fuck the hell off.