North York Women's Shelter
Toronto, ON


April 1, 2008

Dear Members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights:

I'm writing to register my opposition to Conservative MP Ken Epp's private member Bill C-484, the "Unborn Victims of Crime Act." I urge you to please oppose this bill in Parliament.

This bill is a backdoor attempt to re-criminalize abortion by giving fetuses a form of legal personhood. Mr. Epp's bill is being promoted largely by anti-abortion groups and individuals, some of whom expect to use the law (if passed) to restrict abortion. The bill flies in the face of Canadian legal precedent supporting the equality rights of women, including pregnant women's sovereignty over their fetuses (Supreme Court's Dobson vs. Dobson, 1999). Furthermore, his bill conflicts directly with the Criminal Code, which says "A child becomes a human being ... when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother." It would degrade the rule of law in this country to enact a contradictory law that throws women's rights into confusion.

Although Mr. Epp's bill exempts both abortion and pregnant women from prosecution, similar laws in some U.S. states have been used to target pregnant women anyway, for actions perceived to harm their fetuses (See the website of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, at: http://advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/issues/unborn_victims_of_violence_act/)  In practice, these "feticide" laws create a dangerous slippery slope towards the criminalizing of pregnant women for behaviours that are not criminalized for anyone else.

As the development manager at the North York Women’s Shelter – an emergency shelter for abused women and children - I see the impact of violence towards women on a daily basis. Pregnant women are no exception from violence as I currently have two very pregnant women living in my shelter.  I'm greatly saddened by the horrific tragedies of pregnant women being murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. It is clear that the real issue is domestic violence against women.

Since homicide is a leading cause of death for pregnant could you please advocate for more resources to reduce violence against pregnant women, instead of supporting Mr. Epp's bill? So the women in my shelter and others like them can be helped at their time of need.

Lastly, I would support a law that mandates more serious penalties for third parties who attack pregnant women. This would avoid any controversy over abortion, and ensure that the rights of pregnant women are respected.

I look forward to a response from you.

Sincerely,

Shamini Selvaratnam
Development Manager
North York Women's Shelter
Hope Lives Here