Kim Campbell: Bill C-43 is woman’s entitlement

As the April Interim reported, The Hon. Kim Campbell’s first statement as Justice Minister was to announce that if Bill C-43 was defeated, no other abortion law would be brought forward by the Conservative government: in other words, the government is resorting to legislative blackmail.

As the last witness to appear before the commons committee examining the legislation, she also announced that the government would accept none of the amendments proposed by groups, which appeared before the committee. Campaign Life Coalition predicted as much. In fact, the Prime Minister, the ex-Minister of Justice, Doug Lewis, and the chairman of the Committee, Marcel Danis, declared the same before the hearings began.

Mrs. Campbell stuck to the government’s position that the proposed law strikes a balance between the rights of the woman and those of the unborn child. Any amendment, which restricted a woman’s right to an abortion, she maintained, would probably violate the Charter.

Another point the Justice Minister emphasized was that doctors need not fear prosecution for performing abortions. “It is facile and misleading”, she declared, “to say that Bill C-43 is making criminals out of women and doctors.” As long as a doctor honestly forms an opinion that continuation of the pregnancy could endanger a woman’s physical, mental or psychological health, he need not worry about the possibility of prosecution; there is no mechanism for looking behind that opinion.

Subsequently, she told CBC Radio that the purpose of Bill C-43 is to enshrine in law “a woman’s entitlement to access to abortion.”

Comment: from rights to entitlement

Justice Minister Campbell confirmed that the reasons for pro-life groups opposing Bill C-43 were entirely justified. The government is completely hypocritical when it says the bill strikes a balance between the rights of the woman and the rights of the unborn. Mrs. Campbell made it perfectly clear that the baby has no protection at all: abortion does not have to be performed for a serious reason. The government deliberately left the definition of health vague; there are no possible grounds for accusing a doctor of performing an abortion for insufficient reasons. There are grounds, in other words, for taking the life of the unborn child into account at all.

The government is hypocritical as well in insisting that any restrictive amendments would not stand a Charter challenge. After all, the three majority opinions in the Morgentaler case all said that protection of the fetus is a valid legislative objective; why should it not be a government objective now? Since this bill gives no protection to the fetus, it should not survive a Charter challenge if the Supreme Court behaves with any consistency. Only a much more restrictive bill would strike the so-called balance Kim Campbell refers to so glibly.

The refusal of the conscience clause offers a good illustration of how selective the Tories’ “compassion” is. Where is the compassion for the nurse who is revolted by the idea of having to assist in the delivery of a baby disfigured by a saline abortion? The Justice Minister declared that such a clause would affect labor relations and lead to discrimination in the workplace – very minor reasons indeed compared to making doctors and nurses engage in practices considered repugnant by medical practitioners through the ages.

Finally, Mrs. Campbell was honest enough, in spite of her reference to the bill striking a balance, to say that the Tories’ purpose in bringing it forward was to enshrine in law a woman’s “entitlement” to an abortion. “Entitlement” apparently is the new buzzword replacing the all-too-bold term “right.”

There is no pretense here that the unborn child is entitled to life: the woman’s will is all-important, and none of the traditional constitutional, legal, or moral objections to the taking of innocent human life are to be allowed to stand in her way – as far as a government which calls itself “Conservative” is concerned.

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