CANADA: Liberals To Vote Against Bill Intended To Strengthen Penalties For Violence Against Pregnant Women

Jack Hadfield

The Liberal Party of Canada has announced that it will vote against Bill C-311, a piece of legislation which would make attacking a pregnant woman an aggravating circumstance in sentencing. The Party claims the move is a “transparent” path towards restricting abortion.

Bill C-311 was introduced by Conservative Member of Parliament Cathay Wagantall, and is designed to “denounce and deter violence against pregnant women by explicitly including pregnancy as an aggravating circumstance for the purpose of sentencing.” The bill would apply to crimes where the offender knew the victim was pregnant and caused “physical or emotional harm” while committing the crime.

Studies have confirmed that statistics on maternal deaths in Canada are severely underreported, making it difficult to determine the scale of the issue. But across the border in the United States, homicide is one of the leading causes of death for pregnant women.

However, Liberal politicians are now fighting against Bill C-311, claiming it is “another in a series of transparent attempts in order to give legal status to a fetus here in Canada,” as Liberal Member of Parliament Rachel Bendayan said on Wednesday.

“All of the groups that have come out in support of this bill are anti-choice groups. We have seen no support from anti-violence or women’s groups,” Bendayan claimed.

The Montreal MP referenced a statement from ARPA Canada, a Christian group, who claimed the bill was “the first salvo in a series of more restrictive abortion laws here in Canada. While that is obviously the priority of the Conservatives, our government is quite clear as to where it stands.”

Joyce Arthur, the executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada claimed that while the bill on the surface “might not seem like an objectionable bill… there’s all kinds of associated reasons that we’re very suspicious of it.”

However, Wagantall herself denied that the bill would have any impact on abortion, stating it was purely designed to more severely penalize violence against women.

“It is focused on pregnant women being attacked by a third party who wants to cause injury or death to that individual,” Wagantall clarified.

Jeff Gunnarson, the president of the Campaign for Life Coalition, said it was unlikely that the bill would lead to any future restrictions on abortion, as much as he would like to see that happen.

Canadian opposition leader Pierre Poilievre, who has in the past identified as being pro-choice, also said that he would support the bill. A Poilievre Conservative government would not introduce any abortion restrictions, a fact Gunnarson noted.

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