Canada: Let’s Ban Coerced Childbirth


A bill recently introduced by a Conservative MP in Canada to criminalize “coercing” a woman into abortion should be scuttled in favour of a bill prohibiting the much more common practice of coercing a woman into childbirth.

The “abortion coercion” bill (C510) would amend the Criminal Code to prohibit coercing a woman into an abortion via physical or financial threats, illegal acts, or through “argumentative and rancorous badgering or importunity”. It was introduced on April 15 by anti-choice Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South), who chairs the secretive Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus.

Of course it’s wrong to pressure women into an abortion, but this does not occur on the grand scale often claimed by anti-choice propagandists. It mostly stems from situations of domestic abuse. A recent U.S. study examined reproductive control of women by abusive male partners. Some were pressured to have an abortion, but women also reported that their partners prevented them from obtaining or using birth control, threatened them with pregnancy, or forced unprotected sex on them. If they became pregnant and wanted an abortion, some partners threatened or pressured them to carry to term.

In 1989, Chantal Daigle of Quebec had to travel to the U.S. for an abortion after her boyfriend got an injunction preventing her from having an abortion. Canada’s Supreme Court subsequently ruled that male partners cannot force a woman to have a baby.

It’s not just partners or family members who try to compel women and girls to have babies against their will. The entire anti-choice movement has been trying to force women into pregnancy and motherhood for decades, by working to outlaw or restrict abortion. Perhaps we need to protect women from this coercion by criminalizing anti-choice activism!

A more realistic target would be to prohibit certain types of anti-choice activism. Over 150 so-called “crisis pregnancy centres” exist in Canada, and their main job is to prevent women from having abortions. Tactics used may include deception, misinformation, shaming and guilting, scare-mongering, shock tactics, invasion of privacy, and proselytizing. (To combat the deception of CPCs, two U.S. cities have recently passed laws requiring CPCs to post signs informing clients they don’t offer or refer for abortion or contraception.)

 Also, anti-choice protesters engage in so-called “sidewalk counselling,” which involves accosting women as they enter abortion clinics. Too often, protesters use aggressive and hateful language, such as telling women they are murderers and threatening them with hellfire if they get an abortion.

A law against coerced childbirth would be a great opportunity to put a stop to some of the most egregious violations of women’s integrity perpetrated by the anti-choice movement.

Other reasons why Bill C510 is not needed or is suspect:

  • The bill is mostly redundant because threats and illegal acts are already illegal under the Criminal Code.
  • Counselors already screen for possible coercion in women seeking abortion. Abortion clinics do not perform abortions on women who are conflicted or being coerced.
  • The bill patronizes women by implying they are frequently coerced into abortion, but the vast majority of women make their own decision to have an abortion and take responsibility for it.
  • If the intent is really to protect women from abusive partners, we need better solutions than this bill. Women’s safety and security is best assured by helping them win equality and autonomy (e.g., with pay equity, affordable childcare, legal aid, and other programs).
  • The law would have a chilling and intimidating effect on abortion providers because it would likely be used mostly against them. The anti-choice movement falsely believes that clinics coerce women into abortions, which may encourage frivolous charges under this bill, and harassment and violence against providers.
  • Who decides when a line is crossed into illegal threats? How would proof of coercion be obtained in such circumstances?
  • The bill is motivated by anti-choice sentiment, not by concern for women. Not only was it introduced by an anti-choice MP, it is strongly supported by anti-choice activists, and refers to a fetus as a “child.” This bill is an attempt to reintroduce the notion of fetal rights through indirect means, by presenting abortion as a social harm to be criminalized.
  • The bill’s rationale – the 2007 murder of a pregnant woman from Winnipeg – has been misrepresented. Bruinooge claims that Roxanne Fernando was murdered because she refused to have an abortion, but the murderer himself, his lawyer, and the Crown prosecutor all agree that this was not the motive.

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  • womantrust

    Good article and thanks so much for shining light on this all too common practice- of coercing women to give birth against their own will.  The anti- choice community really wrote the play book on this, with their ‘sidewalk counseling’ filled with deception, shame and frequently terror.   So they and the so called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ should be exposed for their trickery of women- rightly they should be called anti- woman! 

    This proposed law is transparent and clearly doesn’t protect or assist women in any way- from it’s author to sponsors and supporters, all anti-woman activists.  Legislating what is already law is a thinly veiled attempt to imply women aren’t already protected- which is absolutely false and smacks of the ‘let’s protect them from themselves’ mentality; an archaic outlook, to say the least. 

    Those who work or have worked in obstectrical wards know about those women who do not see the birth as happy or a blessing, but another mouth to feed, a child they didn’t really want (but had no say), obvious evidence of their lack of freedom or autonomy, and utter hopelessness.  So, if anything, let’s see laws that protect women against coerced child birth.

    And Joyce- please keep writing and posting everywhere you can- women need you!

  • crowepps

    “As your doctor, before you decide to continue with this pregnancy, I’m required by law to share with you a long list of horrible side effects and pregnancy complications which may occur, and then we’re going to watch a video which will show you grossly deformed fetuses and small infants with horrible malformations, as well as charts about the likely unemployment, depression and higher suicide rates those infants can look forward to as adults.

     

    I also have some information for you about the negative impact this pregnancy will have on your body, your future health, your marriage, the children you already have, your chances of employment, your education, the likelihood you’ll end up improverished when you get old because of the costs of posting bail when your children become druggies and criminals.

     

    Please be aware that no one has the right to force you to continue this pregnancy, and if the father, or your parents, or your employer or neighbors are putting pressure on you to have children, the law will step in and protect you. Society is providing this entirely unbiased information purely out of the altruistic desire to make sure you don’t regret your decision to ruin your life by having children.

     

    Disclaimer: For those literal minded participants who think ‘sense of humor’ is something you smell, this is a parody.

  • ahunt

    Disclaimer: For those literal minded participants who think ‘sense of humor’ is something you smell, this is a parody.

     

    But it shouldn’t be…equal time an’ all that.

     

    Why is it that anti-choice advocates reject the very logic they employ…when it comes to “informed consent?”

  • faultroy

       I think a childbirth coercion bill is an outstanding idea.  Furthermore, it should apply to both males and females.  But I guarantee you one thing, there will be one hundred times more charges filed against women than men.  This bill should also consider criminal penalties against men or women that falsely misrepresent paternity of their chidren.  There is an incredible amount of deception and misrepresentation by women about pregnancy. I’ve personally known two women that gleefully recounted step by step how they manipulated their contraceptions in order to be inpregnated.  Neither man wanted to have children.  So if we have a “Childbirth Coercion Bill,” lets make it gender equal.  Then we can prosecute women that force lie or manipulate their men into having children without their consent or knowledge as well as women that are coerced. The study you have listed as a link is to the Guttmacher Institute known as being a relatively honest research organization, but the study that you are referring to on the link is a garbage study.  The reason it is garbage is that it presents only one side and asks only for perceptions by the alleged “victims.”.  Furthermore the other study done by the U.N. (directly below it) is also worthless, because both only ask for one opinion.  The other side of the story is not given.  We know historically that people involved in domestic violence–and I’m talking almost 100 per cent of those arriving at DV shelters have relationship issues with their partners–the level of recividism is astoundingly high. Almost 97% go back with their partners.  Regardless as to what the reason is for these returns, we can safely assume that something is not quite correct when these women keep returning to these dysfunctional relationships. Furthermore, the study quoted was way too small a sample, and it took no notice of male domestic violence which in the USA acounts for as much as 30 per cent of DV occurances. And it is well known that contrary to popular belief, DV is not perpetrated by just one intimate.  Usually, there are arguments that escalate into DV.  Most of the studies on DV are illegitimate for this reason.  They have an agenda by an advocacy group that is usually looking for federal monies.  As a general rule, unless the study is peer reviewed and from a recognized University, most of these studies are little more than Junk Science. Therefore the study is hopelessly biased and flawed.  The findings of these studies imply that “the women are threatened,” but it does not tell what specifically they were threatened with. Could it be that the men would leave them?  Well, that is normally what happens in all male/female relationships–men and women either stay or leave.  My point is that these kinds of bigoted studies do nothing to support credibility.  I’m all for studies, but let’s do them logically and responsibly without trying to tip the scales one way or another.  This looks like so many of these feminist oriented studies that are not looking for proactive information to curb Domestic Violence, but rather to einforce a pre existing point of view. The Guttmacher Institute needs to be called out for promoting junk science in the hopes of getting another government grant to further its own political agenda.  Shame on them.  Another similar study indicates that over half of DV intimates see their DV intimate as being dependable and having “redeeming” qualities. Here is the link (I read this on Science New Daily).

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100412111625.htm

     

  • crowepps

    I’ve personally known two women that gleefully recounted

     

    You need a much better class of friends.

    Most of the studies on DV are illegitimate for this reason.  They have an agenda by an advocacy group that is usually looking for federal monies.

    Totally unlike, for instance, the Men’s Right groups, which don’t have any agenda at all, and who would be THRILLED to pay their child support if only they felt they were ‘equal’?

    The findings of these studies imply that “the women are threatened,” but it does not tell what specifically they were threatened with.

    Threatened with death?

    “In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. In recent years, an intimate partner killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.”

    Callie Marie Rennison, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 197838, Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief: Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, at 1 (2003),

     available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ipv01.pdf

    Threatened with rape?

    “In 8 out of 10 rape cases, the victim knows the perpetrator. Of people who report sexual violence, 64% of women and 16% of men were raped, physically assaulted, or stalked by an intimate partner. This includes a current or former spouse, cohabitating partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, or date.”

    Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 183781, Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, at iv (2000), available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/183781.htm

     

    Threatened with a beating?

    “Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. “

    Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 183781, Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, at iv (2000), available at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/183781.htm

     I’m all for studies, but let’s do them logically and responsibly without trying to tip the scales one way or another.

    Even if avoiding ‘tipping the scales’ requires ignoring the facts as known and the actual results of the studies because if their conclusions don’t agree with yours, then they must be biased?

     

    I don’t know what kind of childhood you had, but based on your posts here and your over the top denials regarding the existence of abuse and your insistence that any abuse just has to be the woman’s responsibility, seriously, I think maybe it would be really helpful to you to find a counselor you can establish a rapport with and work with him until you feel safe talking about your father.