Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall is hoping to strengthen protections for vulnerable pregnant women with her latest Private Members Bill – but is facing backlash from the Liberal and NDP coalition, who claim her bill is anti-abortion.
Bill C-311, titled the Violence Against Pregnant Women Act, would amend the Criminal Code of Canada and add abusing and causing physical or emotional harm to a pregnant woman to the list of “aggravating circumstances” during the sentencing process.
This means an offender could get a harsher sentence for assaulting a pregnant woman.
The bill comes after the killing of over 80 pregnant women in Canada in recent years. These women include 18-year-old Rori Hache, who was killed by a man who repeatedly hit her in the head with a hammer or similar object, and 31-year-old Cassandra Kaake who was killed by a man who strangled her, slit her throat, poured gasoline on her and set her house on fire.
Both women were pregnant when they were brutally killed by men.
“Canada needs this Violence Against Pregnant Women Act,” said Wagantall at a press conference this week. “We need to ensure that criminals who attack or kill a pregnant woman can be sentenced appropriately by our courts. The sentence should match the crime.”
She also said that her bill “has nothing to do with abortion,” but rather has to do with women who are carrying their child, planning to carry that child to term, but are then brutally murdered, or assaulted.
Wagantall believes every Member of Parliament should support this bill. However, the Liberals and NDP are fiercely opposed to it, claiming her legislation aimed at protecting pregnant women is anti-abortion.
This comes despite the fact that Bill C-311 would not in any way regulate or ban abortion. The word “abortion” is also not mentioned anywhere in the text of the bill.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described Wagantall’s bill as “another thinly veiled attempt by the Conservative Party of Canada to restrict a woman’s right to choose.” Trudeau has also been ramping up his pro-abortion rhetoric on social media in light of the bill.
Liberal families, children and social development minister Karina Gould claimed that Bill C-311 is “another attempt by the anti-abortion movement to restrict women’s access to sexual and reproductive healthcare.”
Meanwhile, justice minister and Attorney General David Lemetti claimed Wagantall bill “will not only make pregnant women less safe, but is actually attempting to restrict the right to choose.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh claimed that Conservatives “find ways to go after choice in hidden techniques,” and said Bill C-311 is “a veiled attempt — and not very veiled” to restrict abortion.
Wagantall’s bill is also being criticized by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), who is labelling it a redundant “vehicle to advance fetal rights”. It also thinks the motives behind Wagantall’s bill are suspect, amid her being pro-life and having previously introduced a bill to ban the misogynist practice of sex-selective abortion.
When asked by True North about ARCC’s opposition to her bill, Wagantall accused its executive director Joyce Arthur of playing political games.
Bill C-311 is the third attempt by Conservatives to introduce stronger protections for pregnant women through private members bills in recent years.
Wagantall had introduced a private members bill in 2016 titled Cassie and Molly’s Law, which sought to make it an additional offense to injure or kill a preborn child while attacking a pregnant woman. Former Conservative MP Ken Epp had also introduced the Unborn Victims of Crime Act in 2007, which sought to recognize preborn children as additional victims of crime when they are killed or injured as a result of an attack on their mother.
Both bills however failed to pass, amid pro-abortion activists claiming they would result in preborn children having rights, opening the door to restrictions on abortion.
Despite the rhetoric from the Liberals, NDP and pro-abortion activists, Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre intends on voting in favour of Wagantall’s bill, and the CPC is currently promoting the proposed legislation on its website.
Liberal tweets against Bill C-311 were also hit with a Community Notes providing readers context on Bill C-311, including the fact that it has nothing to do with abortion.