Abortion Law and it's Issues

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Abortion Law and its Issues Chris Stone ID. Number : 97107692 October 10, 1997 Philosophy 1100A97 Prof. N. Brett In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the case of Dr. Henry Morgentaler vs. Her Majesty the Queen, that section 251 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the law regarding abortion, was in fact contrary to several sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The most notable of these was section 7, which states "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. . . . " This was one of the key elements in Madam Justice Wilson's decision to overturn the abortion law, as it infringed on the right of the woman to decide whether or not she wished to continue the pregnancy. Effective as of the date of this decision, there has not been one single piece of Parliamentary legislation regarding abortion. It is now permitted in Canada for a woman to have an abortion for any reason which she so desires. It is also no longer necessary for her to have to go through the lengthy process of appearing before a committee who would decide if the woman meets the criteria to have an abortion, those criteria being whether or not the continuation of the pregnancy would prove to be detrimental to the health or life of the woman. It was this aspect of the committee, which Madam Justice Wilson found to be wrong. It prevented the woman from deciding for herself what she wanted to do with her own body. Many argue this is rightly so, as no single government agency should have the right to remove the right of autonomy from anyone and dictate what may or may not be done with their bodies. Those in the pro-life movement feel that this decision effectively dismissed the fetus as a human being with any of the rights as guaranteed under the Charter. They feel that even though the fetus has yet to be born, it should still be protected by the Charter and be regarded as a potential person, as in, a being with some degree of sentience (i.e., conscience of itself and its surroundings, etc. . . . ), not unlike you or me. It is believed by the right to life movement that because this fetus would, if left to completely develop, eventually turn into a fully developed human being that abortion infringes on the section 7 right of the fetus, as guaranteed under the Charter. The fact that the fetus is human is not the issue. It is whether or not a person is being murdered which is the central argument behind this debate. At the time which the fetus is aborted, it is not a being with personality. Anyone would agree to the fact that it is alive and human, however, it is also true that it is no more a person than a tree would be. Though the fetus may be a large grouping of human cells, with the potential to become more than that, at the state of development which the fetus has reached at the time of abortion, it is not a person and therefore should not be looked at as such. Enter the problem of a "sorties' fallacy"; when does the fetus become a person? Though the legal moment at which the fetus is looked at for the first time as a human being is deemed to be at the instant that it is born, the difference between an eight- week premature infant and a 24-week-old fetus is virtually nonexistent. So should the fetus be regarded as a person, or should the premature baby still be regarded as a fetus? Thus arises the statement by the pro-life side of the argument that should not the fact that we are unable to pinpoint with absolute certainty the precise moment when a fetus suddenly develops a personality mean that we ought to do away with the process until such a time that we are able to ascertain that persons are not being murdered? This argument will go on for quite some time, and is but one in a list of reasons why the pro-life supporters take the standpoint that they do. The principle that every human being has the right to life is another key issue in this heated debate. The pro-life movement also firmly holds to the belief that regardless of whether or not the fetus is a person, as already defined in this paper, the simple fact that it is a human being is reason enough to allow it to keep living. They argue that the severely mentally handicapped do not meet the aforementioned definition of a person in extreme cases, and yet we would not see them exterminated as they become a burden to society. This argument is a truly difficult one to combat. Though the fetus may be a member of the human species, is it always better to bring a child into the world, even if it is unwanted, unloved, etc. . . . ? What if the birth of the child would result in the death of the mother, or would severely endanger her health? Is it still more important that the child be born? What if the child was the product of a sexual assault? Should the mother who, through no fault of her own, is now carrying this child be forced to give birth to it? The simple fact that the fetus is alive does not, and should not, give it precedence over the mother. The mother will be the person who must carry it for nine months, and who must give birth to it. She is also the one who will have to care for it after it is born, so should her desires not take pri

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