The results of an oversimplified national poll could lead to the recriminalization of abortion in Canada, according to Joyce Arthur, the spokesperson for Vancouver’s Pro-Choice Action Network (and coordinator of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada).
On March 13, Angus Reid Strategies released the results of its poll on Bill C-484 with the headline, "Canadians Support Bill Seeking Special Penalty for Crimes Against Pregnant Women".
The bill, which passed second reading in the House of Commons March 5, seeks to change the law so a perpetrator can be charged with injuring or killing a fetus, as well as its mother. Arthur believes the bill is a thinly veiled attempt to give fetuses rights, which could lead to the end of abortion rights.
"Feminists who are politically aware hear about this bill and immediately know what the problem is," Arthur told the Straight. For others, however, "the link between this bill and abortion is complicated. It needs more than a simple statement [in a poll] to explain it."
According to the poll, just 24 percent of Canadians believe that the "Unborn Victims of Crime Act is actually an attempt to recriminalize abortion in Canada." B.C. was the region most skeptical of the bill, with 29 percent saying the bill is meant to recriminalize abortion. Alberta was least skeptical, at 18 percent.
Angus Reid Strategies’ director of global studies, Mario Canseco, told the Straight that the poll was not financed by any outside party and undertaken "out of our own interest". Canseco called Arthur’s criticism of the way the poll was conducted "normal" and added, "this is one of the ways people react to surveys that show that not everyone agrees with them".
At second reading, 147 MPs voted in favour of Bill C-484, and 132 against. It’s been sent to the standing committee on justice and human rights. The committee only has one woman, out of 12 members.
In the Commons on March 14, Vancouver East MP Libby Davies said: "It is clearly a back door way of trying to unravel the decades of struggle for women’s equality in this country, for reproductive rights and for choice on abortion."
John Hof, B.C. president of the Campaign Life Coalition, a lobby group and self-described "political wing of the pro-life movement in Canada", told the Straight that the poll shows that an overwhelming number of Canadians support "this type of commonsense legislation".
He maintained that there was no link between Bill C-484 and abortion, saying "I really don’t see this as pro-life legislation at all."
Arthur described the bill as "lingering sexism", and said anti-abortion arguments all stem from a patriarchal view of women.
"They think a fetus should have some rights, there’s too many abortions, it’s used as birth control," Arthur said. "They feel the law should be making these decisions. But only a pregnant women can be making these decisions. Is this a blob to her, or a person?"
Arthur called the Angus Reid poll "dangerous".