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Opening abortion debate could 'criminalize pregnant women': pro-choice group

Canadians have a right to be outraged that Parliament is spending an hour debating whether the Criminal Code definition of "human being" should be expanded to fetuses says a spokesperson from a pro-choice group.

"The fact that people are willing to talk about my human rights in 2012 is shocking," said Julie Lalonde, a member of Radical Handmaids, in reaction to the debate on Motion 312, a motion brought forward by Conservative backbencher Stephen Woodworth and being debated today. 

Though Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeated over and over again that he does not wish to re-open the abortion debate, the hour granted to Woodworth to debate the issue in Parliament does exactly that, Lalonde said. 

"If M-312 isn't an abortion debate, I don't know what is," said Lalonde. "He is claiming not to be supporting Woodworth but if he did not agree with what he was doing, he would have done something."

Similar issues are currently up for debate in the U.S., where states like Mississippi and Alabama are criminalizing pregnant women by, for example, charging women who miscarry, try to end their pregnancies illegally or attempt suicide while pregnant with murder and/or "and attempted foeticide." 

"It's shocking that we're seeing personhood bills either being passed or not being passed in the U.S., and when they are passed seeing the dire consequences that they have," said Lalonde. "Do we want to be like our sisters in the south where pregnant women are being criminalized? There's currently a woman who has been sitting in jail for over a year because of a failed suicide attempt and now shes on trial for murder? I don't want to live in a country like that. That's where M-312 could lead us."

The debate around Motion 312 is scheduled to take place today at 2:30 p.m. Watch it live on CPAC.

Meghan Murphy is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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