It is the most important and life altering decision a woman could make – choosing to give life to another human being – and unlike almost every other civilized country in this world where women have the right to choose, Canada has no legal mechanism that accounts for a crime of violence against her baby when it occurs.
When the initial choice is made by a woman, and it is to have a baby, she and the people around her begin to develop human relationships. The parents first see the baby and hear its heartbeat with an ultrasound. Often they find out the gender of the baby. Most parents choose a name before the child is ever born.
Parents learn many new things along the way. Things like that the baby in utero can taste and smell, or that he or she yawns and kicks and can even cry in the womb.
Months pass like years in anticipation for expectant parents. Every bit of the world is changed to include this newest member of the family – physically and emotionally.
Every bit of these experiences originated from a choice that the woman made long ago.
And then the unimaginable occurs.
If a pregnant woman is murdered in Canada there is not one single word written in law that holds an offender accountable for the crime against her choice.
It doesn’t matter if the baby has a name. That she was nurtured and loved. That she was fully grown and only weeks from being born. The choice of a woman does not matter in this context in Canada.
Canadian law is unique in that it lacks the legal tools to represent a woman in her right to choose when that choice is violated in a violent crime. During a trial family are censored from referring to an unborn baby as a victim of the crime.
Though forensic pathologists extract and photograph the fully developed unborn baby, the information will likely never be used as evidence because she is not considered a victim of the crime.
The slightest implication during a trial that the woman’s child was a victim could result in a mistrial.
In these circumstances a woman’s history is rewritten. First, by her killer, and then, by the courts that are tasked with representing her.
All their loved ones can do is sit by and watch as she is stripped of the dignity that in life she believed was her right – her choice. And every human relationship born of that choice – a sister, a cousin, a father – is demoralized and discounted in a way that only benefits the individual who violently took it away.