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On the night of February 15th 2007, an excited Roxanne Fernando left her home with her mother's blessing and got into her boyfriend's car. Armed with gifts of chocolate, perfume and a teddy bear, she had no reason to believe that he had already plotted to savagely take her life that evening. The reason for the attack was that Roxanne was pregnant, had with-stood to his pressure to abort their baby and was seeking to continue a relationship with the father of her child.

Four years later, on November 9th, Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press 'tweeted' the minute by minute details of the sentencing from inside the courtroom. The content of the proceedings drew a “whoa. We hadn't heard that before. Sadistic,” from McIntyre.  He was referring to the fact that Fernando was still breathing when her killers put her body into the newly dug grave. Both Nathanael Mark Plourde, 21 and Jose Manuel Toruno, 21 received life sentences and the 17 year-old whose name could not be released received the maximum for a minor of 10 years.

The Crown's counsel, Brent Davidson, said Fernando's refusal of Plourde's demand for an abortion had triggered the killing.

Rod Bruinooge, MP for Winnipeg South, has since taken up the case of Roxanne Fernando and on April 15th proposed Bill C510 (also called Roxanne's Law) that would amend the Criminal Code to prohibit coercing a woman into an abortion. One of the youngest politicians in the House, Bruinooge knows that this may be the only opportunity he will have to bring forward a private member's bill.

During it's second reading in the House of Commons on November 1st, Bruinooge noted that Roxanne's Law would not affect women's access to abortion in any way. Canada will continue to have no legal restrictions on the procedure permitted in all nine months of pregnancy,he said. However, for those women who choose to have their baby, this law would give them added protection to fulfill their hopes and dreams of having a family.”

In its first reading, Bruinooge made the interesting connection between Canada's immigration policies and his Bill.  During the International Conference on Population and Development, the international community agreed, in paragraph 8.25 of the ICPD program of action that, Coerced abortion is explicitly recognized as a violation of basic human rights and principles.Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board has strongly condemned coerced abortion.

He sited the 2004 case of a Chinese woman, who because of her involvement in China's family planning policies, was refused refugee status in Canada. Thomas H. Kemsly, who wrote the decision, referred to forced or coerced abortion as a crime against humanity, an act of barbarous cruelty that shocks the conscience and is contrary to human dignity.”

Bruinooge noted further that, not only do we deny refugee status to those who have committed forced or coerced abortions abroad, but we also protect refugee claimants who are targets of such coercive policies. The Refugee Protection Division of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board has granted protection to women who fear being victims of China's one-child policy.”

He cited the case of a claimant who had become pregnant a second time in violation of the country's one-child policy.  She was arrested in the eighth month of her pregnancy and forced to abort. The refugee division found that she had been persecuted,said Bruinooge, and that there was more than a mere possibility that she would suffer either another procedure, forced sterilization or both if she returned to China.”

If justice can be given to our refugee claimants, how much more do our own Canadian women deserve this kind of protection?
Bruinooge pointed out that the focus of the bill is primarily on domestic abuse and personal coercion and that France, Italy and Germany have also passed laws that make it an offence to coerce a woman into ending her pregnancy.

Members of Parliament, Nicole Demers (PQ), Irene Mathyssen (NDP), Marlene Jennings (Lib.) and Jean Crowder (NDP) were not pleased with the proposal of the Bill, and expressed dismay at having to argue about abortion in parliament, a question which they consider settled and closed to debate.

Nicole Demers told the House that, pro-life groups have been set up in various cities in Quebec and Canada.They are supposedly there to help women in distress, but [they] spout all sorts of nonsense to these women. They tell the women who come to see them that the aborted fetuses are used by pharmaceutical companies to make lipstick.”

Ms. Mathyssen called the Bill a thinly veiled attempt to criminalize abortion providers and promote an anti-choice agenda.

“If we give legal rights to a fetus, she said, we must automatically remove some rights from women, because it is impossible for two beings occupying the same body to enjoy full rights. 
Only Kelly Block (CPC) spoke in favour.  "We need to protect pregnant women, especially when they are at their most vulnerable, from being coerced into having abortions they do not want,she said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not support the Bill and is expected to recommend that Conservative MPs not support it if it comes to a vote. The Harper government's position has always been crystal clear,wrote his spokesman Dimitri Soudas in an email. He will not support or initiate reopening the debate on abortion.”

If  Bill C-510 was to be passed it would amend the Criminal Code and create two new criminal offences. The first would involve five years' imprisonment on indictment and 18 months' imprisonment on summary conviction for actually coercing a pregnant woman into abortion. The second offence would carry a maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment on indictment and six months' imprisonment on summary conviction for attempting to coerce a pregnant woman to have an abortion.

The word coersion includes committing or threatening to commit physical harm to the female person, the child or another person; committing or threatening to commit any act prohibited by any provincial or federal law; denying or removing, or making a threat to deny or remove, financial support from a person who is financially dependent on the person engaging in the conduct; and attempting to compel by pressure or intimidation including argumentative and rancorous badgering or importunity.”

The Bill is scheduled for a second reading on December 13th and is scheduled for a vote on December 15th.

It is interesting to note that while this Bill is before Parliament, another incident has come to light.  A November 26 LifesiteNews report states that, a woman charged with killing her boyfriend is claiming she stabbed the man in self-defense when he attacked her for refusing to have an abortion.

Melinda Morin, 29, has been charged with second-degree murder in the Nov. 10, 2009, stabbing death of Barry Neil Godwin. Morin testified in court that her refusal to abort their baby caused Godwin to become enraged and physically attack her.  He threw a knife at her and then came after her with second knife.  Morin was able to use the first knife in her defense and stab him.
Roxanne Fernando's case is by no means an isolated incident.  Liberalized abortion laws have left women vulnerable to the suggestions and intimidations of others who are not willing to provide the support that these pregnant women need.
In Bruinooge's own words, “No pregnant woman should ever have to choose between protecting herself and protecting her baby.”