Abortion Should Be Kept Out Of The Criminal Code

1346 words - 5 pages

Abortion, termination of pregnancy before the fetus is capable of independent life.When the expulsion from thewomb occurs after the fetus becomes viable (capable ofindependent life), usually at the end of six months of pregnancy, it is technically apremature birth.The practice of abortion was widespread in ancient times as a method of birth control.Later it was restricted or forbidden by most world religions, but it was not considered anoffense in secular law until the 19th century. During that century, first the EnglishParliament and then American state legislatures prohibited induced abortion to protectwomen from surgical procedures that were at the time unsafe, commonly stipulating athreat to the woman's life as the sole ("therapeutic") exception to the prohibition.Occasionally the exception was enlarged to include danger to the mother's health as well.Legislative action in the 20th century has been aimed at permitting the terminationof unwanted pregnancies for medical, social, or private reasons. Abortions at the woman'srequest were first allowed by the Soviet Union in 1920, followed by Japan and severalEast European nations after World War II. In the late 1960s liberalized abortionregulations became widespread. The impetus for the change was threefold: (1) infanticideand the high maternal death rate associated with illegal abortions, (2) a rapidly expandingworld population, (3) the growing feminist movement. By 1980, countries whereabortions were permitted only to save a woman's life contained about 20 percent of theworld's population. Countries with moderately restrictive laws--abortions permitted toprotect a woman's health, to end pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, to avoidgenetic or congenital defects, or in response to social problems such as unmarried statusor inadequate income--contained some 40 percent of the world's population. Abortions atthe woman's request, usually with limits based on physical conditions such as duration ofpregnancy, were allowed in countries with nearly 40 percent of the world's population.1Under the Criminal Code. R.S.C. !970, c.C-34, abortion constitutes a criminaloffense. Section 159(2)(c) makes it an offense to offer or have for sale or disposal, topublish or advertise means, instructions or medicine intended or represented to causeabortion or miscarriage. Section 221(1) makes the act of causing death to a child who hasnot become a human being, in the act of birth, equivalent to murder. Abortion constitutesan indictable offense under s. 251 of the Code whenever a person uses any means to carryout the intent to procure a miscarriage of female person, whether she is pregnant or not.Section 251(2) makes any female attempting to procure a miscarriage by any means guiltyof an indictable offense. Section 251(4) allows permission for a therapeutic abortion to beobtained from a competent committee, fulfilling strict regulations, with the operationperformed by a qualified physician. However, the common-law...

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