Word Games

 

Language to dehumanize the unborn child has been commonplace in the abortion debate over the years. Words like product of conception, contents of the uterus, tissue, or clump of cells have long been used by abortion advocates to distance themselves from the reality of abortion.

Now along now comes a case not dealing with abortion where similarly sad language was employed by judges of the Supreme Court of Canada last fall. Charlie Gillis reported in Maclean’s magazine in November 2012 on the ludicrous verbal gymnastics used in these proceedings  in order to avoid acknowledging the humanity of a dead newborn baby girl whose decomposed body was found in a plastic bag on the balcony of her mother’s appartment.  Judges of the Supreme Court of Canada did not utter the word child or baby in reference to  this newborn baby girl.  The mother had been  charged under section 243 of the Criminal Code of Canada writes Mr. Gillis because it  “forbids concealing the body of an infant whether the child died before, during or after birth. ” (1)

 At issue in the case was the question of whether the child had been alive or dead at birth. The pathologists could not make that determination. Section 223 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that a child becomes  a  human being when it has fully emerged in a living state from the body of its mother. Only,then will  a child receive protection and possess legal rights. 

 Mr. Gillis explains :

“…under Canadian case law, a child has no legal rights before it has emerged from the womb. By using words like ‘child’, baby’, or ‘girl’, therefore, the judges could be implying humanity on the part of the deceased. They’d also be undermining Levkovic’s defence: if an unborn child has no right to legal protection, her lawyers had reasoned, how could the law stand?

Thus began a kind of linguistic minuet , as the judges reached for acceptable nomenclature for a hypothetical baby that the law might not regard as a person. McLachlin[Chief Justice Beverly Mclachlin] tried ‘object’ and ‘being’ and at one cringeworthy point, referred to it as “this, um, dead, um whatever.” Her colleagues didn’t fare much better. During a discussion of the applicability of mens rea, Justice Michael Moldaver, a former criminal lawyer who joined the court one year ago referred to the infant in such cases as ‘the thing”. Not, in short, the Supremes’ finest hour.” (2)

This newborn girl was not a hypothetical child or a potential human being but a real one before birth, during and after birth. 

 

 

(1)& (2)  Gillis, Charlie. The right words. Maclean’s magazine, November 2012.

 

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