Mishpatim & Shekalim
For the week of February 9, 2013 / 29 Shevat 5773
Torah: Shemot / Exodus21:1 - 24:18; 30:11-16
Haftarah: 2 Melachim / 2 Kings 12:1-17 (English 2 kings 11:21-12:17) &
1 Samuel 20:18-42


Protecting the Preborn

When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Shemot / Exodus 21:22-25; ESV)

Many people are shocked to hear that Canada, where I live, has no laws whatsoever regulating abortion. Every other nation where it is legal to purposely terminate pregnancy, except for North Korea, imposes some sort of limits. Usually those limits include prohibiting the procedure after a certain stage of gestation (often at twenty weeks of pregnancy). Canada, in all its provinces and territories, on the other hand, permits abortion through pregnancy all the way until the baby's body is completely outside of the mother.

This is based on the Criminal Code of Canada's definition of when a child is deemed to be a human being as far as the laws against homicide are concerned. Section 223, subsection 1 reads, "A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not (a) it has breathed; (b) it has an independent circulation; or (c) the navel string is severed." (http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-110.html)

Sounds pretty clear. By determining that the preborn are not human beings, they are not under the law's protection. In other words, killing a yet-to-be born child in Canada is not murder, because he or she is deemed to be a life form that is not human.

It is no wonder that pro-abortion activists in Canada are aggressively opposed to any suggestion that the preborn's humanity might precede birth even though science says otherwise. A few months ago, a private member's motion to initiate a discussion over when life begins was soundly defeated in our Parliament. This was not a proposed law, but only a request for a discussion. This elected member and his supporters were ridiculed for daring to propose such a thing.

As I looked into the issue, I was surprised to discover that Section 223 of the Criminal Code of which I have already quoted has a second subsection that seems to agree with the verses from the Torah that I started with:

(2) A person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.

While in no way contradicting the previous subsection's definition of what constitutes a human begin before the law, it clearly states that causing injury to a child prior to birth that results in death after birth is murder. This agrees with what God says through Moses: the punishment for causing premature birth is based on whatever happens to mother and/or child after birth. If the child dies, then the perpetrator is deemed to have committed murder.

The only difference that I can see between God's law and Canadian law is that in Canada if the baby dies pre birth, then the injury to the child is not deemed murder because he or she is not yet regarded as a human being.

Two conclusions: First, there is no doubt that God views the preborn as worthy of protection just like any other person. Second, Canadian law agrees. Somehow our lawmakers understand the value of human life and the government's responsibility to protect that life even at this early stage of development. For it accepts the connection between harm done to the child prior to birth and the result after birth. Yet it withholds protection by arbitrarily determining what constitutes a human being. The lack of logic in Section 223 should be enough to provide the preborn in Canada with the same protection any other person enjoys in this country. The injustice is self-evident.

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