An Alberta judge has let a woman who strangled her newborn son walk free by arguing that Canada’s absence of a law on abortion signals that Canadians “sympathize” with the mother.
“We live in a country where there is no protection for children in the womb right up until birth and now this judge has extended the protection for the perpetrator rather than the victim, even though the child is born and as such should be protected by the court,” said Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition.
Katrina Effert of Wetaskiwin, Alberta gave birth secretly in her parents’ downstairs bathroom on April 13, 2005, and then later strangled the newborn and threw his body over a fence. She was 19 at the time.
She has been found guilty of second-degree murder by two juries, but both times the judgment was thrown out by the appeals court. In May, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned her 2009 murder conviction and replaced it with the lesser charge of infanticide.
On Friday, Effert got a three-year suspended sentence from Justice Joanne Veit of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. As a result, she was able to walk out of court, though she will have to abide by certain conditions.
According to Justice Veit, Canada’s lack of an abortion law indicates that “while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.”
“Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother,” she added.
Under Canada’s Criminal Code, a woman who has not “fully recovered” from the effects of birth can be found guilty of the lesser charge of infanticide. To bring forward the infanticide defense, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, there must be evidence that the woman’s mind was disturbed.
According to the Crown, the evidence showed Effert was not suffering mental disturbance. They highlighted the fact that she planned for the birth by getting scissors to cut the umbilical cord and towels, and then hiding in the bathroom in her parents’ basement. They suggested that she had tried to miscarry the child during pregnancy by smoking and drinking. She lied during initial police questioning, claiming she was a virgin.
But Justice Veit agreed with defense lawyer Peter Royal, saying that this was “a classic infanticide case — the killing of a newborn after a hidden pregnancy by a mother who was alone and unsupported.”
Pro-life advocates have warned for years that widespread acceptance of abortion will open the door to greater societal acceptance of infanticide, beginning with the euthanizing of disabled newborns. Infanticide proponent Peter Singer, a top ethicist at Princeton University, has said, for example, “there is no sharp distinction between the foetus and the newborn baby.”
Though he once was considered to be on the radical fringe, Singer’s views are becoming more mainstream. For example, the world’s most prestigious bioethics journal, The Hastings Center Report, published in 2008 an enthusiastic defense of the Netherlands’ practice of euthanizing newborns.
“Where will it end: a one month old child whose parent has decided is not worthy of life, a six month old child, a two year old child, a special needs child or how about a teenager?” asked Hughes.
“It is time that Parliament, whose duty it is to protect and legislate regarding the Constitution, examine its duty with regard to the first constitutional right – ‘the right to life’ and enact legislation which recognizes that life begins at conception and must be protected from that time until natural death,” said Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer of CLC. “The mother’s stress cannot equate to the loss of a lifetime for the child.”
– Prophecy News Watch