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Should Canada reopen the debate on when human life begins?

Categories: Politics

Members of Parliament will debate Thursday afternoon whether Canada needs a new definition of when life begins, sparking anger, criticism and a potential debate about abortion rights.

 Stephen Woodworth says his motion on the legal definition of life is linked to the abortion debate. (CBC)Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth filed a motion in February asking the House to form a special committee to study the legal definition of when human life begins. 

Currently, the Criminal Code defines the beginning of human life as:

223. (1) 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.


The definition is listed in the section pertaining to homicide. Like much of the Code, it derives from British common law.

Woodworth says the definition is 400 years old as need updating.

He also acknowledges that his motion is linked to the abortion debate.

"How can we honestly discuss all of the complicated issues around abortion if we cannot decide whether or not a child is a human being before the moment of the complete birth?" Woodworth told Radio-Canada on Monday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said that his government will not reopen the abortion debate in Parliament because it's "not the priority of the Canadian people."

While the motion will get an hour of debate Thursday, MPs won't vote on it until June or possibly September after the summer recess.

Should Canada reopen the debate on when human life begins? Why or why not? Let us know what you think in the comments below.



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Tags: law, Politics

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