Abortion politics loom over proposed amendment to the Criminal Code

A Saskatchewan MP has introduced a Private Member's Bill to add an offence to the Criminal Code, adding a charge when someone kills or injures a fetus during an attack on its mother. The man who campaigned for the law says he never intended it to become a flashpoint in a debate over abortion.
Cassandra Kaakewas seven months pregnant when she was found dead at the scene of an arson in Windsor, Ont., in 2014. (Nancy Kaake/Facebook)

Cassandra Kaake was seven months pregnant when she was killed inside her home in Windsor, Ontario.

Since her death in 2014, her partner Jeff Durham has campaigned for a separate offence to be added to the Criminal Code, to add a charge when someone kills or harms a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman.

Last week, a Saskatchewan Conservative MP named Cathay Wagantall introduced "Cassie and Molly's Law", a private members bill. The name 'Molly' in the bill's title refers to the name Cassandra and Jeff planned on giving their unborn daughter.

Laws which treat a fetus as the victim of a crime are often opposed by pro-choice organizations. When a similar law was introduced in 2007, the Abortion Right Coalition of Canada said "It is a key step towards re-criminalizing abortion, but it could also criminalize pregnant women for behaviours perceived to harm their fetuses."

The law introduced by MP Wagantall is supported by anti-abortion organizations such as We Need a Law, and the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association.

Jeff Durham says he didn't intend his campaign to affect the abortion debate, and feels feels trapped between both sides.

I've done my best to maintain impartiality whether it's pro-choice or pro-life groups or whatever you want to call them. Anybody can support it. But it comes down to perception a lot of the time.For people to see pro-life groups supporting it, I think they're inclined to think it's a pro-life initiative. I wish I could have more control over that perception, but I can't.- Jeff Durham,

In this interview, Jeff Durham tells Jim Brown about what he wants to accomplish, and his feelings about how the proposed law has become a flashpoint between pro-choice and anti-abortion opinions.

To hear the full interview, click the "play" button above.