One of Quebec's powerful doctors' federations is joining the opposition to a federal bill that would make it a crime to kill a fetus, fearing the law will be the first step to criminalizing abortion.
"The back-door objective of this bill is to set in motion a long legal saga that would in the end give rights to the fetus," said Gaétan Barrette, head of Quebec's Federation of Specialist Doctors.
Bill C-484, the proposed unborn victims of crime act, which would make it a separate crime to kill a fetus during a criminal act against its mother, has passed second reading in the House of Commons.
"That will allow someone to go to the Supreme Court and say 'Look, you've passed Bill 484. And because of that, you implicitly gave rights to this fetus. And if the fetus has rights, then abortion should be illegal because it is a murder,' " Barrette said.
Barrette said there is no need for a new law and that judges can use their discretion to impose harsher sentences for brutal crimes.
But Edmonton Conservative MP Ken Epp, who brought forward the private member's bill, said critics are missing the point of his proposed legislation.
He said it's about protecting women who have chosen to have their children.
"She wants to give birth to that child, she wants to give it life, and love, and look after it, and it just isn't right [for] some third person to come in there, and by criminal assault, to take that choice and that baby away from her."
Epp points out there is a special provision in his bill that would protect women who have chosen to have a legal abortion.
The proposed act came after the 2005 murder of 19-year-old Edmonton woman Olivia Talbot, who was six months pregnant when she was shot three times in her stomach and twice in the head.
"It's two people who died that day," said her mother Mary Talbot, who supports the proposed bill. "I certainly put two people in a coffin."