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Ann Nienhuis is the Research and Communications Director for the pro-life advocacy group We Need A Law.
On May 2, 2019, Nicholas Baig will be sentenced for the murder of his wife, Arianna Goberdhan. Arianna was found dead due to multiple stab wounds in Pickering, Ontario in April 2017. Baig, who had been charged with domestic assault in the past, pled guilty to second degree murder.
At the time of the murder, Arianna was nine months pregnant, only 20 days away from her due date with a baby girl she had named Asaara.
That little girl, who was inside Arianna during the attack, and who died with her while waiting for emergency services to arrive, is not recognized as a victim. Nicholas Baig faces no charge in relation to the death of his own pre-born daughter.
Crown attorney George Hendry, when discussing the case, called it an “almost unprecedented murder” due to Arianna’s advanced stage of pregnancy. Yet, while common sense dictates that Asaara was a victim along with her mother as Baig undoubtedly intended to kill both, our law does not allow for a charge to be made on behalf of a pre-born child.
According to section 223 of the Criminal Code, “a child becomes a human being…when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.” This strange twisting of words makes a distinction between “child” and “human being”, with “human being” magically conferring a status worthy of human rights, rights to which the “child” was not entitled.
Goberdhan’s family knows that justice will not be done on May 2, no matter what sentence is given. At a sentencing hearing in March, Arianna’s uncle stated, “We’re here today not just on behalf of Arianna, but also for Asaara. The law needs to be changed so that the next time, it’s recognized that this is a double homicide, not a single homicide.”
We stand with the Goberdhans, as we stood with the Durhams and Kaakes when Cassie Kaake was brutally murdered in 2014 while seven months pregnant with her daughter Molly. Molly, like Asaara, was ignored by the justice system. These are real people, real families, feeling the devastating impact of a society that refuses to recognize pre-born children for what, and who, they are.
On October 19, 2016, our Members of Parliament voted down Bill C-225 (Cassie and Molly’s Law), a law that would have allowed additional charges to be laid against a killer who took the life of a woman he knew to be pregnant. MP’s felt they could not support this bill because it gave recognition to pre-born children. While the law in no way impacted the status quo on abortion, we saw an underlying fear driving our politicians, who too often view pre-born children as a political liability, no matter what the discussion.
What this showed was the way “choice” has been dramatically misrepresented in the abortion debate. Those who call themselves “pro-choice” are unable to honor Cassie’s or Arianna’s choice to carry her baby to term. This reveals a lack of consistency as to what “choice” means—in fact, they are only pro-abortion. They choose to do nothing, or even to actively fight against justice for babies like Molly and Assara, rather than support the common sense step of ensuring justice for two victims.
Violence against women is a serious issue. Boyfriends, husbands, and estranged versions of both are the most likely killers of women today. One study found that “more than twice as many women were shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance than were murdered by strangers using guns, knives, or any other means.”
To call for a “national strategy” or “committee investigation,” as MPs did when introduced to Cassie and Molly’s Law, is meaningless when simultaneously ignoring a tangible bill right in front of them. A pre-born victims of crime law might not have prevented Ms. Goberdhan’s death. But it would send a strong message that violence against women and children will not be tolerated, and will be dealt with appropriately by our justice system.
Fear of the abortion debate, pressure from abortion activists, and the hardline stance of the Liberal government on this issue have contributed to a state of inconsistency and immense imbalance when it comes to a woman’s choice. When will we celebrate mothers who choose life as much as we are told to celebrate reproductive choice?
If we want to tackle violence against women, we need to ask hard questions about what “choice” really means, and what choices are, and are not, acceptable to us as a society. When the unthinkable happens, as it did in the tragic case of Arianna Goberdhan, we honor her by stating the obvious: her pre-born baby was a victim as much as she was, and the offender must be charged and sentenced accordingly.
MP Cathay Wagantall, who introduced Cassie and Molly’s Law, has sponsored a petition from the Goberdhan family asking again for a law recognizing pre-born victims of crime during sentencing. It can be signed here.