The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life Intervenes in Defense of the Unborn

Friday, December 04 1998

The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life intervenes once again on behalf of the unborn child. It will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada as an intervener on December 8, 1998 in the case of Dobson vs. Dobson.

Dobson vs. Dobson concerns a New Brunswick case brought by Ryan Leigh MacLean Dobson against his mother, Cynthia Dobson, for injuries incurred while in the womb as a result of an automobile accident due to the mother’s alleged negligence. The case is being appealed by the mother.

The Catholic Group is intervening in this case because of its ethical and philosophical position that human life, at every stage of development, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and is worthy of protection especially when most vulnerable, such as the unborn child. The position is also rooted in current medical knowledge, international conventions on the protection of children, the 1989 findings of the Law Reform Commission and the state’s compelling interest in protecting the unborn.

The Group is arguing that the premise the mother and unborn child are one is illogical because the born child already has the established right in law to sue a third party for injuries incurred in the womb as a result of negligence by the third party.

Not to allow the child the same right with his own mother sets up an inequality before the law where a woman who is pregnant and negligently causes harm to a third party who is also pregnant, can be sued by the born child of the third party, but not by her own child.

The Group also disputes the contention that allowing born children to sue their mothers for prenatal injuries will make mothers insurers of their born children’s health or set the stage for minute investigations by intrusive courts into the lifestyle choices of pregnant women. The same argument could be made with respect to children suing their parents for injuries incurred after birth but their right to sue is well established. Why should it be otherwise for injuries incurred before birth?

In both cases the child would have to prove all the necessary elements of a negligence claim, including causation and damages. During the pregnancy the mother would not be required to conduct herself perfectly but only to exercise the same reasonable standard of care expected of pregnant women.

This is the second time the Catholic Group has intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada in support of the rights of the unborn. Last year, the Catholic Group intervened in the case of the Winnipeg mother whose addiction to solvent abuse endangered her unborn child.

The Group represents four major organizations in the Catholic Church: the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, the Catholic Health Association of Canada and the Canadian Association of the Knights of Columbus.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is the national association of Catholic bishops in Canada with the pastoral responsibility for 12.5 million Catholics across the country. The Catholic Women’s League of Canada represents 110,000 women in 48 dioceses and 1415 parishes in Canada. The Catholic Health Association of Canada represents many health and social service centres including 127 hospitals and health care residences as well as health professionals across the country. The Canadian Association of the Knights of Columbus represents 250,000 men and their families who pay particular attention to helping those in difficulty, especially those who are in need or unable to defend themselves.