The Dissemination of Misinformation

by Angela

At the end of last week, CBC covered the final judgement handed down by the Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench in the case against Katherine Effert. Katherine Effert was convicted of infanticide, a lesser charge than first or second degree murder, which requires that the woman charged be guilty of killing a newborn (under 12 months) and be psychologically unstable at the time that she killed the infant. The Crown argued against the ruling of infanticide by claiming that single fathers and grandparents are subject to the same stresses as single mothers. The Judge rejected this argument on the grounds that our abortion laws reflect our understanding that there are unique stresses which come with carrying a child and that the demands of pregnancy and childbirth can be onerous, particularly in cases where the woman carrying the child has no support. To be clear, Justice Joanne Veit appeared to be using this argument to reject the claim that a single father could then conceivably plead to a lesser charge of infanticide. I say appeared because the court documents have not been released yet.

All was silent for a few days then, on Monday, the right-wing anti-abortion propaganda machine began twisting this argument around. First up we get this: “Shock: No jail time for woman who strangled newborn because Canada accepts abortion, says judge” from in which it was claimed that

An Alberta judge has let a woman who strangled her newborn son walk free by arguing that Canada’s absence of a law on abortion signals that Canadians “sympathize” with the mother.

First, Katherine Effert did not walk free, she received a suspended sentence of 3 years. Second, the case was not decided on the basis of Canada’s abortion laws, it was decided on the basis of Canada’s infanticide law.

The article then goes on to hysterically suggest that

…widespread acceptance of abortion will open the door to greater societal acceptance of infanticide, beginning with the euthanizing of disabled newborns.

However, there are no facts to support this and despite Canada’s abortion laws being fairly liberal, Justice Viet points out that the infanticide defense is very rarely used (which you can read about here, it’s nested in her argument about why there is no reverse-onus of proof on Effert to prove that she was psychologically unstable).

A bit later on the same day and on the same site we get “Infanticide just a late, late abortion?: According to one Canadian judge, pretty much.” Yes, infanticide is pretty much like a late abortion, except it’s illegal, kind of like the difference between driving your own car and taking a stranger’s car for a drive. They’re almost the same thing if by “almost the same” you mean substantially and significantly different. Of course, he’s assuming that Justice Veit referred to Canada’s abortion laws in her ruling on whether Effert was guilty of infanticide rather than in response to the arguments that single fathers are under the same pressure as single mothers. I wonder where he got that idea from (and if you’re really wondering see paragraph 2 above).

On Tuesday, at least four articles appeared all claiming that Justice Veit’s decision was based on our permissive abortion laws. First up we have “Shocker: Judge cites Canada abortion law, frees mom who strangled newborn” Hmmm! This title looks familiar. The first line says:

A Canadian judge, noting that a majority of Canadians support  unrestricted abortion, has freed a woman who strangled her newborn son.

It’s pretty obvious where they’re getting their information from.

Another article from Tuesday: Woman Who Killed Infant Freed by Canada’s Pro-Abortion Law. No need to go into details there. The headline says it all.

Today, The League of Ordinary Gentleman, threw in their two cents with Abortion, Infanticide, Murder, and Slippery Slopes. I have to give them credit for actually reading and referring to the original CBC article. But then I have to uncredit them because they edited out the paragraph which explains the context in which the reference to the Canada’s abortion laws is set.

The story has now been changed by bloggers who can’t even keep the misinformation straight. So far today I’ve seen more of the same and: Fourth Trimester Abortions” Now Legal in Canada as Infanticide OKd; Canada Judge: Infanticide Allowed and the twitter feed:

It’s like a game of broken telephone except it’s not funny.