A Canadian judge, Joanne Veit, of Alberta Court of Queen's bench, shocked Canadian pro-Life activists when she gave a three-year suspended sentence to a woman who strangled her newborn. The suspended sentence allowed the woman to walk out of the courtroom free though under probationary conditions.
The woman, Katrina Effert Wetaskiwin, privately gave birth to a baby boy in the bathroom in 2005, when she was 19 years old, and still living with her parents. She strangled the baby and then threw it over the fence. Katrina explained in court that she was afraid when the baby began crying that her parents, who were not aware of her pregnancy, might hear the baby's cry.
Judge Joanne Veit had earlier heard that fellow inmates abused Katrina while in jail because she was a "baby killer." Katrina Effert had been sentenced to 30 days in prison for improper disposal of human body.
The Judge explained her ruling by pointing to the fact that Canada's Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69, which decriminalized abortion approved by a team of medical experts, had been overruled by Canada's Supreme Court in 1988. The judge explained:
While many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support…Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother.
Canada's Campaign Life Coalition reacted to the judgment. Jim Hughes national president of the organization said,
We live in a country where there is no protection for children in the womb right up until birth and now this judge has extended the protection for the perpetrator rather than the victim, even though the child is born and as such should be protected by the court.
No matter how pro-life activists feel about a case such as this, Judge Veit's decision expresses the view in some progressive legal circles that society shares the collective guilt for abortions and infanticide, and thus represents a problem that should be tackled from a wider holistic perspective. Veit's comment that "while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution…they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support…," emphasizes the collective social guilt in the mother's action as against the narrow perception expressed by pro-life activist Jim Hughes who views the 19-year-old mother as criminal "perpetrator" rather than what she really was–victim of a pervasive social conspiracy which isolates young women in circumstances of "unwanted pregnancies," but hypocritically serves them up as convenient scape-goats to the judicial system for punishment only to salve the collective conscience.
Katrina Effert had been convicted of second-degree murder twice but the convictions were overturned in appeals court which replaced it with the lesser charge of infanticide which brings a maximum sentence of five years.
Effert, at the time of Judge Veit's ruling, still had 16 days of 30 days sentence to serve for "indignity to a human body, or improper disposal of a body."