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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Unwilling Mothers, Unwanted Babies

Infanticide in Canada

This book traces twentieth-century Canadian criminal justice responses to women who kill their newly born babies. Initially, juries were reluctant to convict these women of murder since it carried the death penalty. The current “infanticide” law was adopted in 1948 to impose uniformity on legal practice and to ensure a homicide conviction. Even then, prosecutors faced considerable difficulties, but now, amidst media pressure, and with public attitudes possibly hardening, there are calls for the repeal of the infanticide law and the adoption of a draconian framework to deal with these cases.

240 pages

Law and Society

Table of Contents



1 Regulating Infanticide through Concealment of Birth

2 Unwanted Babies: Humanitarianism and the Infant

3 The Insanities of Reproduction: Medico-Legal Knowledge Informing Infanticide Law

4 Unwilling Mothers: The Disappearance of the “Unwanted” Baby

5 Vengeance for the Innocents: The New Medico-Legal Designation of “Infanticide” as “Child Abuse Homicide”

6 Retributive Justice: The Disappearance of Infanticide


Appendix A: Current Legal Framework Governing Maternal Neonaticide



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