know about Breaking Down Reproductive Rights in Canada – The Varsity
On June 24, the Supreme Court of the United States tipped over Roe v Wade: Its 1973 ruling that restrictive abortion laws infringe on women’s right to privacy under the United States Constitution. The decision effectively overturned nearly five decades of legal precedent on abortion rights in the United States.
The fundamental contribution of the 1973 ruling was that it established the constitutional protection of a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy; the decision resulted in the implementation of a “trimester” system, whereby women have the absolute right to terminate their pregnancy within the first three months.
With the overturning of Roe v Wade, the United States no longer recognizes the right to terminate pregnancy as a constitutional right, allowing individual states to ban abortion at their own discretion.
In light of these developments, the varsity team broke down the status of Canada’s reproductive rights and accessibility to abortion.
Reproductive Rights in Canada
As in the United States, the history of reproductive rights in Canada was also restrictive and minimal prior to a Supreme Court ruling.
Until 1969, abortion and the sale of contraceptives were strictly prohibited in Canada. However, in 1969, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau partially relaxed the ban and decriminalized contraceptives. The 1969 development allowed hospitals to perform abortions only if a committee of doctors had determined a significant or fatal risk to the pregnant woman from her pregnancy.
Following a 1988 ruling, R. v. Morgentaler, Canada, fully and officially decriminalized abortions.
The road to R. v. Morgentaler
In 1969, abortion activist and physician Dr. Henry Morgentaler opened an abortion clinic in Montreal. The clinic offered abortions without requiring committee approval, which was illegal under the laws of the time.
Between 1970 and 1976, Morgentaler experienced legal pushback from Canadian authorities for opening his clinic.
Of particular importance to the final ruling in R. v Morgentaler was the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Enacted in 1982, the Charter outlines the rights guaranteed to all citizens and residents of Canada and provides a legal avenue to override any legislation that violates those rights.
From 1983 to 1988, Morgentaler, who opened another abortion clinic in Toronto, faced new charges.
In 1988, the Supreme Court heard an appeal from Morgentaler and two of his colleagues. They argued that existing abortion legislation violated a woman’s right to life, liberty, and security, and thus violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On January 28, 1988, the Supreme Court ruled in Morgentaler’s favor and struck down Canada’s abortion laws. However, medical regulations surrounding the procedure still vary based on provincial guidelines.
Current Status of Reproductive Rights in Canada
Currently, there does not appear to be a persistent or prevailing threat to the 1988 ruling.
All major political parties except the Conservative Party of Canada have consistently officially endorsed and supported reproductive rights.
Quebec bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet voiced his support for reproductive rights after reports that the US Supreme Court would overturn Roe v Wade. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh also joined in their support for reproductive rights following the official overturning of Roe v Wade. in the U.S.
Since the Conservative leadership of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the official Conservative position on abortion access has remained ambiguous. Earlier this year, Candice Bergen, the interim leader of the Conservative Party, reportedly instructed party members to refrain from commenting on the matter.
Despite Bergen’s instructions, Arnold Viersen, a Conservative MP from Alberta, shared his support for for the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade in a Facebook Live broadcast.
Be that as it may, today abortion remains a legally protected right. Under the Canada Health LawThe federal government is responsible for ensuring that Canadians have access to sexual and reproductive health services.
Today, anyone age 14 or older has the right to have an abortion without requiring anyone’s consent.
In Ontario, ssecure access areas around abortion clinics and health care facilities protect access to abortion services by criminalizing activities within those areas that intimidate or interfere with abortion patients or providers in those areas.
access to abortion
Although abortion is no longer prohibited in Canada, concerns remain about effective access to abortion.
These concerns are particularly evident for people experiencing financial instability and people living in remote areas. Urban centers, where abortions are more easily performed, are often too far away or too expensive for some women seeking abortions.
Geographical and financial barriers are especially relevant to the accessibility of reproductive resources for indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples residing in remote or rural areas may not have nearby health care facilities; therefore, they must consider the economic costs of travel for abortions. Additionally, two-spirited, transgender, and gender-diverse indigenous peoples face more barriers due to identity-based discrimination.
Even for those who can access medical care relatively easily, abortion, like other health services, is often unevenly proportioned and overloadedwhich generates long waiting lists.
In 2015, the Canadian government approved an abortion pill, hold on tight, hoping to address gaps in access to abortion. However, since an appointment with a doctor is required for the prescription of Mifegymiso, due to long waiting listsWomen may have to wait for their appointments past nine weeks of pregnancy until the pill can be prescribed.
In addition, accessibility is subject to provincial regulations, which can vary greatly from one to another.
Although the Canada Health Act requires all provincial health insurance plans to cover the costs of all medically necessary procedures, New Brunswick’s provincial health insurance plan only covers the costs of abortions performed in hospitals.
In Nunavut, the Yukon, and Prince Edward Island, abortions are restricted to the first 12 to 13 weeks of pregnancy, while some abortion clinics in British Columbia, Ontario, and Québec perform abortions up to 23 weeks and six days. In Canada, no abortion clinics perform abortions beyond 23 weeks and six days.