Legal Abortion in Canada

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The road to having no federal criminal law in Canada regarding abortion is a long and detailed story. The following is a timeline of significant events.

 

1969
Limited Abortion is Permitted

In 1969 the Liberal government permitted abortion under certain circumstances. Abortions were to be provided only in a hospital if a committee of doctors decided that continuing the pregnancy might endanger the mother's life or health.

1982
Charter of Rights and Freedoms

In 1982, Canada enacted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Any law found contravening those rights could be struck down as invalid.

1988
R. v. Morgentaler

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's abortion law as unconstitutional. The law was found to violate Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it infringed upon a woman's right to "life, liberty and security of person."

Chief Justice Brian Dickson wrote: "Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman's body and thus a violation of her security of the person."

Canada became one of a small number of countries without a law restricting abortion. Abortion was now treated like any other medical procedure and was governed by provincial and medical regulations.

1989
Tremblay v. Daigle

In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that a father has no legal right to veto a woman's abortion decision. The ruling came after the boyfriend of Chantal Daigle obtained a court injunction preventing her from getting an abortion. By the time the case was settled, Daigle had secretly obtained an abortion in the U.S.

1990
Bill C-43

In 1990, the federal government, led by Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney, introduced Bill C-43, which would sentence doctors to two years in jail for providing abortions where a woman's health was not at risk. The bill was passed by the House of Commons, but died in the Senate after a tie vote.

1995
Rulings Force Provinces to Allow Private Abortion

In 1995, provincial and federal rulings forced Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to allow private abortion clinics. Despite that, access to abortions outside hospitals continued to be inconsistent across the country. Some provinces and territories decided to cover the cost of abortions provided in clinics outside hospitals. Others didn't, meaning that women who couldn't get into a hospital for an abortion had to pay the costs of a clinic abortion out of their own pockets.

2007 - 2015
Continued Attempts to Pass Legislation

In 2007, Ken Epp introduced a bill (C-484) to protect the fetuses from third party attacks. The bill was entitled; Unborn Victims of Crime Act. This Bill passed second reading with a vote of 147-132 but died on the order paper in September 2008 when the election was called. Legal analysis of this Bill was it was an attempt to re-open the abortion debate.

On April 16, 2008 Maurice Vellacott (MP Conservative) introduced Bill C-537 to prevent the coercion of medical personnel. It was a conscience clause protection bill similar to his previous bills C-246, C-422, C-207 and C-461.

On April 16, 2010 Rod Bruinooge (MP Conservative) introduced C-510, a bill to ban coerced abortion.

While the names of these bills appear to be benign or for the protection of women, any legal analysis we have seen, have argued that they are back door attempts to re-open the abortion debate. While the Prime Minister has spoken out that he has no intent to re-open the abortion question, there has been several attempts from the back benches to bring forth a discussion and none of the votes have been whipped. We do see a trend of bills being introduced regarding abortion. We thought the issue was dealt with the Morgentaler decision and abortion should be treated as a health care issue between a woman and her provider.

April 26, 2012 Stephen Woodworth (MP Conservative) introduces Motion 312 calling for a House of Commons Committee to determine when human life begins. Defeated 203-91 September 26, 2012.

September 26, 2012 Mark Warawa tabled a motion calling on the House of Commons to condemn "discrimination against females occurring through sex-selection pregnancy termination". It will have its first hour of debate in March 2013 and then the second hour of debate in April 2013 when it will come up for a vote.

Feb 2, 2014 NAF member Dr. Gary Romalis died from an illness.

July 18, 2014 The Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton closed after 20 years of providing care.

Nov 26, 2014 New Brunswick released changes to the province's abortion re Regulation 84-20, which removed the requirement that "an abortion must be performed by a specialist in the field of obstetrics and gynecology" and that "two medical practitioners certify in writing that the abortion is medically required". The new regulation stated, "an abortion will be covered if it is performed in a hospital facility approved by the jurisdiction in which the hospital facility is located".

May 4, 2015 The Moncton Hospital began providing abortion care.

June 2, 2015 Premier Wade MacLauchlan announced The Moncton Hospital will accept PEI women with no prior approval or referrals and can self-book appointments.

Jun 18, 2015 Abortion was included as part of the Inter-Provincial Billing Agreement. This was a significant change and brought abortion care in-line with the Canada Health Act, which ensures portability – coverage must be maintained when a person travels outside of their home province.

July 29, 2015 Mifepristone is approved by Health Canada. The product name will be Mifegymiso®.

2016

Jan 4, 2016 The Scott Clinic closes. The Scott Clinic was founded in 1986 by Dr. Robert H. Scott and Maria Corsillo.

January 2016 LEAF (Legal Education and Action Fund) and Abortion Access Now PEI initiate a legal challenge against the Government of PEI. It seeks full and unrestricted access to on island publicly funded abortion care.

March—The Government of PEI announces it will not fight the lawsuit brought by LEAF and Abortion Access Now.

September—The Government of PEI announces a Women's Wellness Centre will be established at Prince County Hospital, Summerside and will include both surgical and medical abortions.

November—Newfoundland and Labrador Access to Abortion Services Act passed, which prohibits protest activity within a legally defined area surrounding an abortion clinic. The government adapted BC legislation because BC's law had already withstood constitutional scrutiny by the courts.

December—The national assembly of Québec passed Bill 92. This is a larger bill and sections 75,76 and 79 are related to the "bubble" zone, creating zones around abortion clinics were protest and other forms of harassment are prohibited.

2017

January—Mifegymiso® available in Canada for use in medical abortion.

Throughout the year Alberta, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia and Québec all universally cover the cost of Mifegymiso® for people with valid provincial health insurance.

Cost of Mifegymiso® covered in Manitoba through approved sites in Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Prairie Mountain Health Region (where surgical abortions already provided).

Saskatchewan Prescription Drug Plan (formulary) provides coverage for Mifegymiso®, covering the cost for some and not all who receive it.

November: Update to product monograph and risk management plan for Mifegymiso®

  • Now approved for use to 63 days/9 weeks from LMP (last menstrual period)
  • Language changed from "physician" to "health professional", opening the possibility of other health professionals like nurse practitioners and midwives to prescribe.
  • Registration of health professionals with distributor is no longer required in order to prescribe or dispense.
  • Mifegymiso® education program is optional, no longer mandatory.
  • Mifegymiso® can now be dispensed directly to patients by a pharmacist or a prescribing health professional, taking the pills no longer is confined to facility or office.

2018

The year starts with British Columbia implementing universal cost coverage of Mifegymiso®

February 1st—Safe Access to Abortion Services Act comes into effect in Ontario that allows for safe access zones to be established around facilities that offer abortion services as well as the homes and offices of regulated abortion providers. It is based largely on BC's law and very similar to it.

June 11—Protecting Choice for Women in Accessing Health Care Act, Alberta's "bubble" zone legislation, comes into effect.