Photo: Blaise Edwards, The canadian Press
On January 28, 1988, Henry Morgentaler, celebrated the supreme Court’s decision invalidating a law criminalizing abortion in Canada.
In January, the decision in Morgentaler the supreme Court of Canada celebrates its 30th anniversary.
On January 28, 1988, the country’s highest court had invalidated a law criminalizing abortion, except in cases where a committee of doctors was that the pregnancy was a threat to the life or health of the woman.
The supreme Court had ruled the law unconstitutional, arguing that it was a violation of the right to life, liberty and security of the person guaranteed by the canadian Charter of rights and freedoms.
“Congratulations to all the women of Canada,” said Henry Morgentaler, doctor and defender of the right to abortion, outside of the hearing room of the supreme Court. “The women of Canada have finally received justice ! “
Thirty years later, this historic decision is still the cornerstone of the right to abortion in the country.
But the topic continues to provoke heated debates. Opponents of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy as its defenders have called on the government to legislate, the first to prohibit or limit access to abortion, the second to improve it and put an end to the harassment of doctors who perform the surgery and patients.
“Even if 30 years have passed since the law against abortion was invalidated in Canada, we are still faced with the same problems,” said Arlene Leibovitch, the widow of Henry Morgentaler and owner of clinical Morgentaler Ottawa and Toronto.
According to Ms. Leibovitch, activists antiavortement often gather in front of clinics that offer the service, waving of the horrific images and frightening the doctors and the patients.
“The clinic Morgentaler in Ottawa has been the subject of protests among the most brutal to have taken place in the country and the right of women to privacy has been very compromised, recalled Ms. Leibovitch. It is extremely stressful, both for staff and for patients, the almost-attack by posters and people who howl at the top while they are in the clinic. “
An Ontario law aimed at creating a “bubble of protection” around abortion clinics is expected to enter into force shortly. But Arlene Leibovitch wonder why the province has put three decades to respond.
“How does this type of situation can still occur today, while abortion is legal the last 30 years ? “
A legal vacuum
With the decision made by the supreme Court in 1988, Canada became one of the few countries not to have any law prohibiting or providing access to abortion.
Politicians and activists opposed to abortion have made great efforts to address this legal vacuum. They argue that the intention of the court was not to remove all restrictions, but rather to ensure that these restrictions do not infringe the rights of pregnant women guaranteed by the canadian Charter of rights and freedoms.
All attempts to recriminalizing abortion failed, however.
Several projects of law of parliamentary initiative have tried, without success, to make some aspects of abortion illegal.
One of them has proposed to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, while another suggested that criminalize any injury inflicted on a fetus in the context of an offence committed against the mother.
The activist for the right to abortion Joyce Arthur warns that grant rights to the fetus is the equivalent of venturing out on a slippery slope, which could restrict the rights of pregnant women in the future.
“We need to ensure that the pro-life have no basis on which to build,” said Ms. Arthur, executive director of the Coalition for the right to abortion in Canada. “Without restriction, they have no framework to use as a starting point. “
According to it, in countries where the law makes abortion illegal after a certain number of weeks of pregnancy, the opponents will exploit this limit to further restrict access to the procedure.
For their part, the pro-life argue that the decision in Morgentaler left the fetus without protection. “We are literally a country without law in respect to abortion, pointed out Jack Fonseca, a member of Abortion Rights Coalition, a group that advocates against abortion. A woman could legally get an abortion any time before entering the work, until the moment of birth. “
The group based in Toronto is calling for a complete ban on abortion, with some exceptions.
Natalie Sonnen, VieCanada, another group against abortion, for its part, has indicated that any legislation would be preferable to the current situation where an abortion can be obtained at any time of the pregnancy, and this, regardless of the reason.
A medical procedure
But according to Joanna Erdman, a professor MacBain in law and health policy at Dalhousie University, these statements are false.
“This is really a tactic to muddying the waters. It is totally false to say that someone can just show up in a clinic in Canada and ask for late abortions for any reason, ” said Mrs. Erdman, who is also an associate professor at the school of law Schulich, Dalhousie University.
She continues by stressing that, if no law prohibits abortion, the latter is treated like any other medical procedure and will be framed by policies, codes of ethics and medical protocols.
“We have no specific provision in the criminal Code for abortion because there are many laws that govern abortion as a medical procedure, she added. To imply that women are regularly late-term abortions does not reflect the reality of the practice of abortion. “
Joanna Erdman adds that most late-term abortions are ” absolutely tragic of wanted pregnancies where there is a diagnosis. It is completely cruel to force a woman to carry to term a fetus that will be stillborn and will not have the possibility to intervene “.
The recurrent argument of the opponents to abortion according to which the absence of law will force women to have an abortion at nine months of pregnancy is, according to Joyce, Artur, ” misogynistic and offensive “.
“It has been refuted many times and yet they continue to use it “, she lamented.
“It assumes that women are so stupid and without heart they are going to demand an abortion at nine months of pregnancy for reasons that are frivolous and that the doctors will agree to do so. This is illogical and frustrating, and it is a form of hate speech against women and doctors. “
“The fact that, for 29 years, we have not had any restriction on abortion is proof that we don’t need,” says Ms. Arthur.