There are no legal restrictions on abortion in Canada. In most provinces it’s fully covered (free) under their health plans, so in some way The State is involved, but those governments literally have no Criminal Laws regarding abortions since 1988. Which makes Canada pretty unique.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with whether abortion is right or wrong, just or unjust, or against your religion of choice (pun). There were no stirring debates on the humanity of a fetus, or on the sanctity of a woman’s body in any Canadian legislature. It’s just that since the Supreme Court struck down the laws limiting abortion back in 1988 no Canadian politician or political party has ever dared to introduce a law restricting abortion. Well, one did, but that disappeared pretty quick. So now it’s almost like “Logan’s Run” around here — abortion is so legal it’s pretty much retroactive, so if you piss off your mom before you’re sixteen… zzzzaap. You never piss off your mother in Canada.
It wasn’t always like this. Abortion was banned in Canada in 1869, and it wasn’t until 100-years later when abortions for women whose health was in danger were made legal, but only if a three-doctor hospital committee agreed that her life was in danger. In all other cases abortion remained in the Criminal Code of Canada. The 1969 “Get The State Out Of The Bedroom” law also legalized homosexuality and contraception.
So “legal” hardly meant accessible. To receive access to an abortion a woman had to find a family doctor willing give her the pamphlets and who would then refer her to a specialist. The abortion then had to be approved by a Therapeutic Abortion Committee which had usually been taken over — at least partially — by Pro-life groups.
In 1988 the Canadian Supreme Court declared the entire abortion law to be unconstitutional, based on a woman’s right to security of the person, which is guaranteed under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). “Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations… the [current] law asserts that the woman’s capacity to reproduce is to be subject, not to her own control, but to that of the state.”
The Supreme Court, much to the annoyance of Parliament, told the Canadian Government to come up with a new law. So in 1989 a Bill was passed by Parliament which threatened doctors with a two-year jail term if they approved an abortion when the woman’s health was not in danger. It was defeated in the Senate by a tie vote. The only attempt to create a law limiting abortions in Canada since then was introduced in 2006 by Liberal MP Paul Steckle. His Bill would have made abortion after the twentieth week of pregnancy a criminal act. It disappeared pretty freaking quick, all of which means Canada has had no abortion law whatsoever since 1988.
Of the four Federal political parties, the Bloq Quebecois and New Democratic Party are against any regulations on abortion. Officially both the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada have no official positions. Aboot 60 percent of the Liberals, and aboot 40 percent of the Conservatives like it just fine the way it is.
The Canadian public roughly breaks in thirds on abortion. A third want it just the way it is, a third want abortion stopped and a third want some limits. In 2005 an Environics poll asked “at what point in human development should the law protect human life,” 30% of respondents said “From conception on,” 19% said “After three months of pregnancy,” 11% said “After six months of pregnancy,” and 33% said “From the point of birth.” In April 2006 a Leger poll found 34% of respondents felt abortion to be “immoral.”
So Canada will never have an abortion law as long as our political parties risk losing such a significant number of votes. Or, the other way, we’ll never have an abortion law in Canada as long as the voters don’t make abortion a top priority. Which we haven’t since Canada stopped having an abortion law. I think there’s a Catch-22 in there somewhere.
One last thing… in 1989 the Supreme Court ruled that “the father” had no rights to prevent “the mother” from having an abortion. In Tremblay v. Daigle, Chantale Daigle’s ex-boyfriend had obtained a restraining order to prevent her from having an abortion. Eventually the Supreme Court ruled that only the woman/mother/female had the right to choose; the father had no legal rights in the termination of a pregnancy (or her decision to give birth). During the trial Daigle went to the United States for an abortion. I’m pretty sure there’s some irony in there. There are over 100,000 abortions performed in Canada every year.