Abortions in Canada

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Abortions have been a world-wide controversial topic of discussion. However, Canada has been progressive in their actions and decriminalized abortions in 1988, after the 15th Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, set a changes in motion after introducing a bill amending the Criminal Code in 1967. The Criminal Law Act of 1968-1969, that was passed on May 14th, 1969, allowed for women to obtain professional help with abortions only if their life was potentially in danger. Although abortions weren't legalized completely yet, this bill made contraceptives and homosexuality legal and was a starting point on a long road of legal affairs.

Soviet Russia was the first country to legalize abortions in 1919, followed by other North Western European countries like Iceland (1935) and Sweden (1938); Canada eventually followed in 1988.

Turning Points

Morton Shulman, an ambitious Canadian physician, politician, businessman and a best selling author, had a role in the reconsideration of abortion laws in Canada. After being elected Ontario's Chief Coroner in the 1960s, he asked for public inquests into each abortion-related death, in hopes to publicize the reason for deaths in mothers. One specific case, the death of Lottie Leanne Clarke, who was a 34 year old mother of three, got certain attention from a jury which lead to the Minister of Justice to reach out to Shulman. After finding out that she was pregnant, because of the laws at the time, Clarke had to resort to an illegal abortion. This caused a very severe infection that although was treated by antibiotics and received medical attention, ultimately lead to her death. Clarke's death was a pivotal moment in abortion history because soon after the Coroner made recommendations to the Minister of Justice to review the current abortion laws, amendments to the Criminal Code were made.

Although Amendments were made to the Criminal Code, abortions were not completely decriminalized yet. In 1969, women could receive therapeutic abortions only if it was life-threatening, even then some provinces refused to offer these services in their hospitals. Some women had to wait up to about 8 weeks for an abortion, just to find out that the doctor committee could not justify the procedure.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Canadian physician and holocaust survivor played a massive role in the legal battles of abortions and today has around 20 operating Morgentaler Clinics that offer professional help in abortions. Seeing that the amendments to Section 251 of the Criminal Code still hasn't allowed all women to easily receive medical help, he started to give abortions under the radar in Quebec. He stated publicly that he had successfully performed 5000 abortions, even having filmed the operations himself. With the help of the jury, Morgentaler was not convicted both times the Quebec government took him to court. However, the government appealed an acquittal, resulting in the appeal court to overturn the jury's verdict; Morgentaler had to serve 18 months in jail. After visible general public disapproval, the federal government passed a law, now known as the Morgentaler Amendment, which made it so a jury's verdict could not be overturned by an appeal court.

"I want to make my contribution to humanity so that there will be no more Auschwitzes. Children who are born wanted and given love and attention will not build concentration camps." - Henry Morgentaler

Timeline Link

[ http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/abortioninfo/history.shtml Link label ]


Most anti-abortion views are rooted in religious principles. In some Christian sects, abortion is prohibited because they view the fetus as an unborn person and that the act itself has the same magnitude as murder. Arguments like if a fetus is an unborn person, aborting it would be like killing a child. In Stoicism (school of philosophy) however, a fetus is not seen as a person yet, more like a plant and that abortion was not merely like murdering a human being. Similar with Aristotle, who thought that there were three types of souls. The first was described as 'regenerative' and 'nutritious', similar to plants. The second was 'sentient' and 'sensational' which he believed were possessed by animals that instinctively acted on instincts and feeling. And the third type of soul was described as being rational; Aristotle thought that the fully developed human possessed a mix of all three kinds of souls. But can a fetus be rational or sentient? After the 19th week perhaps it will develop reactive instincts but up until this point, it's main purpose is to generate and to receive nutrients, much like plants. Abortion is also condemned in Hinduism because it either goes against or disrupts three out of the nine beliefs of the religion. The main belief that abortion goes against is that all life is sacred, even an embryonic one.

Essentially, the issue of abortion is a debate on when life actually begins. The argument about whether a fetus is considered 'alive' at conception or when it takes its' first breath after birth is still one that has not been settled; without a general consensus, this will continue to exist.


For most cases, induced abortions occur around the 20th week of gestation, however, there are multiple methods to treat the fetus up to the 40th week in Canada.


" " = of abortions in Canada

  • Suction Aspiration (Approximately 90% " ")
  • Menstrual Aspiration (Less than 1% " ")
  • Surgical Dilation and Curettage (Approximately 6% " ")
  • Dilation and Evacuation
  • Dilation and Extraction
  • Hysterectomy (Caesarean Delivery)

3% of abortions in Canada were done medically

  • Methotrexate and Vaginal or Oral Misoprostol (Synthetic drug)
  • Mifepristone ("Abortion Pill" - Approved for use in Canada in 2015)


  1. "A Legal History Of Abortion In Canada." THE PRO-CHOICE ACTION NETWORK. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
  2. "AbortionFacts.com." The Christian View of Abortion. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
  3. Http://stthomas.academia.edu/MTLu. "Aristotle on Abortion and Infanticide." Academia.edu - Share Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
  4. "Methods." Abortion in Canada RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
  5. Monastery, Kauai's Hindu. "Nine Beliefs of Hinduism." Basics of Hinduism. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
  6. "The Bible's Teaching Against Abortion." Pro Life - Anti Abortion Facts and Pro-Life Arguments. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.