Is abortion legal in Canada? - Answers

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Is abortion legal in Canada?

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Map showing Canada where abortion is legal
Abortion is legal in Canada

Yes, abortion during all stages of pregnancy is legal in Canada, as per the Canada Health Act.

Canada is among the few countries that allow abortion with no legal restrictions or conditions. The decision to undergo abortion or not is left to the pregnant woman concerned and her doctor.

Events leading to the current law

It was back in 1892 when the Canadian Parliament first passed a law making abortion illegal and banned all use and trade of contraceptives.

In 1969, the Liberal government headed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau decriminalized the use of contraceptives and eased the laws on abortion. Under the new law, a pregnant woman could undergo an abortion if a committee of at least three doctors of the same hospital agreed that there was a threat to the mother’s life and confirming the necessity for an abortion.

The same year, one Dr Henry Morgentaler took up the issue to allow women to have the right to undergo an abortion. He opened up a clinic in Montreal where he carried out abortions, in defiance of the government ruling.
In 1970, his clinic was raided, and this was to be the beginning of a long, drawn-out legal battle for women’s right to abort. Although Canadian society remained divided on the issue, there were growing voices in favor. In 1975, over a million women signed a petition in favor of abortion and submitted it to the Parliament.

By 1982, the Canadian Parliament introduced the Charter of Rights and Freedom that guaranteed certain rights to citizens and allowed for any law contravening these rights to be overturned.

Meanwhile, Dr Morgentaler kept facing legal battles with the government on the issue. By 1983, a Gallup poll showed 72% of women were in favor of abortion and confirmed public opinion was changing massively in support of the right to abort.

In 1988, the Supreme Court, in its judgement on the R vs Morgentaler case, struck down the 1969 law that made abortion a criminal act. This paved the way for Canada to introduce the right to abort without any legal restrictions or conditions, leaving the final call to the pregnant woman and her doctor.

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