Canada is one of only a few countries in the world with no laws limiting abortion rights in any way. While some non-legal obstacles exist, abortion access in Canada is among the freest in the world.

While polls continue to show that the overwhelming majority of Canadians believe abortion should remain legal, those that support the completely unrestricted status quo are in the minority.

About 100 000 abortions are performed in Canada every year.

Table of contents
1 Access
2 History
3 Anti-abortion (pro-life) movement
4 External links


Abortions in Canada are provided on demand and available free of charge (as with all medical procedures) in hospitals across the county. Abortion funding for hospitals comes directly from the federal government, and the 1/3 of hospitals which provide them currently perform 2/3 of abortions in the country, the rest being performed by public and private clinics.

Obstacles to access

While the provinces are additionally required by the federal government to fully fund abortion clinics, Quebec and Nova Scotia provide only limited funding, while New Brunswick and Manitoba provide no funding for clinics.

Access in rural and northern areas, and especially in the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, is often restricted by the lack of nearby facilities, requiring women to travel long distances (often at their own expense) to obtain an abortion. Some maritime hospitals refuse to perform abortions on out-of-province patients, in contravention of the portability requirement of the Canada Health Act. This can be especially troublesome for women in PEI, where no facilities currently perform abortions.

Additionally, as with all surgical procedures, a doctor's referral is required, which may be difficult to obtain in conservative areas.


Abortion was completely banned in Canada in 1869. As in other countries illegal abortions were still performed, leading to the deaths of many women every year.

The movement to liberalize Canada's abortion laws began in the 1960's. Then Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill in 1967 that provided for abortions when the health of the mother was in danger as determined by a three-doctor hospital committee. This same bill also legalized homosexuality and contraception, and would be the subject of one of Trudeau's most famous lines: "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation."

Many felt the law didn't go far enough, and that the rulings of the three-doctor committees were inconsistent and often untimely (taking perhaps several weeks). Montreal doctor Henry Morgentaler, not wanting to break the law, initially turned away women from his practices seeking abortions. Soon, however, he began performing safe abortions in his clinic contrary to the law, and in 1973 stated publicly that he had performed 5000 abortions without the permission of the three-doctor-committees, even going so far as to videotape himself performing operations.

The Quebec government took Dr. Morgentaler to court twice, and both times juries refused to convict him despite his outright admission that he had performed many abortions. In spite of the acquittals, the court simply overturned the jury's verdict and Dr. Morgentaler was sentenced to 18 months in jail. Public outcry over Dr. Morgentaler treatment caused the federal government to pass a law preventing counts for overturning a jury's verdicts. Dr. Morgentaler was again acquitted at a third trial, causing the Quebec government to declare the law unenforceable.

Dr. Morgentaler struggle prompted a nation-wide movement to reform Canada's abortion laws. In 1970 35 women chained themselves to the parliamentary gallery in the House of Commons, closing parliament for the first time in Canadian history.

Upon his release from prison in Quebec Dr. Morgentaler decided to challenge the law in other provinces, and over the next 15 years he would open and operate abortions clinics across the country in direct violation of the law. Following a fourth jury acquittal in 1984 the federal government appealed the decision and the appeals court reversed the decision. Dr. Morgentaler in turn appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which in a stunning 1988 decision declared the entirety of the country's abortion law unconstitutional.

In its decision the country stated:

"The right to liberty... guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting his or her private life. ... The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state."

The count did, however, encourage the government to introduce a new and improved abortion law, which it attempted to do in 1989. This new bill, which threatened doctors with a two-year jail term if they approved an abortion when the mother's health was not in danger, was widely and loudly condemned by the country's doctors. While the bill was approved by the House of Commons, it was defeated in the Senate by a tie vote. This failure prompted the government to give up on legislating abortion entirely, leading to the unique situation of Canada having no abortion law whatsoever.

Anti-abortion (pro-life) movement

Information on the pro-life (anti-abortion) movement in Canada has been deleted and needs to be reinstated.

External links

Anti-abortion organizations

Pro-abortion organizations