This Saturday many Canadian women will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the striking down of Canada’s abortion law and the end of the persecution of Dr. Henry Morgentaler.
Most medical professionals expected abortions to increase. In fact thy have held pretty steady. Medical professionals think they know why.
Abortions are all right in theory, not so much so in practice. Fewer than one in five hospitals in Canada perform abortions. Prince Edward Island offers no abortion services at all. New Brunswick has created barriers to access, requiring referrals from two doctors.
Access to abortion services is almost non-existent in the North. There is not a single abortion provider north of the Trans-Canada Highway in Ontario. If a woman travels out of province or to the United States – which many women are forced to do because of lack of timely access domestically – she must pay for the abortion out of her own pocket. In the nation’s capital, Ottawa, the wait time for an abortion stretches to six weeks.
Drug-induced abortion (RU-486) – the method of choice of about one-third of women in Europe – is not available in Canada.
In the abortion case 20 years ago, Madam Justice Bertha Wilson wrote that a woman has a right to continue or terminate a pregnancy, free of state interference.
If abortions are legal in Canada, does the government have an obligation to provide them?
Or should legal abortions be made as difficult as possible to obtain?