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Abortion In Canada, Are Charter Rights being Infringed Upon?

By: Emalee Patrick

History has made it clear that women are willing to risk their lives and freedom to exercise au-tonomy over their own bodies. Before the implementation of the Charter of Rights and Free-doms, Authors De Hart and Kerber, in Women’s America Refocusing the Past, cited that in the 1970s approximately 200 000 women had illegal abortions every year. Of those women, it was approximated that 200 died every year due to unsanitary conditions and unlicensed “doctors” performing procedures.

In 1982, the Liberal government implemented the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A fundamental goal of the Charter is to recognize everyones right to life, liberty, and security and not to be deprived of this right. It is also the Charter’s responsibility to uphold equal protec-tion and benefits under the law without discrimination of race, ethnic origin, sex, gender, age, ability. In 1988, relying on these provisions in the Charter, the Supreme Court ruled it unconsti-tutional to ban abortion. Later, it was ruled that men could not veto a woman’s right to an abor-tion.

The three sides associated with abortion:

Though abortions have been legal in Canada for thirty years, the debate continues with three sides most prominently represented.

Pro-life- The opponents of abortion have historically responded to abortion developments through protest, raids of illegal clinics, and (three) shootings of physicians that continued to per-form abortions. Currently, pro-life proponents are focusing on electing pro-life leaders across the country to pass anti-abortion laws. This may be unrealistic as recent Conservative Prime Minis-ter Stephen Harper, had avoided the topic of abortion, and dissolved bills made by pro-life mem-bers of his own party to separate rights of murdered pregnant women and their fetus’.

In the 2019 Federal debate, Pro-Life Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, stated that if elected, he would not reverse any of the progress made relating to abortion. This reaction may be viewed as evidence that Canadians have accepted abortion as a fundamental right rather than a privilege.

Pro-choice (Status Quo)- Those supporting the status quo recognize that no one has the right to veto another’s choice of abortion. This option continues allowing provinces to regulate abor-tion, which has resulted in disparities in the allocation of funding (what the province is willing to cover for its citizens), resources (clinics and medical professionals), and gestation periods in which women are granted access to the service.

Therefore, some women must travel within Canada and even to the United States to access abortion. This is problematic in that only a portion of women would have access to the re-sources required to obtain alternative methods. Overall, inconsistencies in access to abortion services in Canada results in provinces of privilege and continues to violate women’s reproduc-tive rights throughout Canada.

Pro-choice (Do More)- Those who are in support of doing more and advocate for a Federal abortion law to provide universal standards for all women in Canada. Abortion access is an is-

sue of equality and social justice, as women should not be excluded due to socio-economic sta-tus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested increasing medical abortions as this approach is less invasive and the medication has been labelled safe as it passed the longest drug approval process in Canadian history.

The WHO suggests granting prescription privileges of medical abortions to doctors, nurses, and midwives to spread out this service. Medical abortions are only available up to nine weeks ges-tation; therefore, improvements in surgical abortions must also be made. More doctors must be trained to continue standards of abortion care.

Overall, Canadian women are not willing to surrender control over their reproductive rights. Criminalizing abortion is recognized as denying women of their fundamental rights. Yet, without improvements in current abortion practices, unnecessary barriers are being created or are al-ready in place for many women. Canada’s best course of action is to implement a Federal Abor-tion Law that provides equal services to all Canadian women. It is time Canadians had clear standards in affordability and abortion access. A woman’s right over her own body should not be contingent on socio-economic status; therefore, it is up to Canada to close these gaps.