National Campus Life Network > Blog > Abortion > 5 Things the Youth of Canada Should Know About R.v. Morgentaler

5 Things the Youth of Canada Should Know About R.v. Morgentaler

Written by Rebecca Richmond

1. R. v. Morgentaler is not Roe v. Wade 

and Roe v. Wade does not apply to Canada.* Why? For the simple reason that we don’t live in the United States of America.

Because Roe v. Wade is so widely spoken of, even in Canada, people can be easily confused. R. v. Morgentaler was the January 28, 1988 Supreme Court decision that struck down the existing (and inadequate) abortion laws in the Criminal Code of Canada. The previous law, established in 1969, allowed for abortions in hospital performed for reasons of the mother’s ‘life or health’. ‘Health’ was not defined, however, and it was Therapeutic Abortion Committees within the hospitals that had to evaluate the cases. As such, access to abortion could vary substantially in different parts of the country, depending on who sat on the committees. The case of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who served jail time for his illegal abortions, reached Canada’s highest court and, on January 28th 1988, the court handed down its decision, striking down the abortion laws. No law has been passed since.

Don’t assume that your club members will know much about the legal status of abortion. A few ways to help educate your club members on subjects like this include:

  • Share NCLN articles (like this one!) and resources with your club members. Better yet, encourage them to ‘Like’ NCLN on Facebook and follow us on instagram!
  • A good basic primer on the history of abortion law in Canada can be found here:  CCBR: History of Abortion Law in Canada
  • Good talking points on the legal status of abortion can be found at WeNeedALaw.ca: Talking Points
*Although, granted, Roe v. Wade has had a significant impact on Canada.
 

Morgentaler 2014 Meme2. R. v. Morgentaler did NOT make abortion a ‘right’.

No ‘right to an abortion’ exists in law in Canada. Not only is there no law, but the Supreme Court never established a ‘right’ like Roe v. Wade did. In fact, the Supreme Court justices were very clear about the fact that Parliament does have jurisdiction to define protections for the child within the womb. The decision, which was 5-2, was split into four separate judgments, and the only Justice who came close to defending an abortion right even stated in her judgment that the state still has an interest in protecting preborn human life:
“The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state’s interest becomes ‘compelling’ I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive guidance on the subject from all the relevant disciplines. It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester.”  Justice Bertha Wilson, R. v. Morgentaler, January 28, 1988, Supreme Court of Canada (page 113).

You can listen to an interview where Don Hutchison, Legal Counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, addresses this: Abortion Debate in Canada Interview

3. R. v. Morgentaler resulted in a legal vacuum on abortion.

Since the decriminalization of abortion, abortion has existed in a legal vacuum because of the lack of laws. This has led to/or permitted:

  • Sex-selective abortions, which disproportionately target baby girls. Because sex is generally not known until later in pregnancy, sex-selective abortions are also late-term abortions. Although sex-selection is more commonly associated with countries like India and China where the massive sex-ratio discrepancy ratios have been attracting international attention, the problem also exists in Canada. Researchers have found similarly skewed sex ratios among certain communities in Canada and the former interim editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal even called for a ban on releasing the sex of the baby until 30 weeks in order to help stem these abortions.1 
  • Children born alive (after an unsuccessful abortion) and left to die.2
  • Abortions outside of hospitals. Clinics are now able to provide abortions and, because reporting is not mandatory for clinics, we don’t even know the numbers of abortions being done outside of hospitals. Indeed, abortion statistics have become harder to come by thanks to obfuscation by provincial governments.3
  • Legal issues. Andre Schutten, a former club leader of McMaster and Legal Counsel for the Association for Reformed Political Action, described the legal issues that courts run into thanks to R. v. Morgentaler and Parliament’s refusal to address the legal void.4

 

4. R. v. Morgentaler made us survivors. 

In the quarter century since the 1988 decision, a quarter of our generation has been killed by abortion. It is more than a statistic; we are truly a survivor generation. Everyday when we’re on campus, we walk not only amidst those who are grappling with their abortions but also many who survived when siblings did not, or who may have only narrowly survived themselves. Perhaps we, ourselves, are those very people. This sobering reality means that our generation has a great deal of healing to do; it also means that we, as survivors, must speak up for all those who were silenced.

Blaise2014Meme

 

5. We will not let R. v. Morgentaler define the NEXT generation.

Beyond standing against the lethal devastation that abortion has wreaked upon our generation, we also must stand up for the next generation. It is now our generation that is having the abortions, many unaware of what their ‘choice’ really means, many unaware of the impact abortion will have on their lives, many unaware of the support and resources available to them, and many facing pressure and coercion to abort.  As young men and women who survived, we now have the opportunity and obligation to reach out to those facing untimely pregnancies and secure the freedom of the next generation. We grew up in the shadow of R. v. Morgentaler, with one quarter of our generation paying the price for our society’s lack of protections for all human beings at all stages. We cannot, must not and will not abandon the next generation to such a fate.

 

Educate your campus on the truth about abortion. Try the QA Project!

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