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James Risdon James Risdon

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Abortion activists panic over pro-life billboard pointing out Canada has no abortion law

James Risdon James Risdon

DARTMOUTH, Nova Scotia, August 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Abortion activists and supporters are in a tizzy over billboards that state there is no abortion law in Canada, saying the billboards are misleading and disappointing. 

“If you see a billboard in Dartmouth or elsewhere saying ‘Canada has no abortion laws’: (a) that's not true and (b) the link on the billboard takes you to an anti-abortion website. To be clear: *CANADIAN LAW PROTECTS ABORTION ACCESS*,” tweeted Jennifer Taylor, of the Halifax-based firm of Stewart-McKelvey. 

Taylor declined a request to be interviewed for this article.

In a Global News interview, Halifax chair of the pro-abortion Women's Legal Education and Action Fund Sarah Baddeley echoed those sentiments. Baddeley maintains abortion is regulated in Canada. 

"It's disappointing to see a sign like that come up because it's not true that abortion is unregulated in Canada," she said. "Fear and stigma can be really significant barriers to access for a lot of people as they make a choice that's right for them and a billboard like that fosters that fear and stigma by suggesting that abortion somehow exists in a regulatory void, which is not the case."

But Mike Schouten, director of the pro-life We Need A Law organization which put up the 33 billboards across Canada for a six-week blitz, says the pro-abortionists are quite simply wrong. 

Both sides agree abortion was decriminalized in Canada in 1969. Women could then get abortions provided their abortion was approved by an accredited hospital's therapeutic abortion committee. The two sides also agree that In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down that law as unconstitutional, saying it imposed unreasonable barriers to abortion access. 

That's where the agreement ends. 

Abortion activists claim the Supreme Court's decision created a charter right to abortion in Canada that has been recognized in case law. 

The University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine’s website states: “Since then there has been no federal abortion law in Canada, so it remains a right protected under the Charter, but is unregulated.”

But pro-lifers point out that the Supreme Court never created a “Charter right” to abortion. 

“[A]bortion has never been declared to be a ‘Charter right’ by the Supreme Court of Canada. In fact, the Court has specifically held that there is a legitimate right for Parliament to legislate on the issue, should it so choose,” wrote Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition, in a September 2017 open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Campaign Life Coalition states on its website that the 1988 Morgentaler decision to throw out the 1969 abortion law on the basis that it was “unconstitutional” “created a legal vacuum in which, to this day, no abortion law exists in Canada.” 

Lack of any abortion law means that abortion is guided only by policies put forth by various medical associations.

"The guidelines and suggestions they talk about by the Canadian Medical Association and the colleges of physicians and surgeons are not laws and doctors do not have to abide by them," said Schouten. 

Tabitha Ewert, We Need A Law's legal counsel, also maintains the Supreme Court did not determine there was a right to abortion when it struck down Canada's abortion law 30 years ago. 

"They struck down the old scheme expecting Parliament to pass a new abortion law," said Ewert. "The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Parliament’s ability to legislate to protect fetal interests especially later in the pregnancy. 

"Since then, Canada has had no laws, either federal or provincial, governing when abortion may not be performed. If you phone the College of Physician and Surgeons of Ontario, as we did, they will tell you there is no abortion regulation, but it is up to each individual physician," she said. 

Prince Edward Island Supreme Court Justice Gerard Mitchell in a letter published in Charlottetown’s newspaper, The Guardian, agreed.

“None of the seven judges held that there was a constitutional right to abortion on demand. All of the judges acknowledged the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn,” wrote Mitchell. “Even Madam Justice [Bertha] Wilson, who rendered the most liberal opinion in favour of a woman’s rights, advocated an approach to abortion that would balance those rights with the state’s interest in protecting the unborn.”

As proof of the lack of laws limiting abortion in Canada, Schouten invites anyone with internet access to read a story published in the Montreal Gazette of a woman who had an abortion when she was 35 weeks into her pregnancy, roughly a month before she would have given birth.

According to that Montreal Gazette article, the pregnant woman was first denied an abortion by the McGill University Health Centre based on the Quebec College of Physicians’ 2002 guidelines. She got around those guidelines by shopping around for another hospital in Montreal and was still able to get the abortion.

“The message that Canada has no abortion laws is an important one,” said Schouten. “In addition to polls … suggesting that 77 per cent of Canadians are unaware that we have no laws protecting fetal interests, this message is also one that abortion rights activists love to tout. But while some extreme abortion activists celebrate lawless abortion, it is our hope that having the facts will cause people to consider whether they are comfortable with the status quo or not."

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