Prime Minister Justin Trudeau certainly used the word “rights” often in the justification of the new policy. He defends “rights,” even unpopular ones, he said we can’t “restrict women’s rights” by “removing rights to abortion” as this is a “really important right that we have established.”
The 1988 decision threw out Canada’s existing abortion laws was abolished by the decision of 1988, which required the issuance of a certificate by a hospital therapeutic abortion committee for an abortion to be legally provided. Since not every hospital had a committee, it resulted in unequal access to abortion for women who would otherwise meet the necessary criteria.
Pro-choice professor Shelley A.M. Gavigan of Osgoode Hall Law School echoes the idea that the Morgentaler decision did not create a right: “The Supreme Court’s decision, profound as it was, did not create a right to abortion for Canadian women, nor did it offer any resolution of the abortion issue.”
Many who support “abortion rights” take exception to the term “pro-choice.” A recent book, Without Apology, Writings on Abortion in Canada, identifies “pro-choice” as too conciliatory, lending credence to the notion there are good and bad reasons for abortion. “Pro-choice” does not promote women’s entitlement to access abortion.
In identifying an abortion right, Canadians may also wrongly be drawing from the U.S. situation. The rough U.S. equivalent to the Morgentaler decision, Roe v. Wade of 1973, did invent the right to abortion via a “right to privacy.”
The Supreme Court left a legislative void by striking down our law, unanimously finding that the Canadian government had a legitimate interest in creating a better law to protect the pre-born child. Going even further than that, they stated that the Charter authorizes laws limiting abortion access.
In Morgentaler, the Supreme Court stated that the Charter itself justifies the legislature limiting abortion access.
Previously, in the issue of the abortion debate, “the clump of cells” argument worked, stigma was attached to having a child “under the wrong circumstances.”
According to surveys and polls, more women than men lean pro-life. Abortion, an issue that was supposed to be “settled,” is as hotly contested as it ever was.
Well, things didn’t just end up here, religious leaders are calling on Trudeau to reverse a policy that requires organizations to pledge their respect for abortion rights and the rights of LGBTQ Canadians before receiving federal funding to create summer jobs for youth.
Nearly 90 representatives of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Council of Imams, and the Jewish Shaarei Shomayim Congregation and other faith groups have issued a letter to Trudeau, urging him to accommodate the “diversity of values and beliefs in Canadian society.”
Trudeau’s government has said organizations seeking summer job funding will have to affirm that neither their “core mandate” nor the job itself oppose human rights, including those related to abortion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Officials have clarified that the core mandate refers to groups’ “primary activities,” not their religious views.
Image Source: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette