Canada’s pro-life groups have renewed calls for Parliament to pass legislation protecting the unborn child as the country marks the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s striking down of the former abortion law.

The Supreme Court ruled January 28, 1988 that the former abortion law conflicted with what it saw as security of person guarantees in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

No restrictions

The ruling left the country with no restriction on abortion, and Parliament has lacked the political will to enact new legislation. As a result, as many as one million unborn children have been lost to abortion since 1988.

The Canadian anniversary comes just days after the 25th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision in the United States, which allowed abortion on demand in that country.

“We call on Prime Minister Jean Chretien to restore full legal protection of the right to life in Canada immediately,” said Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition. He also criticized the abortion industry for hiding the truth about the humanity of the unborn and for its failure to report on the various risks associatewith abortion.

In Winnipeg, the executive director of Alliance for Life said the 1988 Supreme Court decision has left Canada a legacy of suffering and despair. Michelle Lavergne called attention to the number of repeat abortions committed on Canadian women and to the fact that the majority of abortions are committed for socio-economic, rather than medical, reasons.

Lavergne said the public perception of abortion has changed since the landmark ruling. “There has been a change of heart because of the negative effects abortion has on women,” she said.

Other Canadian pro-life organizations suggested that the 1988 ruling has resulted in greater public sympathy for the unborn child in the womb.

“The decision reinforces the fact that children in the womb have no legal protection and are treated like property,” said Barbara LeBow of the Winnipeg-based Alliance Action group. “People never before involved in the pro-life movement are joining it because they recognize there is no genuine alternative to the traditional view that all human beings are persons entitled to full legal protection.”

The Toronto Right to Life Association bristled at the party-like mood with which the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League greeted the Canadian Supreme Court anniversary ruling. “(Henry) Morgentaler’s supporters intend to mark the anniversary with cake and champagne,” said June Scandiffio, the Association’s president. “Rather than celebrating death, Canadians should take this opportunity to address the injustice and recommit ourselves to protecting the youngest members of the human family.”


Pro-abortion groups seized on the anniversary to celebrate women’s “hard-fought reproductive rights.” They also called on the federal government to ensure easier access to abortion services throughout the country.

CARAL has urged that training in abortion techniques be stressed at Canadian medical schools. At a Jan. 28 media conference, abortionist Henry Morgentaler announced the start of a new $25,000 fund to facilitate training of new abortionists.

Much of the justification for the call for stepped-up training of abortionists is based on the declining number of physicians willing to perform the procedure in Canada. Pro-abortionists cite harassment by pro-lifers as a major factor in this trend.

However, a 1997 study by the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Services found that “personal choice” was the number one reason doctors opt not to perform abortion. Many observers believe doctors are turning away from abortion in droves because they find the procedure distasteful, and because they are more accepting of the humanity of the unborn patient.

Pro-life supporters are objecting to the mainstream media’s glowing tributes to Morgentaler in the wake of the anniversary. Many newspapers quoted Morgentaler’s emphasis on the safety standards at his string of clinics.

The Toronto Star reported that some of his abortion clinics in Atlantic Canada operate at a financial loss. Yet, past media reports of his clinic operations in Montreal, Edmonton and elsewhere show instances of his putting financial considerations ahead of women’s safety. It has been reported that on some occasions, Morgentaler re-used surgical equipment designed for one-time use only.

As well, a Quebec medical body in 1973 reprimanded Morgentaler for “an attitude which is primarily directed at protecting his fees.”

The medical body recommended that his licence be suspended for 12 months due to his disregard for certain medical procedures.

Many of his activities, the Quebec body concluded, “cannot be reconciled with good medical practice.”