The latest recommendations of the Law Reform Commission (LRC) on abortion would allow abortion on demand if implemented by the federal government.  The Commission has recommended an approach to what they term “protection of the fetus.”  It would allow abortion for any physical or psychological reason until the 22nd week of pregnancy, and under slightly more restricted circumstances thereafter.

Government statistics show that 89 per cent of the so-called therapeutic abortions done in hospitals are done at twelve weeks or earlier.  According to these statistics, only 169 hospitals abortions in 1986 were committed after 20 weeks.  In other words, the LRC proposals recommend abortion on demand.

Justice Minister Doug Lewis has said he will take the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations “under advisement,” but indicated that the government is still not prepared to move quickly to draft legislation.

Pro-life leaders point out that the Commission has completely ignored the right to life of the pre-born child.

“A law formulated on these recommendations would have the effect of no law at all,” stated Heather Stilwell, president of Alliance for Life.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition called the recommendations “a sham,” adding that the Commission’s approach “affords no protection whatsoever to the unborn child.”


In the Working Paper Crimes Against the Fetus, the Commission recommends a new Criminal Code offence called “Fetal Destruction of Harm.”  This would make it a crime for anyone to “purposely, recklessly or negligently cause death or serious harm” to the unborn child.

The Commission then proceeds to make an “exception” to this criminal offence in the case of “lawful abortion.”  In short, the effect of these provisions is to provide protection to the unborn child from death or injury by its mother or a third party, except if the mother decides to kill her child by abortion and the third party is a medical doctor.

Lawful Abortion

In the matter of “lawful abortion,” the Commission recommends a two-stage approach.  In the first stage, from the last menstrual period to 22 weeks, abortion would be legal on any physical or psychological grounds.  After 22 weeks, abortion would still be legal if two doctors certify that the procedure is necessary to save the mother’s life or protect her against “serious” physical injury.  No definition is given to the word “serious.”

The Commission also recommends that abortion could be lawfully performed at any stage in the pregnancy if the unborn child suffers from a “lethal defect.”  If the fetus could not survive even though carried to term…it would be cruel and pointless to force (the mother) to carry the doomed fetus to term.”

Under the recommendations, abortions performed outside hospitals would also be legal.  At present, with no law governing abortion, there are five freestanding abortuaries in the country.  A majority of Canada’s ten provincial governments oppose the practice.  The province of Quebec allows abortions to be performed in some medical clinics.


An “alternative approach” to the above proposals was also offered by the Commission.  It was preferred by an undisclosed minority of the Commissioners.  Under this second set of proposals abortion would be completely “unregulated” during the first trimester of pregnancy.  Then it would be “legal” from 12 weeks until 22 weeks for {physical and psychological” health reasons, and legal thereafter for life and “serious” health reasons or fetal defect.


Pro-life leaders point to the obvious inconsistency and hypocrisy in calling these recommendations “protection of the fetus.”

“If a pregnant woman deliberately stabs herself in the abdomen and kills her child, that’s illegal; but if she hires a doctor to scrape the child out of her womb with a scalpel, that’s legal,” said Ana Desilets, Executive Director of Alliance for Life.  “Its nothing less than schizophrenic.”

It is clear that both “approaches” seek the same end, namely, abortion on demand, permitting, as lawful, the killing of the unborn up to a few moments before birth.  The differences between the first approach and its “alternative” is a question of semantics, not of substance.

The LRC recommendations have ostensibly angered pro-abortionists who fear, they said, the “re-criminalization of abortion.”  But clearly this protest is meant for public consumption as a political ploy which allows the media to balance the “anger” and “dissatisfaction of the pro-abortionists with that of the pro-life movement.  Thus the media can speak of “extremists” on both sides and promote the package as a middle of the road solution.


One of the five LRC members disagreed with both “approaches” taken by his colleagues.  Joseph Maingot dissented from the majority, stating in his published minority report that abortion should only be lawful to save the mother’s life or protect her from “serious and substantial danger to her health where there is no other accepted medical procedure for effectively treating the health risk.”

While Maingot wants to see the term “health” defined by law, his dissent concerns essentially the nature of the exceptions of the other approaches, not the legality of doing abortion s for health reasons as it clear form the above.

For an analysis of the Maingot type of legislation – essentially the same as the allegedly ‘pro-life’ Amendment A proposed by the Mulroney government in July 1988 – See the article “Life and Health,” by Alphonse de Valk in this issue, pages 19-20.