On March 17, three Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the motion of George Carruthers and Michael Whelton to be given leave to appeal the BC Appeal Court decision on their case to the full nine member Supreme Court Bench. (See Interim, March 1986, for background on this point.)
Lawyer Marvin Storrow of Vancouver outlined the case before Justices Bertha Wilson, Brian Dickson and Gerald LeDain. He stated that as Life Members of the Lions Gate Hospital Society and citizens of the community served by the Lions Gate Hospital, the applicants Carruthers and Whelton have a direct interest in the proceedings of the hospital. Their contention, he stated, was that in employing the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of the word “health” with respect to Section 251 of the Criminal Code, the hospital was allowing abortion on demand. The WHO definition of “health” is: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” This definition of “health” is so broad as to include all women seeking abortions, Mr. Storrow said, and in this context Section 251 has no meaning if the WHO definition is used. As evidence of this fact he pointed out that virtually all applicants for abortion made to the Lions Gate Hospital Therapeutic Abortion Committee are approved.
Mr. Storrow stressed several times the importance of a court ruling on the definition of the word “health” because of the present inconsistency of its interpretation. As well, various arguments and precedents were brought forward to demonstrate why the applicants felt that they should have standing before the Court in this matter.
Mr. Justice Brian Dickson asked Mr. Storrow how he would define the word “health.” Mr. Storrow replied that the first principle he would apply in arriving at a definition would be that abortion is now prohibited under the Criminal Code and therefore the definition could not be as broad as the WHO definition if the law were to have any force.
Mr. Storrow reiterated that the question must be dealt with and he felt that the applicants should be allowed to proceed with their case.
After a two-minute adjournment the three judges returned and informed those present that the opposing lawyers would not need to present their case, as the Justices had already decided to dismiss the motion.