Statement of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on the passing of

Bill C-43.

May 29, 1990

Now that Parliament has given this country a new abortion law, all efforts must be directed to the continuing task of building a greater sense of the value of human life, removing any social and economic conditions that may contribute to abortion, and achieving better legislation to protect life at all stages.

In the four interventions we made to Parliamentarians after Bill C-43 was introduced in November 1989, we insisted that the Bill was flawed. We called for amendments to strengthen it and give effective legal protection to the unborn. While we deeply regret that the Bill was passed without amendments, it is nevertheless better to have this law that declares abortion a criminal offence than to continue the legislative vacuum which existed for the past two years.

Our efforts against abortion will not cease with the passage of Bill C-43. This law is only a starting point for a better law. Passage of this law does not alter our firm opposition to abortion as a grave moral evil. We shall work with other people of good will to build on the new law and shape a consensus which is truly respectful and protective of all human life from conception to natural death.

The social and economic conditions which have been identified as contributing to abortions must also be addressed with increasing vigor. Governments at all levels and local communities are urged to introduce polices, programmes and social changes which are truly hospitable to life at all stages.

Abortion is a tragedy for the unborn child and the mother and a failure for society. Its elimination requires courage, compassion, generosity and solidarity on the part of everyone. As pastors, we renew our commitment to educate about the value and sacredness of human life and to promote the dignity of all people. Only on a widely shared consensus about the sacredness of all human life can better legislation be achieved in the future.

† Robert Lebel, Bishop of Valleyfield, President of the CCCB


The above statement was issued on the same day the House of Commons approved Canada’s new abortion bill by a vote of 140 to 131. It is of the same tone and nature as the Bishops’ January Brief analyzed in our special eight-page supplement, “Did the Bishops follow the mind of the Church?” (May, 1990)

The Brief took the position that the government acted thoughtfully and with concerned goodwill; that Bill C-43 was the best possible law under the circumstances (give or take an amendment or two); and that it was better to have some law than no law.

The May 29 statement confirms this viewpoint, now even accepting the un-amended Bill C-43, as better than no law. What redeems it, says CCCB President Bishop Lebel, is that it “declares abortion a criminal offence.”

The pro-life movement had taken the stand of “better no law than this law.” It argued that the government was not of goodwill, but cowardly and of ill will; that Bill C-43 was a spiritual, legal and moral disaster; and that its passage will make progress in defense of unborn babies more difficult.