Today marks the 28th anniversary of the R v. Morgentaler decision, which decriminalized abortion in Canada.
This landmark decision has undoubtedly protected the health and saved the lives of countless women and changed the legal landscape in Canada.
Before Jan. 28, 1988, abortion was permitted only in very limited circumstances. Hospitals with Therapeutic Abortion Committees could approve and provide abortion care only in cases of life or health endangerment. In order to obtain a legal abortion, women were forced to face an intimidating process of going before a hospital committee to petition for care. This policy established unequal access to abortion throughout the provinces and territories, and made it particularly difficult for women outside major urban centres to obtain abortion care. It is estimated during this time that 35,000 to 120,000 illegal abortions took place each year. And we may never know the actual number of women who sacrificed their lives and health through back alley or self-induced abortions.
As a result of the Morgentaler decision, women across Canada are able to fully participate in society and safely terminate an unwanted pregnancy with the dignity and respect they deserve. Today, Canada is one of only a few countries without a federal law restricting abortion.
Still, as we celebrate today, we know that access remains an issue for some women in Canada. Abortion is not available in Prince Edward Island and some women slip through the cracks of provincial health care systems and struggle to access and afford abortion care.
As we reflect on this important anniversary, we must remain vigilant in ensuring that women are able to access the abortion care they need, and we will continue our work to help women overcome barriers to access in Canada.