Today Marks 20 Years of Safe, Legal Abortion Care in Canada

Today we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of R v. Morgentaler, the Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion by striking down Canada’s abortion law as unconstitutional. Since then, Canada has become one of a small number of countries without a federal law restricting abortion.

The Morgentaler decision has undoubtedly protected the health and saved the lives of countless Canadian women. However, as we reflect on this decision’s impact, we are reminded that in some provinces and territories women are still denied equal access to abortion care. Even though abortion is considered a safe, legal, and insured service, access is variable across the country. For example:

  • There are no abortion services available in Prince Edward Island.
  • In New Brunswick, a woman can only obtain a publicly funded abortion if provided by an ob/gyn in a hospital with written approval from two doctors.
  • Abortion is not part of the inter-provincial billing agreement. Therefore students attending school in another province, or women who have recently moved and are in the process of transitioning their health care benefits, are forced to pay the full cost of their abortion care or incur additional expenses traveling back to their home province. Abortion is the only time sensitive service that is de-listed and its exclusion remains a significant barrier to care for many women.
  • The majority of abortion care is provided in urban centres. Women living in rural communities often face challenges in accessing care.

Now more than ever, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the women who continue to face these obstacles in order to obtain the abortion care they need. We must continue to work together to ensure that women have the same access to abortion care regardless of where they live.

It is critical to the lives and health of Canadian women that abortion is safe, legal, and accessible. We must remain vigilant in preserving reproductive freedom so that we never have to return to the days of back alley abortions where our sisters, mothers, and friends had to risk their health—and sometimes even their lives—to end an unwanted pregnancy.

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