Abortion Timeline

1960 The criminal code is amended to decriminalize abortions done by a doctor in a hospital after approval for the procedure has been given by a “therapeutic abortion committee” who has judged that a woman’s life or health “would” or “would be likely” to be affected by continuation of pregnancy. No obligation exists for either doctors or hospitals to participate in abortion.
1970 In the early 70’s abortion is paid for by Medicare after initial statements that it would not be paid for by public funds
1973-1974 Henry Morgentaler sets up an abortuary in Montreal contrary to law. He is arrested, charged, found innocent, decision appealed, found guilty. This happens three times. Finally the Quebec government stops charging him and he continues to do abortions in Montreal.
1975 May A petition of over 1 million signatures sponsored by Alliance for Life, the national umbrella organization for pro life education groups in Canada and greater than any in Canada’s history is presented to parliament requesting protection for the life of the unborn.
1975 Joe Borowski, former NDP Minister of Highways in Manitoba launches a court case asking that the 1969 amendments to the Criminal Code be declared invalid, and that the outlay of public money for abortion is unlawful because it contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights.
1981 The province of Quebec sets up Abortion Clinics as part of its community health services. These CLSC’s operate outside Canadian law but with the financial backing of the government of Quebec.
1982 Henry Morgentaler announces plans to establish a free standing abortuary in Winnipeg. Shortly thereafter he opens one in Toronto as well. In Manitoba, the College of Physicians & Surgeons refuses to license the facility. Raids on both centres occur in 1983.
1983 Morgentaler is charged with illegal abortion, along with abortionists Smoling and Scott. Morgentaler and Scott are also charged in Winnipeg.
1984 A young father, Alex Medhurst tries to prevent his wife from aborting their child. The court rules against him.
1985 The Ontario jury acquits the abortionists after accepting Morgentaler’s use of the defense of necessity. The Ontario Court of Appeal reverses the decision. Morgentaler asks the Supreme Court to hear the case.
1986 Eighteen year old Erin Shannon dies at Ottawa Civic Hospital following a “legal” abortion.
1986 Roussel Uclaf, manufacturer and distributor of RU 486 signs an agreement with the World Health Organization at the Population Council making RU 486 available to these agencies worldwide.
1988 January 28: The Supreme Court of Canada in a split decision strikes down Section 251 of the Criminal Code; declaring it unconstitutional. Provinces respond by setting up their own regulations on the performance of abortion. In Manitoba where the Morgentaler case was in abeyance pending the Supreme Court decision, the government now permits abortions outside of hospitals but refuses to pay for abortions from public funds. Morgentaler announces a five year plan to open abortuaries in all provinces
1988 The Borowski case which had been going to court parallel with Morgentaler’s is dropped since the law on abortion no longer exists.
1989 Various proposals are made to draft a new abortion law. One submitted by Gus Mitges MP, which would have prevented all abortions, comes closest to passing. In the end no proposal receives majority support.
1989 Barbara Dodd in Toronto and Chantal Daigle in Quebec go to court to try and get abortions after their boyfriends got injunctions to prevent them from doing so. Dodd gets the OK from the Supreme Court of Ontario, is aborted, then regrets her decision. Daigle is refused by Quebec’s Superior Court, goes to Supreme Court and is given the go ahead. Now no father can prevent abortion of his child
1989 October Government creates the Royal Commission on NRTs to report in October 1992.
1989 November 03 A new abortion law, Bill C43 is presented in the House of Commons. It passes May 29, 1990 and is sent to Senate for debate. Bill C43 retains abortion as a criminal offence but permits it on very broad grounds.
1990 October Morgentaler opens abortuary in Newfoundland.
1990 November A court in Cambridge upholds an injunction prohibiting individuals from Cambridge Pro Life from coming within 50 feet of abortionists’ offices. Drs. Assad and Chan drop a second part of the suit as claim for lost business. Injunctions around abortuaries to prevent picketers become a common thread across Canada.