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The history of abortion in Canada

By Valerie Dittrich

Abortion laws have undergone many changes in Canada since the 1800s. Women have gone from having very little control over their bodies and their rights, which is still a luxury for many. Below is a timeline that shows the fight for the right to choose


Canada prohibits all types of contraceptives and abortion is criminalized, with the risk of life imprisonment


Abortion is decriminalized. There are specific circumstances at some hospitals to decide if the procedure is needed if the woman’s health is in jeopardy


Dr. Henry Morgentaler, an access to abortion activist, is charged for performing illegal abortion, but is later found to be innocent


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is enacted. Abortion is still not fully legal


Former Manitoba politician, Joe Borowski, tries to declare abortion illegal, arguing that public money for abortion violates a fetus’ right to life under the Charter


The Supreme Court of Canada strikes down the country’s abortion law as unconstitutional, citing that it violates the Charter


The Supreme Court refuses to rule on Borowski’s case after the abortion law is struck down. The court also rules that a man has no legal right to veto a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy


The federal government introduces a bill that would sentence doctors to two years in prison if they perform abortions not for the purpose of the woman’s health


New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have privately-run abortions clinics, forcing women to pay out of pocket


Protesters hit the streets after a string of attacks on doctors performing abortions. Abortion protesters are banned outside of hospitals


New Brunswick stops abortions at its only hospital to offer the procedure, and it’s the only province in Canada to not provide government-funded abortions in clinics


The Unborn Victims of Crime Act is introduced into the House of Commons, but is never made law amid protests


Access to abortions is widespread across the country, however women in rural areas need to travel far to undergo the procedure

Illustrations by Celina Gallardo

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