Canada Feb. 1, 2018

30 years after Morgentaler ruling, no ‘right’ to abortion: CCCB

By Deborah Gyapong

Participants in the annual March for Life in Ottawa. On the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Morgentaler decision, Canada's Catholic bishops issued a statement stating there is no right to abortion in Canada.

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA –There is no “right” to abortion say Canada’s Catholic bishops on the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler decision that struck down Canada’s abortion law.

The bishops joined a number of pro-life organizations that have publicly objected federal Liberal government claims abortion is a right.

The Catholic bishops also pointed out the 1988 Morgentaler decision recognized Parliament’s interest in protecting unborn human life.

One pro-life group,, marked the Morgentaler anniversary with a proposed law making abortion illegal after 13 weeks of gestation, with a number of safeguards such as a 48-hour waiting period, coercion protection, and required counselling on the possible health and psychological effects of abortion.

In a Jan. 27 statement, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said Justice Gerard Mitchell, Prince Edward Island’s retired chief justice, at the time of the Morgentaler decision: "none of the seven judges held that there was a constitutional right to abortion on demand". In fact, "all of the judges acknowledged [that] the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn."

“While unrestricted access to abortion continues to be touted by some as the guarantor of women's freedom, the truth is that abortion does nothing at all to address the very real challenges which confront a woman when she finds herself facing an unintended pregnancy,” said CCCB president Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil in the statement.

“Nor does it address any of the other conditions in a society that unjustly limit a woman's freedom.”

Instead abortion “makes is easier for society to avoid its moral obligations to ensure protection and shelter for the most vulnerable,” the bishops said.

Science and reason both place “the humanity of the unborn child beyond question,” the bishops said, making defence of unborn human life not merely a “theological opinion.”

“As Canadians, we take pride in our record of upholding international human rights – while at the same time failing to provide the most basic protection for the child in the womb and so contradicting and eroding our own humanity.” spokeswoman Anna Nienhuis pointed out in a release the justices who ruled in the Morgentaler expected Parliament to craft a new law “that protected pre-born children at some stage of pregnancy.”

“They certainly did not think that 30 years later the status quo would remain,” she said.
“Canada is way of out line with our international counterparts when it comes to protecting pre-born human rights,” said Nienhuis. “As much as the Prime Minister would like to think that abortion is a Charter right that simply is not the case.”

Nienhuis pointed out the majority of Canadians support some limits on abortion.

WeNeedaLaw’s proposed bill also includes mandatory reporting on abortions. It is modelled after similar laws in Germany, Spain and France.

Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes recently re-sent an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, quoting his father Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in a 1981 letter to the then president of the CCCB Archbishop MacNeil of Edmonton. The elder Trudeau wrote: “The arguments advanced to show that the Charter will create an entitlement to abortion on demand have been clearly refuted in the opinion given by the Department of Justice. In my view, the need of an amendment has not been clearly demonstrated.”

Hughes’ letter reminded the prime minister his father also said in June 1981: “Because the public is evenly divided on the subject of abortion it was the government’s ‘considered view’ that a position favouring one side should not be enshrined in the charter. The Government feels the issue is not one which should be defended by the Constitution.”

In an interview, Hughes said the more important anniversary is the passing of the 1969 Omnibus Bill “which basically opened up the door to abortion-on-demand,” he said. That’s why the National March for Life takes place as close to the May 14 anniversary as possible. Hughes noted the Mulroney government tried to craft a new abortion after the Morgentaler decision but it failed in the Senate.

“Here we are 30 years later, with fewer and fewer medical students wanting to learn the grisly business of abortion, which explains in large part the push for chemical abortions,” Hughes said.

He noted that back in 1983, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the founders of the pro-abortion movement, predicted that people picketing outside abortion facilities would be picketing pharmacies in the future “because it will be abortifacient drugs you’ll be battling.”

Hughes pointed out the new bubble zone legislation in Ontario includes pharmacies, and in some western countries as many as 80 per cent of abortions are now chemical abortions that take place in the first weeks of pregnancy.

“The whole world’s moving to killing off the babies in the first weeks, not after a certain gestational period,” Hughes said.