Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 2, 2007
No constitutional right to abortion
Panel worries women are usually uniformed about health risks
Janet Epp Buckingham
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Despite claims by pro-choice activists, there is no constitutional right to abortion, said members of a pro-life panel on abortion and the law at Carleton University March 20.
They also warned women are being denied crucial health risk information prior to terminating their pregnancies.
Janet Epp Buckingham, a lawyer and director of the Laurentian Leadership Centre, called the claims of a constitutional right to abortion a "disturbing trend. This is not the law in Canada," she said. The 1988 Morgentaler decision that struck down Canada's abortion law recognized "there is a legitimate government interest in protecting the unborn."
Under the old Criminal Code provision, abortions were permitted when the life or health of the mother was endangered. The Supreme Court found that in some cases women had to wait as long as eight weeks for a legally-required committee of three doctors to okay the procedure. In some jurisdictions hospitals did not have the committees.
The court found that for women who faced health risks carrying a pregnancy to term, this delay infringed their right to life and security of the person under section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Buckingham said. She pointed out the court insisted on a balancing of the rights of women and the rights of the unborn child.
In 1990, the Mulroney government tried to bring in an abortion law, regulating the procedure on a trimester basis. The law passed the House of Commons, and was defeated in the Senate when the speaker broke a tie vote.
Liberal MP Tom Wappel said the Mulroney abortion bill "tried to please everyone" but ended up pleasing few.
"Since that time no government has tried to touch it," Wappel said. Though MPs from various parties have introduced private members' bills on abortion, "no private member's bill on such a controversial topic would ever pass," he said.
Panelist Maureen Farnand, president of Action Life, spoke of the health risks of abortion, which she said was one of the most commonly performed medical procedures on women.
Some of the risks are excessive bleeding, puncture or tearing of the uterus, infection, pelvic inflammatory disease and sterility. She reported higher risks of serious depression and a 30 per cent higher risk of breast cancer. The breast cancer risk doubles if an abortion is performed before the age of 18.
Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, co-chair of Parliament's pro-life caucus, said awareness is growing of "unwanted abortions. We as a compassionate, caring society should provide support and opportunities for expectant mothers."
Women need to be given a real choice, so they don't "feel they have to kill their offspring," he said.
Buckingham decried the lack of informed consent for women. She warned of the danger to the conscience rights of medical personnel who may face being forced to participate in abortions or lose their jobs. She also warned about the increasing limitations on freedom of speech on hot topics such as abortion.
Wappel predicted the lack of informed consent will probably result in a massive class action lawsuit, probably in the United States when women who have been harmed by abortion will take their doctors to court for not properly informing them of the risks.