Abortion rights in Canada
Last revised July 12, 2022

There is no law that criminalizes or restricts abortion in Canada.

Abortion is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the combined effects of the federal Canada Health Act, RSC 1985, c. C-6, and provincial health-care systems.

Abortion is not specifically mentioned in the Canada Health Act, it is simply included in the broad definition of "insured health services", just like other medical and surgical procedures. However, access to services and resources varies depending on geographic region, financial means, race and immigration status.

History of Abortion Legislation in Canada & BC

1803

As a British colony, the Malicious Shooting or Stabbing Act 1803, (43 Geo 3 c. 58), made performing or attempting to perform a post quickening abortion a death penalty offence. It was also called Lord Ellenborough’s Act.

1837

The Offences Against the Person Act 1837 (7 Will 4 & 1 Vict c. 85), removed the death penalty clause, while making the procurement of any miscarriage unlawful.

1861

The Offences against the Person Act, 1861 (24 & 25 Vict c. 100) consolidated provisions related to offences against the person from a number of earlier statutes into a single Act. It is sometimes called the Criminal Law Consolidation Acts 1861.

1869

Two years after Confederation, the Canadian Act, Offences Against the Person Act (SC 1869, c. 20, ss.59-60; 31-32 Victoria) was introduced.

1893

The Criminal Code, SC 1892, c. 29 (in force July 1, 1893)

1955

The Criminal Code, SC 1953-1954, c. 51 (in force April 1, 1955). This was a re-enactment of the Code with modernization of provisions.

1969

The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69, SC 1968-69, c. 38, legalized therapeutic abortions, as long as a committee of doctors certified that continuing the pregnancy would likely endanger the woman's life or health.

1970

In the 1970 federal statute revision, the provision was re-numbered as s. 251 of the Criminal Code.

1977

In 1975, a Committee on the Operation of the Abortion Law was appointed. The Committee, known as the Badgley Committee after its Chair, Dr. Robin F. Badgley, reported in January 1977 that the law was not working equitably across Canada, and that abortion services were not being delivered as required.

1988

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R. v. Morgentaler, [1988] 1 SCR 30, that any law that restricted a woman’s right to life, liberty, and security of person (section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982, SC 1982, c. 11) was unconstitutional.

R. v. Morgentaler, 1988 CanLII 90 (SCC), [1988] 1 SCR 30

R. v. Morgentaler, 1993 CanLII 74 (SCC), [1993] 3 SCR 463

R. v. Morgentaler, 1993 CanLII 158 (SCC), [1993] 1 SCR 462

1995

In BC, the Access to Abortion Services Act, SBC 1995, c. 35 came into force. It creates ‘access zones’ by limiting demonstrations outside abortion clinics, doctor’s office and doctor’s homes.

Advocacy & Resources

  • AccessBC has been advocating for free prescription contraception in B.C. since 2017: conducting research, meeting with MLAs and consulting with government. https://www.accessbc.org/
  • Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is a pro-choice charitable organization committed to advancing and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally. https://www.actioncanadashr.org/
  • Options for Sexual Health offers current sexual and reproductive health care, information, and education from a feminist, pro-choice, sex positive perspective. https://www.optionsforsexualhealth.org/
  • Battered Women’s Support Services provides education, advocacy, and support services to assist all women in its aim to work towards the elimination of violence and to work from a feminist perspective that promotes equality for all women. https://www.bwss.org/
  • Watari Counselling and Support Services Society is trying to facilitate meaningful change and provide a bridge to healthier possibilities through community driven programming. https://www.watari.ca/