Abortion- Not in my Criminal Code



Abortion ! Not in my Criminal Code
Abortion should be kept out of the Criminal Code

Abortion, termination of pregnancy before the fetus is capable of independent life.
When the expulsion from the womb occurs after the fetus becomes viable (capable of
independent life), usually at the end of six months of pregnancy, it is technically a
premature birth.

The practice of abortion was widespread in ancient times as a method of birth control.
Later it was restricted or forbidden by most world religions, but it was not considered an
offense in secular law until the 19th century. During that century, first the English
Parliament and then American state legislatures prohibited induced abortion to protect
women from surgical procedures that were at the time unsafe, commonly stipulating a
threat to the woman\'s life as the sole (“therapeutic”) exception to the prohibition.
Occasionally the exception was enlarged to include danger to the mother\'s health as well.

Legislative action in the 20th century has been aimed at permitting the termination
of unwanted pregnancies for medical, social, or private reasons. Abortions at the woman\'s
request were first allowed by the Soviet Union in 1920, followed by Japan and several
East European nations after World War II. In the late 1960s liberalized abortion
regulations became widespread. The impetus for the change was threefold: (1) infanticide
and the high maternal death rate associated with illegal abortions, (2) a rapidly expanding
world population, (3) the growing feminist movement. By 1980, countries where
abortions were permitted only to save a woman\'s life contained about 20 percent of the
world\'s population. Countries with moderately restrictive laws—abortions permitted to
protect a woman\'s health, to end pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, to avoid
genetic or congenital defects, or in response to social problems such as unmarried status
or inadequate income—contained some 40 percent of the world\'s population. Abortions at
the woman\'s request, usually with limits based on physical conditions such as duration of
pregnancy, were allowed in countries with nearly 40 percent of the world\'s population.1

Under the Criminal Code. R.S.C. !970, c.C-34, abortion constitutes a criminal
offense. Section 159(2)(c) makes it an offense to offer or have for sale or disposal, to
publish or advertise means, instructions or medicine intended or represented to cause
abortion or miscarriage. Section 221(1) makes the act of causing death to a child who has
not become a human being, in the act of birth, equivalent to murder. Abortion constitutes
an indictable offense under s. 251 of the Code whenever a person uses any means to carry
out the intent to procure a miscarriage of female person, whether she is pregnant or not.
Section 251(2) makes any female attempting to procure a miscarriage by any means guilty
of an indictable offense. Section 251(4) allows permission for a therapeutic abortion to be
obtained from a competent committee, fulfilling strict regulations, with the operation
performed by a qualified physician. However, the common-law defense of necessity is
theoretically available for a surgical operation performed for the patient\'s benefit. 2

Until 1988, under the Canadian Criminal Code, an attempt to induce an abortion
by any means was a crime. The maximum penalty was life imprisonment , or two years if
the woman herself was convicted. The law was liberalized in 1969 with an amendment to
the Criminal Code allowing that abortions are legal if performed by a doctor in an
accredited hospital after a committee certified that the continuation of the pregnancy
would likely endanger the mother\'s life or heath. In 1989, 70 779 abortions were reported
in Canada, or 18.0 abortions per 100 live births. 3


Henry Morgentaler is a major abortion supporter. Dr. Morgentaler was one of the
first Canadian doctors to perform vasectomies, insert IUDs and provide contraceptive pills
to the unmarried. As president of the Montreal Humanist Fellowship he urged the
Commons Health and Welfare Committee in 1967 to repeal the law against abortion. To
draw attention to the safety and efficacy of clinical abortions, Morgentaler in 1973
publicized the fact that he had successfully carried out over 5000 abortions. When a Jury
found him not guilty of violating article 251 of the Criminal Code the Quebec Court of
Appeal (in Feb 1974), in an unprecedented action, Quashed the jury finding and ordered
Morgentaler imprisoned. Though this ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court a second
jury acquittal led Ron Basford, minister of justice, to have a Criminal Code amendment
passed, taking away the power of appellate judges to strike down acquittals and order
imprisonment\'s. After