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Abortion access and rights

The first thing to know is that abortion is legal in Canada. In 1988, in a case called R. v. Morgentaler, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down abortion laws and de-criminalized it across the country.

Today, abortion is treated like any other medical procedure and is governed by provincial/territorial and medical regulations.


The Canada Health Act guarantees service and access and the provinces/territories have recognized it as a medically necessary procedure.

The courts have never defined the term “medically necessary”. However, the Canada Health Act defines it as services that are necessary “for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability…”

Furthermore, as per the Morgentaler decision, abortion has been ruled to be a constitutional right for women. The top court of Canada found that the provisions criminalizing abortion were infringing on women’s rights based on s. 7 of the charter that deals with life, liberty, and security of the person.

Health Canada’s position is that abortions have to be publicly funded, regardless if the procedure is performed in a clinic or a hospital.

Abortion clinics fall under the “hospitals” section in the act because they seen as delivering a medically required hospital service. Accordingly, if a private clinic performs a procedure that is normally performed in a hospital, that service must be fully funded by the provincial healthcare.

However, there are time limits to the abortion, not legally, but the clinics usually impose them.

The Canadian Medical Association defines abortion as the active termination of the pregnancy up to 20 weeks into the pregnancy. Canadian clinics will not do third-trimester abortions unless there is an urgent medical reason.

Accordingly, the time limit up to which abortions will usually be performed is up to 20 weeks into the pregnancy but that varies depending on location. Often clinics have a lesser gestational time-limit requirement.


As already stated, abortion is seen as any other medical procedure in Canada, and governed by the provincial/territorial health act. Therefore, every Canadian woman has the right to an abortion.

Sometimes physicians still refuse to refer women to abortion clinics though.

However, it seems that the law may be changing in some provinces, like Ontario, where the College of Doctors and Physicians voted in support of updating their Professional and Human Rights policy.

According to this new policy, physicians who refuse to refer a patient for an abortion would have to refer the patient to another “non-objecting, available and accessible physician or other health-care provider.” If they refuse to do so, they may face disciplinary measures.

Can the father veto the woman’s decision to abort?

No. The Supreme Court of Canada decided in the 1989 decision of Tremblay v. Daigle that the father has no legal right to stop a woman from aborting a foetus.

If you have further questions or concerns about abortion rights and other issues about abortion, see a healthcare lawyer.

Read more:

Legal Abortion in Canada

Abortion Access and Funding

Abortion Clinics in Canada