Abortion in Canada: History, Access to Care, Social Stigmatization and the Psychological and Physical Effects

Topics: Abortion, Abortion law, Abortion in Canada Pages: 12 (3794 words) Published: June 20, 2013
Abortion in Canada: History, Access to Care, Social Stigmatization and the Psychological and Physical Effects

Prabhjot Singh

Ryerson University

CPSY 304 Pyschology of Gender

Kathleen Fortune

June 13, 2013

Seeking a safe and legal abortion in Canada has been an ongoing journey that has taken over one hundred years to trek. Abortion is defined by major medical dictionaries as the “termination of a pregnancy or premature expulsion of the products of conception by any means, usually before fetal viability.” Termination of a pregnancy can be spontaneous, often referred to as a miscarriage or it can be deliberately induced. This essay will focus on the deliberate termination of a pregnancy. In addition, this essay will outline the history of abortion in Canada, including varying access of care across the country, the barriers and challenges pregnant women face when seeking abortion services, social stigma attached to abortions and finally the physical and psychological effects an abortion has on men and women. This paper will attempt to lay a foundation for the basic understanding of the complexity surrounding abortion services.

When looking back on Canadian history, abortion practices in its varying forms were illegal and banned in 1869. This meant that according to the Criminal Code, it was illegal for a physician to procure a miscarriage, and/or for a woman to self-induce an abortion1 (Hargreaves, 2012 pg 14). Any woman or physician found undertaking these actions was subject to life imprisonment (Arthur, 1999). As a consequence, such prohibition resulted in women seeking illegal abortions, often resulting in their death. In 1969, one hundred years after abortions were banned in Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudeau and his government presented a bill in Canadian Parliament with the aim of liberalizing Canadian abortion laws. Under the introduction and passage of this bill, abortions remained a criminal offence and were only exempt as therapeutic abortions, once passed by a Therapeutic Abortion Committee (TAC) (Arthur, 1999). A therapeutic abortion was defined as an abortion performed under the motivation to save the life of a pregnant woman, prevent harm to the woman’s physical or mental health, terminate a pregnancy which indicates that the child will have a significantly increased chance of premature morbidity, mortality or would otherwise be disabled, or to selectively reduce the number of fetuses to lessen the health risks associated with multiple pregnancies (Roche, 2004 pg 1). An abortion could be performed at an approved hospital if the TAC, a committee compiled of three physicians, determined a pregnant woman was at risk (Hargreaves, 2012)

The TAC’s were merely an illusion in the advancement of abortion and women’s rights. The establishment of such committees benefited physicians instead of granting women seeking abortions greater autonomy. The TAC's by providing legal protection, essentially served the purpose of making it very difficult to prosecute lone doctors for carrying out abortions (Hargreaves, 2012). In addition to this, the establishment of TAC's had some fundamental flaws that created barriers. For example, since not all hospitals were mandated to have TAC's therefore, not all women had equal access. Further, many of the hospitals with TAC's were located in Montreal or large cities. Thus, for women seeking approval from TAC's, finding a hospital with an operating TAC which would perform a therapeutic abortion often meant traveling from rural areas to the city at their own expense. In addition to the problems of accessibility and added expenses, committees often took approximately 6-8 weeks to process an application, delaying the opportunity to obtain an abortion. Lastly, the greatest dilemma was rooted in inconsistencies in the interpretation of the law. For example, because each TAC interpreted the law differently, the “health” of a woman was used conservatively by some and...

References: Abortion in canada. (2013, May 30). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Canada
Abortion risks: A list of major physical complications related to abortion
Abortion risks: A list of major psychological complications related to abortion. (2011, February 23). Retrieved from http://afterabortion.org/2011/abortion-risks-a-list-of-major-psychological-complications-related-to-abortion/
Arthur, J
For women 's lives and health: Report of the global safe abortion conference. (23-24 , October 2007). Retrieved from http://www.mariestopes.org/sites/default/files/Global_safe_Abortion_Conference_Report.pdf
Hargreaves, S
Roche, N. E. (2004, September 28 28). Therapeutic abortion. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20041214092044/http://www.emedicine.com/MED/topic3311.htm
Shaw , J
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