Abortion Law in Canada
1990 - 1999

Government Bill C-43

A new abortion law, Bill C-43, that would have retained abortion as a criminal offence, but would have permitted it on broad grounds was presented in the House of Commons November, 1989. This legislation passed, May 29, 1990 and was sent to the Senate for debate where it was defeated by a tie vote July 31, 1991. It was opposed by some pro-lifers who thought the bill would have no effect and by many abortion advocates who thought it was too restrictive.

1991: Regina v. Sullivan and Lemay

Midwives Sullivan and Lemay were charged under the Criminal Code with causing death by criminal negligence of a child they were attempting to deliver. The child died of asphyxiation in the birth canal after 15 hours of labour. The Supreme Court ruled “that a child in the process of being born was not ‘person’ (even though the head was outside the mother’s body).  Therefore, two midwives Sullivan and Lemay could not be found negligent in causing the death of the child whose mother they were attending.  This confirms that unborn babies do not have legal rights unless they are born alive. (Criminal Code Sec. 206)”(13)

1996: The Drummond Case

An Ontario woman, Brenda Drummond, was charged with attempted murder when she shot her unborn child in the head with a pellet gun. The case did not go to trial because in preliminary arguments, the judge had stated that the unborn child does not have legal rights as it is not a human being.

1996: Manitoba “Glue-Sniffing” Case

In August 1996, Winnipeg Child and Family Services attempted to have a 22-year-old pregnant woman placed in custody until the birth of her child because of her long history of solvent abuse, suicide attempts and an unstable lifestyle. Two of her three children had been born permanently disabled due to her glue-sniffing habit. All of her children were under the permanent guardianship of Winnipeg Child and Family Services. The lower court directed that she be detained and treated. However, on appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the law of Canada does not recognize the unborn child as a legal person possessing rights and dismissed the case.
Winnipeg Child and Family Services Case  (See pp. 13-14)

(13) Abortion in Canada Timeline, (Life Canada).   http://www.abortionincanada.ca/history/Abortion_Canada_Timeline.html

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