Are abortions legal in Canada? Yes, but access can be difficult

  • Access to abortion is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Many abortion facilities are located in major cities, creating barriers for those in rural areas.
  • Abortion care is not available in Canada after 24 weeks.

Abortion is legal in Canada, but access to care remains a problem for Canadians who live in small towns or rural areas of the country.

Access to abortion is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The landmark decision, R v. Morgentaler, was returned in 1988 when the The Supreme Court of Canada decided restrictive criminal abortion laws violate women’s Charter rights, particularly security of the person.

Michelle Fortin, executive director of British Columbia-based Options for Sexual Health, told Insider that advocates like her don’t necessarily want this to become law.

“Laws can be changed, but changing the charter would take a lot of work,” she said.

Fortin said about one in three Canadians will have an abortion in their lifetime and almost 60% of people who request an abortion already have children. She said ensuring equitable access should be a priority, especially for people who are racialized, Indigenous, living in poverty or in the LGBTQ community.

“Supporting choice doesn’t mean supporting abortion. It means supporting other people’s choices for their own bodies,” she said.

Most of the nation’s abortion centers are located in major urban centers near the Canada-US border, leaving large swaths of the population without access to providers.

Jill Doctoroff, executive director of the National Abortion Federation of Canada, told Insider that the NAF helps cover abortion-related travel costs for those who may be struggling financially.

Another barrier faced by Canadian women wishing to access abortion care depends on the province in which they reside. Prince Edward Island, abortion care is available up to 12 weeks and six days of gestation. Anyone wishing to have an abortion after this period must go to another province.

“Not everything is perfect here either and as you can imagine the barrier issues that people have are significant and real to them,” Doctoroff told Insider.

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