Jan 302013

Muddying the waters with selective quotes in an attempt to support an untenable position is not conducive to fruitful discourse.

Edmonton, Alberta – January 28, 2013 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of R. v. Morgentaler. While many Canadians grieve the loss of a full quarter of their generation, others are celebrating the day with exuberance, calling all pro-choice Canadians to protect the rights they’ve earned.

“I cannot believe some of the things written and said in the media today. It is a complete misconception that women have a ‘right’ to abortion and it’s certainly not what the Supreme Court said twenty-five years ago,” said WeNeedaLAW.ca campaign director, Mike Schouten.

“While abortion defenders enjoy referencing Justice Bertha Wilson – the first woman appointed to the Canada’s Supreme Court – they all too often choose selective quotes that completely misrepresent what Justice Wilson said,” continued Schouten.

Here follows an excerpt from Justice Wilson’s concurring opinion. It should be noted that Justice Wilson’s opinion was not shared with the other six judges – she wrote alone – and the other judges were all more “conservative” in their three written opinions:

“As Professor Sumner points out, both traditional approaches to abortion, the so-called “liberal” and “conservative” approaches, fail to take account of the essentially developmental nature of the gestation process. A developmental view of the foetus, on the other hand, supports a permissive approach to abortion in the early stages of pregnancy and a restrictive approach in the later stages. In the early stages the woman’s autonomy would be absolute; her decision, reached in consultation with her physician, not to carry the foetus to term would be conclusive. The state would have no business inquiring into her reasons. Her reasons for having an abortion would, however, be the proper subject of inquiry at the later stages of her pregnancy when the state’s compelling interest in the protection of the foetus would justify it in prescribing conditions. The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state’s interest in its protection becomes “compelling” I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive guidance on the subject from all the relevant disciplines. It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester. Indeed, according to Professor Sumner (p. 159), a differential abortion policy with a time limit in the second trimester is already in operation in the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Sweden, the Soviet Union, China, India, Japan and most of the countries of Eastern Europe although the time limits vary in these countries from the beginning to the end of the second trimester (cf. Stephen L. Isaacs, “Reproductive Rights 1983: An International Survey” (1982-83), 14 Columbia Human Rights Law Rev. 311, with respect to France and Italy). -R. v. Morgentaler 1988 (Emphasis added)

“Justice Wilson was abundantly clear – abortion should not be legal throughout all the stages of foetal development, and it is in the hands of the Legislature, not the courts, to decide at which stage it should be restriced,” continued Schouten.

“I think it is great that after twenty-five years we are still having this debate. However, we should be properly informed of the legal facts. Muddying the waters with selective quotes in an attempt to support an untenable position is not conducive to fruitful discourse,” concluded Schouten.


WeNeedaLAW.ca is a national campaign with a goal to create a groundswell of support for federal abortion legislation.

For interview requests and/or further comment please call Mike Schouten @ 778.321.2457

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Jessica, Media Relations



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