Late-term Abortion in Canada

 

Many anti-choice and misinformed individuals would have Canadians believe that a woman in Canada can access abortion services at any point during the nine months of pregnancy. This belief is hugely inaccurate and serves only to appeal to the emotional response of people in trying to prevent the acceptance of abortion as a critical reproductive health service. In Canada, a woman cannot have an elective abortion past 24 weeks gestation. There are simply no doctors and no facilities that will allow for an elective termination at that point. In fact, there are only a few doctors in the entire country who are willing to perform abortions past 20 weeks. As there are different methods of abortion, each woman’s pregnancy is individually assessed by a doctor to help decide which method is safest and best for her. However, since abortion services after 20 weeks are not easily available in Canada, many women who seek an abortion at this point must either travel to another province or to the United States, or must continue to carry the pregnancy to term.

 

Despite what some may believe about the availability of late-term abortion services in Canada, Statistics Canada has reported that less than 1% of abortions take place past 20 weeks gestation.[1] The fact remains that nearly 90% of abortions in Canada take place before 13 weeks gestation. The belief that a woman makes the choice to have an abortion easily and without giving it much thought is especially inaccurate in instances of late-term abortion. Many women who have an abortion after 20 weeks originally wanted to have a child, but chose to have an abortion after discovering that her foetus was severely or fatally impaired, or upon the discovery that her own health or life is endangered.  Other women need to access abortion services past 20 weeks because of extremely long wait-times or, especially in the case of young teenagers, because they were either not aware that they were pregnant or were in denial about being pregnant until the symptoms were no longer unavoidable. Whatever the reason a woman seeks to have an abortion past 20 weeks gestation, Canadians must know: abortion services in Canada are not uniformly accessible and late-term abortions are much more rare and difficult to access than abortions that take place within the first trimester of pregnancy.



[1]For more information, see Statistics Canada’s “Induced Abortion Statistics 2003” at:  http://www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/82-223-XIE/82-223-XIE2006000.pdf