Abortion: A Legal Procedure


In Quebec, all women have the right to end a pregnancy. This is called a voluntary termination of pregnancy or an abortion. The legality of abortion has evolved a lot since the 1980s. Today, ending a pregnancy and having an abortion is completely legal. 

History of Abortion Rights in Quebec 

1892 to 1969: Abortion was a crime. 

In 1892, a law called the Criminal Code was created. It stated that abortion was a crime. Women who ended their pregnancies, and health-care professionals who carried out the procedure, could be sent to prison (for life in the case of health-care professionals). 

1969 to 1988: Abortion was allowed, but only under certain conditions. 

In 1969, an exception was put into the Criminal Code: abortion was allowed if the pregnant woman had the permission of a therapeutic abortion committee. This committee was made up of doctors who authorized abortions only if the health or life of the pregnant woman was in danger. In all other situations, and until 1988, abortion was still a crime punishable with a prison sentence. 

Since 1988: Abortion is no longer a crime. 

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada in the Morgentaler decision ruled that the section of the Criminal Code that made abortion a crime went against the constitution. The highest court in the country held that this section violated the physical and emotional safety of women. Since women who had abortions faced the threat of criminal charges, this section violated their right to security.  

After this decision, women had the right to freely choose abortion, without fear of criminal charges.  

1989: The Supreme Court provided additional details on abortion rights. 

In the 1989 case of Tremblay against Daigle, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down another important decision on abortion rights. The Supreme Court decided that the fetus has no legal personality and therefore no rights, unless it is born alive and “viable” (has an existence independent of the mother). 

The court also held that the father has no rights concerning the outcome of the pregnancy. If the woman decides to end her pregnancy, then he has no legal remedy. 

In other words, a woman cannot lose her right to an abortion based on the rights of the future baby or the rights of the father.  

2019 – Abortion is removed from the Criminal Code

As noted above, the section of the Criminal Code that made abortion a crime was declared unconstitutional in 1988. Strangely, it still appeared in the Criminal Code, 30 years later. In 2019, it was finally removed from the Criminal Code.