The Politics of Abortion

By Themo, Elaine M. | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Autumn 1995 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Abortion


Themo, Elaine M., Journal of Comparative Family Studies


BRODIE, Janine, Shelley A.M. GAVIGAN, and lane JENSON, The Politics of Abortion. Toronto, Ontario: Oxford University Press 1992, 204 pp., $17.95 softcover.

ELAINE M. THEMO*

The politics of abortion in Canada pivot on a tie vote in the Canadian Senate on January 31, 1991, which defeated B-43, An Act Respecting Abortion, ending, in a legislative stalemate, twentyfive years of political. debate concerning abortion. This book provides a comprehensive review of that debate. The authors take as central to the issue the case of Morgentaler v The Queen, 28 January 1988, in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that federal legislation regulating access to legal abortion was unconstitutional because it violated women's right to `security of person.' The Court invited the federal government to enact a new law balancing constitutional protection guaranteed women under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with the state's interest in protecting the foetus. This would represent an attempt to incorporate the two sides in the abortion issue, pro-choice and pro-life. The pro-choice side argued for women's rights to reproduction freedom as necessary to the realization of complete gender equality. The pro-life side countered that the "right to life of the foetus takes legal and moral precedence over women's rights to self-determination " (p. 5) This debate also reflects a significant recasting of the issue of abortion which since 1969 had been defined as a medical concern. The Morgentaler decision of 1988 presented the issue as a social and moral controversy.

The Politics of Abortion is presented in an overview and three essays. The first essay by Jane Jensen reviews the twenty years of legislative efforts from the "criminalization" of abortion in the Criminal Code of 1969, to the Supreme Court's removal of all restrictions in Morgentaler v The Queen in 1988. In addition, the debates between liberalization and "medicalization" (the prevailing public discourse) are illuminated. …

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