A woman's right to have an abortion is settled law in Canada
Abortion-rights activists react after hearing the Supreme Court decision on abortion outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, Friday. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, in a decision by its conservative majority to overturn Roe v Wade. (Photo: AP)

Dear Mr Brown:

I read about the Supreme Court of the United States overturning the Roe v Wade case, which would take away the constitutional right for a woman to have an abortion. I am thinking of moving to Canada and I am wondering if Canada would follow a similar path. It seems like a backward move, but I think Canada is more liberal and would uphold the right to have an abortion.

– NJ

Dear NJ

Under the Charter of Rights and Freedom a pregnant woman, as a constitutional matter, cannot be compelled by law to carry the foetus to term.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the rights of women.

Section 7 of the Charter states: "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

Liberty

Liberty is a fundamental value in a free and democratic society. This includes the freedom of the individual to develop and realise her potential, to plan her own life, to make her own choices. Human dignity entails self-respect and the ability to pursue one's own conception of a full and rewarding life. In other words, liberty guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decision intimately affecting one's private life.

The State should respect such liberty even though Government approval is not required. As such, the right to liberty contained in section 7 guarantees to every individual a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting private life. A woman's decision to terminate her pregnancy falls within this class of protected decisions.

Security of the Person

Security of the person within the meaning of the charter must include a right of access to medical treatment for a condition representing a danger to life or physical and psychological or mental health. Related matters include loss of privacy, stress, and anxiety resulting from a multitude of factors, including possible disruption of family, social life, and work must also be considered. The decision to have an abortion is one that will have profound psychological, economic, and social consequences for the pregnant woman. Few decisions are more personal, intimate, private, or more basic to individual dignity and autonomy than a woman's decision whether to end her pregnancy. A woman's capacity to reproduce should be subject to her control, rather than the State's.

Freedom

Section 2 of the charter deals with, inter alia, the freedom of conscience and religion.

The decision to keep or terminate a pregnancy is essentially one of morality or conscience. The freedom of conscience and religion should be broadly construed to extend to beliefs, whether grounded in religion or in a secular morality. Depriving a woman's right to liberty and security of the person as well as conscience would certainly suggest that denying the right to abortion is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

It is acknowledged that there is a legitimate interest in protecting the foetus; however, the foetus is regarded as potential human life as it is intrinsically linked to the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive system of a pregnant woman. The foetus is not a separate, independent, viable life until birth. Therefore, in the context of competing interests, it would not be reasonable to limit the right to security of a person.

In response to your question, a woman's right to have an abortion is settled law in Canada.

Please visit JAMAICA2CANADA.COM for additional information on Canadian Permanent Residence programmes, including express entry, the study and work programme, visas, appeals, etc.

– Antonn Brown, BA, (Hons), LLB, MSc, RCIC, is an immigration counsel and an accredited Canadian education agent of JAMAICA2CANADA.COM—a Canadian immigration and education firm in Kingston. Send questions/comments to documents.jamaica2canada@gmail.com

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