On the tenth anniversary of Canada's Supreme Court ruling that decriminalized abortion, pro-choice activists worry that violent attacks on abortion providers and political pressure are making it harder for women to gain access to the procedure.
Before the January 1988 ruling, women could obtain abortions only in a hospital setting with the approval of a three-doctor committee. The Supreme Court declared the abortion law unconstitutional, saying it "clearly interferes with a woman's physical and bodily integrity."
Access to abortion is decreasing in Canada. Many provinces refuse to cover all or any of the costs of the abortion within the Canadian universal health-care system and anti-abortion groups, such as the Campaign Life Coalition, are intensifying efforts to prohibit public funding of the procedure.
Abortion providers throughout Canada face a daily risk of violence from anti-abortion extremists. Three shootings of doctors who perform abortions occurred in November of 1994, 1995 and 1997. The doctors were each wounded by shots fired through the windows of their homes. Today, doctors who provide abortions are taking precautions, some even wear bullet-proof vests.
Abortion supporters worry that the risk involved has resulted in the shrinking numbers of abortion providers. "I feel that police are not giving enough attention and priority to finding the perpetrator of these attacks," said Dr. Henry Morgentaler, the abortion-provider who fought for the 1988 Supreme Court decision. Morgentaler, 74, still performs abortions after repeated trials, 10 months in prison and a 1992 bombing of his Toronto clinic. Morgentaler believes that legalizing abortion has lowered the infant mortality rate, reduced the number of unwanted children in Canada and virtually eliminated unsafe, illegal abortions.