Prior to 1969, abortion was illegal in Canada except to preserve the life of the mother. At this time, the Liberals and Trudeau altered Section 287. Every hospital was to have a committee of three doctors who would determine if the abortion was necessary to preserve the life, health or psychological well-being of the mother. Since health and psychological well-being were not well-defined terms, inconsistencies between hospital committees and their application of the law arose.
Enter Dr. Henry Morgentaler.
Morgentaler believed that people had a right to control their own reproduction. Ironically, instead of advocating self-control, be it abstinence or any form of birth control, Morgentaler was a staunch advocate of abortion on demand. He began performing abortions illegally and eventually challenged the Criminal Code. In 1988 it was determined by the Supreme Court of Canada that Section 287 violated a woman's Charter Rights, specifically section 7. Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice." Curiously, this right was not extended to the unborn. It is a matter of continuing debate as to whether or not this section truly applies to a woman desiring abortion for no reason other than late birth control. Furthermore, challenges to the ruling were not to be permitted.
The Supreme Court advised the government to create an adequate law to replace Section 287. The Conservatives did so, and under Kim Campbell a law prohibiting abortions except to save the life of the mother made it through the House of Commons. It was blocked by the Senate in an extremely rare tie vote. There have been few attempts to restrict abortions since then. In June 2006, Private Member's Bill 338 was tabled by Liberal MP Paul Steckle. The bill, which prohibits abortions (except to save the life of the mother) beyond 20 weeks, has not yet been debated on.
The result is that Canada is one of the few countries in the world with no restrictions on abortion whatsoever. A woman may legally have an abortion until she delivers. While abortions beyond the second trimester are very rare, they can and do still happen.
Related to the state of abortion in Canada is the issue of fetal rights. In 1989 the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Tremblay v. Daigle that the father of an unborn child has no legal rights to it. Tremblay had tried to obtain a restraining order against his girlfriend, preventing her from having an abortion. That restraining order was eventually rendered moot. In 1996 in the case of Brenda Drummond, the court ruled that since the fetus is not legally defined a person, it was not entitled to any legal rights. Drummond had attempted to perform a self abortion with a pellet gun, despite the fact that by this time obtaining an abortion from a hospital or clinic was easy. The baby was born a few days later and saved with an emergency surgery. When the bullet was discovered lodged in the baby's head, the father tried to charge Drummond with attempted murder. The charges had to be dropped.
The result of these rulings are that neither the unborn nor the father of the unborn have any rights.