Abortion is the premature termination of a pregnancy—an interruption of a pregnancy before the fetus can survive outside its mother’s womb. An abortion can be spontaneous—for example due to health reasons or complications during pregnancy and is called a miscarriage. An abortion can also be induced, for example, by a doctor—this is called an induced abortion.
Before 1988 abortions were illegal in Canada. Abortions were only allowed if they were performed by a doctor, in a specific hospital and after the therapeutic abortion committee allowed the abortion to happen. Because of these strict rules some women who lived in small towns could not get an abortion and didn’t have the same access to the hospitals as women living in larger cities. This law violated the rights and freedoms we are granted under the Charter, so in 1988 a new law came into effect that permitted women to get an abortion if they opted to.
The court also ruled that nobody other than the pregnant woman herself (the woman’s parents, husband, or boyfriend) can stop the woman from having an abortion. As soon as you realize you may be pregnant go to the doctor—whether you want to have an abortion or not.
Each of the Canadian provinces has its own laws and rules about how the doctors should perform the abortion. In Alberta, the doctor cannot perform an abortion if you are more than twenty weeks (five months) pregnant. Abortions are fully covered by Alberta Health Care (except at private clinics, which are only partially covered by Alberta Health Care) and are very safe when performed by a trained doctor.
If you are married and want to receive an abortion, you do not need your husband’s permission to get an abortion. If you are between sixteen and eighteen years of age and want to receive an abortion, you do not need your parents’ permission. You also don’t need a guardian’s consent if you are under sixteen.
Abortions that are not performed by a doctor can result in serious life-threatening infections, injuries, or even death. You need to phone the clinic (403-283-9117 in Calgary and 780-484-1124 in Edmonton) to make an appointment to have an abortion. When you call all you need is a positive pregnancy test, the first day of your last period or the results of an ultrasound, your address with the postal code, your phone number, and your Alberta Health Care number. The procedure itself takes only ten minutes, but be prepared to spend up to four hours at the clinic as the wait may be long. It does not hurt, but some anesthetic may be given and you could get cramps. Getting an abortion also does not reduce your chances of getting pregnant in the future and is completely confidential.
There are also sympathetic people available that will help you make a decision:
Options Sexual Health Association: 780-423-3737.
National Abortion Federation Hotline: 1-800-772-9100.
Abortion Information Line: (operates 24 hours a day and is toll free) 1-888-642-2725.