PBP201H: Opportunities for Pro-Life Policies

Abortion is legal in Canada through all 9 months for any reason or no reason at all. Our vision is a vision zero for the abortion rate. What kinds of pro-life policies can we advocate for in order to reduce the abortion rate?

We're going to look at incremental federal and provincial policies, and also both the supply and demand side of the abortion equation, as attainable next steps to reduce the abortion rate on the way to upholding human rights for all human beings.

Supply Side Policies (Restricting Abortion) - 40min


WeNeedALaw has identified three key federal initiatives for enacting incremental policies in Canada:

  1. International Standards Abortion Law
  2. Banning Sex Selective Abortion
  3. Protecting Pre-Born Victims of Crime

International Standards Abortion Law - 10min


  • Canada has no abortion regulations. This initiative calls for Canada to get in line with international standards in regulating abortion:
    • ban abortion after the first trimester
    • independent counselling requirement
    • 48h waiting period
  • For example, France, Germany, and Spain all ban abortion after 12 weeks
  • In Canada, 15% of abortions happen after the first trimester - 15,000 children every year
    • The Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI) reports that
      • 12.7% of abortions occur at 13 weeks or later
      • another 2.4% occur after 20 weeks, including when the baby would be viable outside the womb
  • Canadians do not support late-term abortion
    • A 2013 Angus-Reid poll found that 45% of Canadians believe that current laws in Canada only allow a woman to have an abortion without restrictions during the first three months of pregnancy
    • A 2011 Environics poll of 2,000 Canadians found that 58% of Canadians think abortion should be generally illegal after the first trimester, and this jumps to 77% in the third trimester
    • Clearly, our laws are not lining up with the reality of what Canadians either believe or want, and we need to work to change this.
  • In a 2010 study of Western European and North American abortion stats, it was clearly shown that counseling combined with a waiting period dramatically impact the abortion rates.
    • Canada, which has neither a waiting period or a counseling requirement, and no gestational limit, has an abortion rate of 241 babies aborted for every 1000 live births.
    • Germany and Belgium, which have counseling, waiting periods, and a gestational limit, have a rate of 163 and 152 per 1000 respectively. This is considerably lower than Canada!

For more, see Direction Matters and Draft Legislation.

Defend Girls - 10min


Watch the full documentary

  • It was screened at Amnesty International's seventh Amnesty Reel Awareness Film Festival in Toronto (Toronto Star)
  • This is not just a phenomenon in India and China. Sex-selective abortion is happening in Canada too.
  • A vast majority of Canadians oppose sex selective abortion
    • FIXME confirm stats
      • 92% of Canadians in ~2012 before Mark Warawa's motion
      • 84% more recent poll
  • In February 2020, MP Cathay Wagantall introduced her private member’s bill, the Sex Selective Abortion Act (Bill C-233)
    • This bill would make it illegal to abort a child based solely on his or her predicted sex - it's an opportunity to raise the conversation with Canadians too

See also:

Pre-Born Victims of Crime - 10min


  • When a woman is violently attacked by someone who knows she is pregnant, and the attack results in harm to, or the death of, her baby, there are no legal repercussions for the attacker as it relates to that baby.
    • In other words, the baby does not count legally because it was not yet born, regardless of whether the mother wanted that baby or not. This gap in Canadian law leaves women open to intimate partner violence without appropriate consequences for those who would abuse or victimize them, and sends the message that women who desire to carry their baby safely to term are unsupported in that choice.
  • The Molly Matters campaign
  • In 2016, Member of Parliament Cathay Wagantall introduced Bill C-225, The Protection of Pregnant Women and Pre-born Children Act, which was also known an Cassie & Molly’s Law.
    • While this bill was voted down in Parliament before reaching committee stage, tens of thousands of Canadians were supporting this bill.
    • Independent polling also found that approximately 70% of Canadians (and close to 75% of women) support tougher penalties for those who commit crimes against a pregnant woman. This indicates a desire for change in Canada to reflect the value of a woman’s choice to carry her baby and her right to do so in safety.

FIXME https://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/abortion-law-1.5128422

Other Initiatives

  • Conscience Rights (more of a provincial matter, but there's a role that the federal government can play) FIXME Kelly Block PMB
  • Statistics are terrible FIXME


Criminal law in Canada is a federal matter (unlike the US where there is state criminal law as well), but healthcare is a provincial issue.

Just quickly mention these kinds of opportunities:

  • provider regulations
    • abortion clinic regulations
    • regulate as surgical centres
    • require licences
    • require physicians only
  • Informed consent
    • risks of procedure, gestation and development of child, information about complications from procedure
    • waiting periods
    • ultrasound requirements
    • fetal pain
    • independent counselling requirement
    • coercion signage and signing requirement
  • parental rights / consent
  • Adverse Prenatal Diagnoses and Informed Consent
  • Reporting: collecting accurate and complete statistics
  • Conscience rights
  • Defunding

Case Study: United States

Michael J. New has been tracking the effects of the pro-life movement on the abortion rate in the United States for years, and has published studies on the effects of pro-life laws in reducing the abortion rate.

In December 2019, Michael J New wrote:

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released abortion data for 2016, indicating that the U.S. abortion rate has continued to decline, a trend that began in 1980. Between 2015 and 2016, both the number of abortions and the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 U.S. women of childbearing age) decreased by about 2 percent. The decline was fairly consistent, as 33 of the 46 states that reported abortion data saw their numbers decline. This is good news for pro-lifers, and for anyone who wants to see the incidence of abortion decrease.

While much of the analysis of new abortion data typically focuses on short-term trends, the long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate is even more impressive. According to the CDC, the abortion rate has fallen by more than 25 percent between 2007 and 2016 among the 47 states that reported abortion data consistently during that timespan (excluding California, Maryland, and New Hampshire, which did not report abortion numbers). The data also indicate that the abortion rate has fallen by approximately 50 percent since 1980. The abortion trends reported by the CDC are similar to those shown by estimates from the Guttmacher Institute, which in September released its estimates for U.S. abortion data for 2017.

Most of the media coverage of declining abortion numbers typically credits increased contraception use. But commentators often overlook a key factor in the long-term abortion-rate decline: the fact that a higher percentage of women with unintended pregnancies carry them to term. Data from Guttmacher show that between 1981 and 2011, the percentage of unintended pregnancies that resulted in an abortion fell from approximately 54 percent to 42 percent.

Since the early 1990s, pro-lifers have made gains in public opinion, enacted a higher number of pro-life laws, and established more pregnancy-help centers. The declining abortion numbers, and the fact that more unintended pregnancies are being carried to term, is nice evidence that these pro-life efforts have been effective. Hopefully, the new CDC data will encourage pro-lifers and inspire them to continue their lifesaving efforts.

See also:

Demand Side Policies (Social Support Policies) - 15min

While supply side policies seek to restrict the availability/supply of abortion, demand side policies seek to restrict the desire/demand for abortion.

We often think about this in terms of the other arms of the pro-life movement beside the political arm - the educational arm seeks to make abortion unthinkable so that people won't desire it by changing hearts and minds on abortion, and the pastoral arm seeks to make abortion irrelevant by providing support to people who feel like they may have no other choice but abortion.

The educational and pastoral efforts are essential, however, there is also a huge opportunity to reduce the abortion rate from public policy efforts that reduce the demand for abortion by providing support.

The Need

  • In the Guttmacher Institute's (Planned Parenthood's research arm) research on Why Women Choose Abortion, they cite inadequate finances as the reason for 21% of abortions
  • ARCC cites 18% of abortions for the same reason (FIXME citation needed, got that via JVM)
  • The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has a publication: Poverty and Abortion: A Vicious Cycle
    • low income women are more likely to be anti-abortion, yet have abortions in higher numbers - which suggests they might be facing economic pressure to act against their convictions, that they feel like they have no other choice
    • In a 2005 study, 73% of women undergoing an abortion said not being able to afford a baby now was a reason for the abortion
      • That number rose to 81% for women below the federal poverty line
    • while the abortion rate for American women declined by 8% between 2000 and 2008, among poor American women it increased by 18%
    • One study found that poor women on Medicaid had twice the abortion rate of other women in their state.
      • If the state’s Medicaid program paid for elective abortions, their abortion rate was more than four times that of other women.
        • By offering “free” abortions, the government effectively places its thumb on the scale to favor death for the unborn child.
      • By contrast, if these programs continue funding care for mothers and babies but stop funding abortion, abortions among women in the program decrease by as much as 35%.
    • The USCCBR advocates for both pro-life laws and public policy to alleviate poverty and the economic pressure to abort
    • Furthermore, the viscious cycle
      • Poverty leads to abortion, abortion leads to marital breakups and relationship break down, broken families leads to more poverty, which leads to more abortion…
      • By contrast, marriage has been called “America's greatest weapon against child poverty.” Strengthening marriage fights poverty and reduces the demand for abortion.
  • Thus, this isn't just about educational efforts to make abortion unthinkable or pastoral efforts to provide support, but there is a huge opportunity for public policies to lower the demand for abortion by providing social support for families and pregnant women

The Case

This makes economic policy relevant to the question of reducing the demand for abortion and lowering abortion rates1)

JVM and Camosy listen 26:47-31:42

JVM: I've done a lot of research over the last couple years in terms of how the abortion rate is reduced because, one of the things I've noted is that both Canada and the US have extremely high abortion rates compared to countries with better social safety nets (e.g. the Netherlands, Israel, Germany, Hungary) […] Conservatives should be championing these policies, because we should be the pro-family party…

* Charlie Camosy: think about the demand side of the abortion issue rather than the supply side

Also, 45:25-46:12, starting at “One pro-life said to me that you're just bribing women out of abortions, and I was like, uh, yeah, you wouldn't do that?”

e.g. read this blog post (FIXME summarize) Hungary

[Early 2019] Hungary’s prime minister has announced a raft of measures aimed at boosting the country’s declining birth rate and reducing immigration. Giving his annual State of the Nation address Sunday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced a seven-point “Family Protection Action Plan” designed to promote marriage and families.

Measures announced included waivers on personal income tax for women raising at least four children for the rest of their lives and subsidies for large families to buy larger cars. The ‘action plan’ also extended a loan program to help families with at least two children to buy homes. Every woman under 40 will also be eligible for a preferential loan when she first gets married.

The government has also said it will spend more on Hungary’s heathcare system and will create 21,000 creche places. In addition, grandparents will be eligible to receive a childcare fee if they look after young children instead of the parents, Orban said.

JVM: Orban’s policies have already contributed to a decline in the abortion rate, with LifeSite reporting in 2018 that numbers had dropped by more than a third compared to what they were in 2010—40,449 to 28,500. Divorces also declined, with 23,973 in 2010 compared to 18,600 in 2017 as well as a surge in marriages (35,520 in 2010 compared to 50,600 in 2017.) Interestingly, Orban’s policies prove what Tucker Carlson has been saying to great controversy in the US for a couple of years now: Government’s economic policies play an enormous role in incentivizing or disincentivizing family, and as such social conservatives should consider the role of markets and the government in the breakdown of the family.