Within the current political landscape there are many divisive political issues that tend to spark forms of debate and controversy not only within a political frame but within a societal frame. There are few pressing issues which effect both politics and society on such a large scale like Canada’s ongoing issues regarding abortion and its surrounding policies. The topic of abortion has effectively divided many parts of the nation. Many individuals and politicians present within society have argued on both sides of the political spectrum regarding Canada’s current abortion policies and laws. Although I share a pro-choice ideology , there are many issues within the current policies that act as immoral and unfair. Detailed within this policy critique, I will be arguing that Canada’s current laws and policies surrounding abortion aid, and its lack of access are immoral and unjust. To effectively convey my argument, I will be touching upon various topics: First, an evaluation of the current policy and how the proposed intentions enacted when the pro-choice laws and policies were made legal in 1988 , have not provided effective and positive results in regard to the distribution of abortion aid, and overall ease of access. To further prove why Canada’s abortion policies are immoral and unjust, I will discuss the poor use of policy instruments such as regulation/regulatory, as well as due to the poor use of this policy instrument many barriers and various provincial restrictions in rural areas are affecting women in need. This policy critique will offer insight as to how and why the current policies form an unfair and inappropriate structure regarding abortion aid in Canada. This critique of the abortion laws currently in place, will seek to analyze several different arguments while providing insightful information on current issues surrounding abortion and the policies that construct it. While providing insight, critical feedback will be used to ultimately prove that the abortion policies and laws in place are unjust and immoral.
Evaluation of Policy
To effectively provide a logical, knowledgeable, and fair critique of a certain policy one must be weary of the policy cycle and its components. The evaluation of a policy is an integral part of the policy cycle. As author Lydia Miljan (2017) elucidates, “ evaluation is the step that enables us to know how well we are accomplishing what we set out to do, and it is a function that has been institutionalized throughout government” ( p. 129). Through evaluating Canada’s current polices on abortion aid and its distribution, one must take into account whether or not the polices perceived intentions after being implemented in 1988 have provided positive and effective results today.
The aftermath of Canada v Morgentaler was intended to symbolize the turning of a page on the long and divisive debate on abortion. When the supreme court decided to fully legalize abortion in the aftermath of Canada v Morgentaler 1988 ,the output was to help prioritize the mental and physical well-being of mothers, and to effectively provide safe and legal abortions via trained physicians. There have been several controversial polices which affect women’s legal access to acquire abortion assistance. Glauser (2014) discusses a current issue which sheds a negative light on the current policy which is, the ability for doctors to object abortion patients on the basis of moral grounds. In the novel After Morgentaler, Rachel Johnstone (2017) states “resistance to performing abortions has been an issue as the providers fear harassment or violence as they provide services” (p.3). Once the laws identifying abortion as a criminal act were struck due to their unconstitutional nature, doctors were to be trained on how to conduct a legal abortion. In a failed effort to prioritize the mental and physical well-being of mothers in need, the doctors trained to administer various forms of abortion aid represented another obstacle in attaining the necessary medical requirements for an abortion. Several unjust restrictive provincial policies enacted by those within certain provinces such as British Columbia, do not prioritize or care for the mental or physical well-being of women in need as their beliefs effectively violate others rights to a legal abortion. Chief of the Ontario Humans Rights Commission, Barbara Hall classifies physicians certain beliefs regarding religion and morals to be “curtailed when they discriminate others and refuse to offer access to service based off of personal beliefs” (Glauser, 2014, p.483). The perceived intentions intended to provide successful and effective results after the decriminalization of abortion in 1988, have proved to be unsuccessful and has caused damaged rather than healed Canada’s ongoing divide on abortion. Provincial governments have failed in providing an organized form of abortion care throughout the whole of Canada. The prioritization of women’s mental and physical health, as well as easily accessible and discrimination free abortion services have not been prioritized. The lack of care or need for change has produced ineffective results. Ineffective results such as the policies which allow for physicians to decline assistance on the basis of moral grounds. In turning away patients based off of moral grounds, pressure from coworkers, and institutional pressure the women in need of care face various health risks. According to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, Dr. Henry Morgentaler stated , “every week of delay increases medical risks by 20 percent” (Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada [ARCC], 2017).
There have been many debates and discussions surrounding this specific policy regarding a physician’s ability to decline a patient. Several solutions have been presented such as the ability to refer a patient to another doctor if one feels as if his/her morals are being overstepped, but due to provincial jurisdictions the ability to refer a patient is varied across the country. According to Glauser (2014), The College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick is an example as they state , “that referral in case of moral objection is not an obligation but rather a preferred practice” (p.483). In analyzing whether or not the policies in place are a failure or a success one concludes that the polices process have failed in the sense that there is a failure to gather universal support and acquire legitimacy not only with government and the general population, but with those who administer abortion services such as doctors (Thorn, 2019). While a policy is undergoing the process of being implemented, it is evident that there are several steps to the process that one must be aware of. Miljan (2017) notes these steps as: intense discussion between political parties both locally and nationally, and discussions between several actors and stakeholders which usually results in a policy that is not ideal or wasn’t intended, as seen through the policy issue detailing doctors rights to deny abortion patients in need.
The influencing of public policy is effectively employed through the use of political instruments. In relation to abortion policies, there are many different and complex instruments which are ultimately used to alter the way in which one conducts himself/herself to successfully integrate the policy deployed by the government into society. The specific political instrument that stands out when discussing abortion policies is that of regulation/regulatory. In attempting to prove Canada’s unjust and immoral abortion polices , it is difficult to not discuss the effectiveness or lack of, in which the polices in place are being regulated and distributed throughout the country.
Within certain provinces there are several rules and regulations which have been enacted that make accessing legal abortion services very difficult to attain. Canada’s current policy on the distribution of abortion aid is made up of a series of rules and regulations which attempt to distribute access to services within the provinces and outside the provinces. Palley (2006) suggests that when observing the country on a national level it is evident that there are certain goals which are clear and are attempting to be achieved but observing on a provincial, local, and rural level it is clear that there is a strong opposition of federal abortion policies and the pro-choice mindset. Author Howard. A Palley (2006) best describes Canada’s regulation and distribution issues as “one of low ambiguity on a national level, and high policy conflict on a provincial and local level” (p.566).
It is evident that there is a lack of effectiveness in the range of access and distribution in regard to several types of abortion aid and access to clinics in general. The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada elucidates that “due to some provinces inability to provide accessible and publicly funded abortion services per the Canada Health Act, disadvantaged mothers, or mothers who live in rural or conservative areas struggle to attain the necessary aid they require” (Backgrounder: Abortion Access Issues – Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, 2016). Within Canada, forms of abortion aid including clinics and medicine are funded through taxpayers money. The political leaders who posses power in provinces, ultimately determine which abortion service/services will be covered by public health care. Provinces such as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba have failed to provide properly funded and accessible abortion services such as private clinics. In New Brunswick, several policies enacted by the heads of province do not allow for the funding of abortion at private clinics, therefore forcing women to pay for their personal care and well-being. The policy in place acts as a direct violation to the Canada Health Act as it states that “health services are guaranteed… abortion is considered a safe, legal and funded service meaning that women should not have to pay for abortion services in Canada” (National Abortion Federation of Canada, 2018.). Since its legalization in 1988, abortion has been classified as a “service in which is medically required” (Government of Canada, Canada Health Act, 2018). According to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada most provinces within Canada, especially those that are rural do not follow the five principles allocated under the Canada Health Act, of the principles present within the act one is accessibility. If a province fails to operate under the five guidelines there is supposed punishment administered by that of the federal government, although according to Stettner, Burnett and Hay (2009) “the federal government has failed in acting in an appropriate and moral manner and have yet to impose meaningful sanctions on those provinces responsible for withholding abortion services” (p.7). The current policy fails to take into account the smaller, rural provinces and fails to realize the damage the current struggle to attain abortion aid could cause on emotional and financial fronts. Due to the current policies in place women in need of care are forced to travel long distances and pay large sums of money to receive proper care.
In a journal article written by Action Canada, the contributors put forth a critique of Canada’s government stating that “despite having the necessary power, responsibility, and authority to ensure that abortion services are provided without financial or geographical barriers, the Government of Canada has not taken any action to address the discriminatory abortion policies present within certain provinces (Action Canada for Sexual Health Rights – Access to Abortion Services, 2012). The current rules and policies in place offer an unfair dispersion of abortion aid in several maritime provinces as the medical assistance is extremely limited and hard to attain. The lack of funding results in minimal local, facilities that provide abortion services. Due to several factors such as political pressure from province officials, and stigmas there has been a noticeable decline in abortion clinics within these rural provinces. Tamara Khandaker (2013) displays a study conducted by the University of British Columbia, which attempts to analyze and describe the several issues and barriers which women face in attaining abortion aid, the study shows that for women in living in rural communities about 60 percent of abortion services provided by hospitals , doctors and clinics have started to decline between 1995 and 2005 and still continue to show a downward trend.
After analyzing several issues present within the current abortion polices, it is clear to see that the problems that construct the policy are built upon several years of controversy, debate, and a complete disregard for a women’s legal right to accessible aid. While providing critical feedback on several issues regarding Canada’s abortion polices it is clear that the policies currently in place are both immoral and unjust. Canada’s current abortion polices regarding access, poor distribution in several provinces, and the several barriers a woman must face to receive proper care continues to be an ongoing issue within Canadian politics and society as a whole. In analyzing several issues with the current policy such as: the failed perceived intentions laid out after the Canada v Morgentaler and how they are affecting women today, the ability for doctors to turn away patients on the basis of moral grounds and internal pressure, lack of access in rural provinces, and lack of funding from provincial and local governments it is clear that there is an unfair set of rules and regulations present within Canada when it comes to abortion and its surrounding policies. After analyzing and dissecting the forms of evidence used in this paper, the barriers that women in desperate need of abortion care must face are both immoral and unjust.
- Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. (2017, October 10) . Access to Abortion in Rural/Remote Areas. Retrieved from http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/postionpapers/07-Access%20Rural-Remote%20Areas.pdf
- Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. (2016, June 18). Backgrounder: Abortion Access Issues. Retrieved from http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/backrounders/access.html
- Action Canada for Sexual Health Rights. (2012, February 6) Access To Abortion Services. Retrieved from http://www.actioncanadashr.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Domestic-3_Abortion.pdf
- Burnett,K., Stettner, S, Hay, T. (2009). Experience. In M. Doull (Ed.), Abortion: History, Politics, and Reproductive Justice After Morgentaler (pp.7). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.
- Glauser, W. (2014). Controversy Over Doctors’ Right To Say “No”. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(13), 483-484. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.109-4872
- Government of Canada. (2018, December 27). Canada Health Act. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-care-system/canada-health-care-system-medicare/canada-health-act.html
- Johnstone, R. (2017). Abortion Access In Canada. After Morgentaler: The Politics of Abortion in Canada (pp.3). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press
- Khandaker, T. (2013, August 27). Getting an Abortion in Rural Canada Isn’t Easy. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/kwpeyw/getting-an-abortion-in-rural-canada-isnt-easy
- Miljan, L. (2017). Policy Evaluation. Public Policy In Canada An Introduction (pp.129-130). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press
- National Abortion Federation. (2018, January 12). Access To Abortion In Canada. Retrieved from http://www.nafcanada.org/access-abortion-ca.html
- Palley, H. (2006). Canadian Abortion Policy: National Policy and the Impact of Federalism and Political Implementation on Access to Services. Publius: The Journal Of Federalism, 36(4), 565-566. https://doi.org/10.1093/publius/pjl002
- Thorn, A. (2019, March 8). Lecture 7: Policy Evaluation.