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Dealing the Death Blow to the “Justice Bertha Wilson Wanted to Restrict Abortion” Argument

by  Joyce Arthur

An argument that is very dear to the hearts of Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth and other anti-choicers, is that former Supreme Court Justice Bertha Wilson, a judge with “impeccable feminist credentials”, said that abortion should be restricted in the second trimester (in the 1988 R. v. Morgentaler ruling), and therefore, Parliament has a duty to restrict abortion accordingly. Woodworth has repeated this argument several times now, most recently in a leaked letter to his parliamentary colleagues. Here is the single Wilson quote that he and his fellow anti-choicers keep quoting over and over again:

“The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state’s interest becomes ‘compelling’ I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive guidance on the subject from all the relevant disciplines. It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester.”  Justice Bertha Wilson, R. v. Morgentaler, January 28, 1988, Supreme Court of Canada (page 113).

But anti-choice pleading on this issue is unconvincing and futile on multiple levels:

As aptly put by this wise writer, the anti-choicers’ Bertha Wilson argument is "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing."