Backgrounder: Abortion Access Issues

Even though all provinces and territories have deemed abortion to be a “medically required service”* under the Canada Health Act, abortion services still do not meet any of the five principles of the Act:

  • public administration
  • comprehensiveness
  • universality
  • portability
  • accessibility

Because some provinces have failed to provide accessible or funded abortion services as per the Canada Health Act, access to abortion is still difficult for many people, especially those in rural, remote, or conservative areas; minority and immigrant women; low-income women; teenagers; transgender people, and other disadvantaged groups.

Lack of access to abortion violates women’s and trans peoples’ constitutional rights, but governments often lack the political will to make abortion accessible. Even the medical profession has succumbed to anti-abortion pressure by not performing abortions or training providers.

  • The province of New Brunswick does not fund abortions at clinics, while Ontario does not fully fund abortions for every clinic. People must pay out-of-pocket at least in part for their abortions, which is a violation of the Canada Health Act. The average cost of a first-trimester abortion is $700.
  • Fewer than one in five Canadian hospitals provide abortion services, even though it is a common and simple medical procedure. Hospitals that do provide abortions may enforce restrictive policies such as 12-week gestational limits or requiring a doctor’s referral. Hospitals often have long waiting lists.
  • There is a shortage of doctors able and willing to perform abortions, partly because medical school training in abortion is inadequate or unavailable, and partly out of stigma and fear. Canadian medical schools spend an average of less than one hour discussing abortion during the four-year curriculum. First-trimester surgical abortion techniques are not even discussed in many of Canada’s medical schools.

To improve access to abortion across Canada, ARCC works towards:

  • Obtaining full Medicare funding for abortion clinics (in provinces that are still violating the Canada Health Act)
  • Improving hospital access to abortion across Canada
  • Increasing the number of abortion providers and expanding training opportunities for abortion

* To understand why abortion is a medically-required service and must be fully funded, see our Position Paper Abortion Is a “Medically Required” Service and Cannot be Delisted.