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A History of Abortion in Canada: The Quest for Women's Reproductive Rights

      When the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) came into being, both abortion and contraception were criminal offenses in Canada. The Criminal Code provision related to abortion became law in 1892, but prosecutions were rare. Dr. Emily Stowe, the first woman to practise medicine in Canada, was charged and tried for prescribing an abortifacient to a woman who died three months later. Dr. Stowe was acquitted on the basis of the prolonged time interval between her prescription and the woman's death.
      • Sabourin J
      • Burnett M
      A review of therapeutic abortions and related areas of concern in Canada.
      In spite of its prohibition under federal law, abortion continued to be performed by physicians and non-physicians alike. Access to (relatively) safe abortion depended on the patient's ability to pay and the willingness of some physicians to provide the service on the “black market.” For many women, self-induced abortion and unsafe “back alley” procedures were the only available alternatives. The former Chief Coroner of Ontario, Morton Schulman, voiced concern over the number of deaths he encountered following unsafe abortion. He publicized his experience and called for a public inquest into each abortion death. In 1964, Lottie Leanne Clarke, mother of three, died of sepsis following an illegal abortion. After the inquest into her death, the panel hearing the case recommended that the federal laws governing abortion be liberalized.

      Wikipedia. Abortion in Canada. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Canada#Illegal. Accessed June 30, 2019.

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        • Sabourin J
        • Burnett M
        A review of therapeutic abortions and related areas of concern in Canada.
        J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2012; 34: 532-542
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