In August, pro-life advocacy group “We Need a Law” launched a nationwide billboard campaign with the message “Canada has no abortion laws.”
These billboards sparked complaints to Ad Standards, a national self-regulatory body that ensures all ads meet Canadian advertising code standards.
This Thursday, September 13th Ad Standards will adjudicate this matter and we are looking for a ruling in our favour.
“We appreciate the role of Ad Standards in protecting Canadians from inaccurate or demeaning advertising,” said Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for We Need a Law. “Ad Standards has a serious responsibility to ensure that they remain objective in their decision making. We anticipate that they will rule that our message is fair and accurate.”
We Need a Law was forwarded over 30 complaints that came to Ad Standards after a mini-campaign put together by pro-abortion organizations.
“It’s unfortunate that those who disagree with our stance are attempting to use Ad Standards as a means to target pro-life advertisements,” said Ewert. “We understand that some Canadians may disagree, but this does not change the accuracy of the statement, ‘Canada has no abortion laws’.”
“The irony in all of this is that pro-abortion activists often tout the fact that Canada has no abortion law, but now, when we are the ones saying the same thing, they are attempting to use Ad Standards to censor our organization,” continued Ewert. “Out of respect for the standard of advertising in Canada, we carefully chose an ad that is clear and accurate. We are confident that the upcoming decision will acknowledge this, and will not uphold complaints that merely attack us for our pro-life stance.”
Ms. Ewert anticipates that Ad Standards will release a decision by the middle of next week.
Canada has no abortion laws. One poll suggests that 77% of Canadians are unaware of this fact. We hope that knowing this fact will cause people to consider whether they are comfortable with the status quo or not. We don’t demand people think our way on the manner, but neither do we hide the fact that we think that Canada needs a law.
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The billboard says, “Canada has no abortion law”. This is a clear and accurate statement. The Supreme Court of Canada in R v Morgentaler,  struck down Canada’s abortion law. It is important to understand what the Supreme Court did and did not say in that case.
What they did say is that the specific abortion scheme (which included the necessity of a therapeutic abortion committee appointed by a hospital to approve abortions) infringed women’s section 7 interests, not because women have a right to abortion, but because this scheme could cause delays and uncertainty around the procedure.
They did not say there is Charter1 right to abortion. In fact, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Parliament’s ability to legislate to protect fetal interests. Since then, Canada has had no laws governing when abortion may or may not be performed.
As associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Drew Halfmann, stated in his book Doctors and Demonstrators: “In the end, Canada was left with abortion on request and for women’s own reasons, not because the court required this but because Parliament failed to enact a new abortion law.”
Since 1988 Canada has had no law, neither a federal criminal law nor a provincial health regulation, protecting fetal interests in the case of abortion. You can find acknowledgment of this fact at abortionlaws.ca, our own website, weneedalaw.ca, and on the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada website,arcc-cdac.ca.
1 The Canadian Charter is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada.