Canada: Gender stereotyping and woman-protective anti-abortion initiatives

Congratulations to Cara Davies, LL.M., a former Reproductive Health Law Fellow, at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law, whose article was recently published in the Journal of Law and Equality.   The author can be reached at:  We thank her for providing this abstract.

“Protecting Women or peddling stereotypes? Bill C-510 and the influence of the Woman-protective Anti-abortion Movement” by Cara Davies,  Journal of Law and Equality 8 (Spring 2012): 1-26. Available through Hein Online.

Some in the anti-abortion movement have begun to assert that abortion harms women and access to abortion should be restricted or prohibited to protect women’s rights. This paper suggests that these dangerous woman-protective anti-abortion (“WPA”) arguments could gain a foothold in Canada if other kinds of woman-protective legislation are adopted. The recent Bill C-510, an Act to Prevent Coercion of Pregnant Women to Abort (Roxanne’s Law) is an example of such legislation. Woman-protective initiatives like Bill C-510 are problematic because their differential treatment of women reinforces historical stereotypes of motherhood and female incapacity, the same stereotypes upon which the WPA position relies. By reinforcing these stereotypes, initiatives like Bill C-510 create a climate in which WPA-based restrictions on access to abortion may appear more reasonable. The paper concludes by suggesting that the existing Criminal Code sentencing sections dealing with aggravated circumstances already provide judges with sufficient discretionary powers to deal with offences like coerced abortion, without resorting to WPA arguments.

Comments are closed.