A Letter to the Federal Health Minister Hon. Allan Rock Concerning Payments for Abortions at Private Clinics

Tuesday, January 09 2001

The Honourable Allan Rock
Minister of Health
Brooke Claxton Building
Postal Locator 0916A
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0K9

Dear Mr. Rock:

We are deeply disturbed by the media reports that your Ministry is considering penalizing the Governments of New Brunswick, Québec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island for refusing to pay for abortions performed at private clinics.

When the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the criminal code provisions against abortion in 1988 it did so for procedural reasons. The Court did not decide that there is a constitutional right to have an abortion or that governments have an obligation to provide abortion services. The import of the decision in the current legislative vacuum is simply that if a woman wishes to have an abortion and if the doctor and facility are agreeable, the abortion may be performed without criminal sanction.

Our understanding is that it is up to the provinces to determine which services are insurable as medically necessary. The various provincial health insurance plans already do not cover many procedures such as cosmetic surgery and those associated with the new reproductive technologies that are considered elective.

There is no evidence to support your Ministry’s apparent assumption that every abortion is medically necessary. It is also surprising that your Ministry has objected to the funding of private clinics for other procedures but now appears to insist on the funding of private abortion clinics. This is particularly offensive to those who appreciate that abortion is unique in that it involves not only the health of the mother but the very life of another human being.

The Supreme Court of Canada in the Morgentaler case clearly recognized that the state has an interest in protecting the unborn child that relates to a pressing and substantial concern in a free and democratic society. In subsequent cases the Court has referred to the power of Parliament to protect the unborn child. It is more than disappointing that your Government’s only response has been to approve clinical trials of the abortion drug RU 486 and to challenge the funding approach of the provincial governments to abortion clinics. We deplore this failure to protect the unborn child who is so vulnerable and in need of our care.

Abortion is a tragic and permanent solution for both the mother and the child to moral, social and economic dilemmas. At the beginning of a new century in one of the most prosperous and decent countries in the world, we hope that more life giving solutions can be found for both the mother and the unborn child than funding and facilitating abortions.


Most Rev. Bertrand Blanchet
Archbishop of Rimouski
Catholic Organization for Life and Family