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Abortion

Political cartoon entitled ABORTION ISSUE
Source

This guide consists of specific archival references relating to abortion in Canada.

Abortion had been illegal in Canada for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, thus forcing women to find dangerous alternative methods. With growing pressure on the government by women's groups, an amendment to the Criminal Code in 1969 allowed abortions in hospitals under restrictive circumstances. Over time, however, this law has been subject to interpretation through court challenges.

This guide was revised in October 2000.

Government Records

Records of the Department of Transport (RG 12)

Correspondence concerning other departments; Justice; abortion law, 1975-1977
(RG 12, vol. 4041-4042, file 3-70-2)

Records of the Department of Justice (RG 13)

The Department of Justice kept many records on the legal aspects of abortion.

Robert Griffith; Clerk of Assize, Haldimand; Cayuga; transmits pronouncement of the Grand Jury at the assizes for his county suggesting the enactment of a law to prohibit the advertisement of medicines intended to procure an abortion, 1864
(RG 13, vol. 11, file 1864-528)
R.A. Harrison (Toronto); Regina vs. Wright and Regina vs. Johnson, attempt to procure abortion; asks that the sentence be a nolle prosequi in these cases, 1865
(RG 13, vol. 14, file 1865-900)
Dr. Bessey (133 1/2 Church Street, Toronto); suggested legislation to punish attempts to bribe medical men to procure abortion, 1894
(RG 13, vol. 94, file 1894-669)
C. Russell Fitch; Ph.D., Stoufville, Ontario; asking immunity from prosecution for witnesses in abortion case, 1898
(RG 13, vol. 107, file 1898-325)

Records of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RG 18)

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police kept records on the criminal aspect of women trying to get abortions prior to 1969.

Richard and Mary Relph (Rosthern, Saskatchewan); manslaughter and abortion, 1909
(RG 18, vol. 3235, file HQ-680-F-1)
George James Grant (Kantenville, Saskatchewan); charged with procuring an abortion, 1916
(RG 18, vol. 3270, file HQ-640-F-1)

Records of the Department of External Affairs (RG 25)

UNESCO population commission; digest of legislation relating to marriage, divorce, contraception, sterilization and abortion, 1949-1957
(RG 25, vol. 3681, file 5475-B-6-40)

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Records of the Department of National Health and Welfare (RG 29)

The Department of National Health and Welfare kept documents relating to the health aspects of abortion.

A.F. Guttmacher. "Historical Developments of Contraception." Paper presented to the Fourth Conference of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, 1964
(RG 29, vol. 878, file 20-J-163, 12 pp.)
C.P. Balcker. "The International Planned Parenthood Federation; Aspects of History."Ppaper presented at the Fourth Conference of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, 1964
(RG 29, vol. 878, file 20-J-163, 12 pp.)
Food and drug; birth control and abortion; general, 1972-1976
(RG 29, vol. 1767, file 45-14-1)
Food and drug; family planning, abortion and birth control; inquiries and complaints regarding abortion, 1972-1977
(RG 29, vol. 1768 to 1771, file 45-14-4)
Food and drug; family planning and abortion; grants to associations and organizations, 1972-1975
(RG 29, vol. 1801, file 55-14-5)
Office of the Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare; Health Programs Branch; health standards and consulting; abortion, 1970-1973
(RG 29, vol. 1576, file S1014-5-3B)
Study on the Operation of the Abortion Law, 1975-1976
(RG 29, vol. 1629)
Sustaining grants to national voluntary health organizations; individual agencies; Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, 1987
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 19, file 6751-2-105)
Adult health; abortion; general, 1970-1984
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 52 and 53, file 6756-2-1)
Adult health; abortion; Alliance for Life, 1973-1984
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 53, file 6756-2-2)
Adult health; abortion; Calgary Birth Control Association, 1972-1973
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 53, file 6756-2-3)
Adult health; abortion; counseling, 1970-1975
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 53, file 6756-2-5)
Adult health; abortion; establishment of abortion committees in hospitals, 1968-1979
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 53, file 6756-2-6)
Adult health; abortion; government policy on abortion, 1970-1978
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 53, file 6756-2-8)
Adult health; abortion; late complications of abortion, 1971-1978
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 53, file 6756-2-9)
Adult health; abortion; Minister`s briefing material, 1970-1979
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 54, file 6756-2-10)
Adult health; abortion; news clippings and press releases, 1970-1981
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 54, file 6756-2-11)
Adult health; abortion; policy and position of Canadian Medical Association, 1970-1980
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 54, file 6756-2-12)
Adult health; abortion; review of abortion legislation in selected countries, 1958-1977
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698 , box 54, file 6756-2-13)
Adult health: abortion; Right to Life Society, 1971-1978
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 54, file 6756-2-14)
Adult health; abortion; statistics, 1968-1988
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 54, file 6756-2-15)
Adult health; abortion; studies and reports, 1967-1974
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 55, file 6756-2-16)
Adult health; abortion; therapeutic abortion study, 1972-1980
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 56, file 6756-2-17)
Adult health; abortion; distribution list, 1983-1984
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 56, file 6756-2-17/1)
Adult health; abortion; three studies of the abortion laws in the Commonwealth, 1977
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698 , box 56, file 6756-2-18)
Adult health; abortion; mental health and abortion, 1966-1973
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 56, file 6756-2-20)
Family planning; general; policy on family planning and abortion, 1969-1978
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 103, file 6780-1-0)
Abortion; general, 1972-1986
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 106-107, file 6782-1-1)
Abortion; general; comments from the public, 1984-1985
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 107-108, file 6782-1-2)
Abortion; general; news clippings and press releases, 1975-1983
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 108, file 6782-1-5)
Abortion; general; Dr. Henry Morgentaler, 1984-1986
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 108, file 6782-1-6)
Abortion; agencies; general, 1978-1985
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 108, file 6782-4-1)
Abortion; agencies; Alliance for Life, 1973-1985
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 108, file 6782-4-3)
Abortion; agencies; Catholic Women's League of Canada, 1978-1984
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 108, file 6782-4-5)
Abortion; agencies; Right to Life Society, 1977-1983
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 108, file 6782-4-6)
Abortion; agencies; Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, 1972-1981
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 108, file 6782-4-8)
Abortion; agencies; Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL), 1977-1988
(RG 29, acc.1996-97/698, box 108, file 6782-4-9)

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Records of Royal Commissions (RG 33)

The records of the Royal Commissions kept records on all royal commissions looking into abortion.

Consultations; Abortion by Choice, Edwina Podemski, Denyse King
(RG 33, acc.1993-94/531, series 154, box 2, file PH-11-ED)
Consultations; Canadian Abortion Rights Action League, Kit Holmwood, Kathy Coffin
(RG 33, series 154, acc.1993-94/531, box 3, file PH-11-HX)
Consultations; Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics, Vicki Van Wagner, Cherie MacDonald
(RG 33, series 154, acc.1993-94/531, box 9, file PH-39-TOR)
Unpublished study of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women
(RG 33/89, vols. 25-30), including:
  • "Birth Control and Abortion," unpublished study of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women
    (RG 33/89, vol. 28, 90 pp.)*
  • "Abortion and the Law," unpublished study of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women
    (RG 33/89, vol. 29, 10 pp.)*

*If researchers wish to copy or quote from any study, written permission must be obtained from the author.

Records of the Treasury Board (RG 55)

The Treasury Board has written reports on the subject of abortion.

Abortion, 1975-1976
(RG 55, vol. 929, file 3-19-15)
Abortion, 1974-
(RG 55, vol. 938, file 3-19-5)

Records of the Northern Affairs Program (RG 85)

The Northern Affairs Program kept some documentation about abortions.

S.L. Molinnis; attempt to procure an abortion, Dawson, Yukon Territory, 1946 (RG 85, vol. 1000, reel T-13984, file 16274)
Using means to procure abortion; crime report, Dawson, Yukon Territory, 1947-1950 (RG 85, vol. 1019, file 18337)

Records of the Office of the Co-Ordinator, Status of Women Canada, (RG 106)

The Office of the Coordinator, Status of Women in Canada kept many records on the impact abortion can have on a woman's life.

Acts and legislation; Canadian Nurses Association stand on abortion, 1971
(RG 106, vol. 95, file 1230-C6-2)
Acts and legislation; federal; criminal code; abortion, 1970-1974
(RG 106, vol. 95, file 1230-C6)
Abortion; articles, etc., 1970-1972
(RG 106, vol. 25, parts 1-2)
Therapeutic abortion; M. Pearson, 1975
(RG 106, vol. 25)
Acts and legislation; criminal code; abortion, 1975-1979
(RG 106, vol. 65, file 1230-C6)
Acts and legislation; federal; criminal code; abortion, 1980-1981
(RG 106, vol. 42, file 1230-C6)
Abortion; general, 1984-1988
(RG 106, #1999-01103-1, boxes 47 and 48)

There is material related to abortion in:

Women in the family; general; family planning and birth control, 1971-1978
(RG 106, vol. 97, file 1300-3)
Birth planning; H. Major, 1975
(RG 106, vol. 25)
Family planning, conception and birth control; M. Pearson, 1975
(RG 106, vol. 25)
Women in the family; general; family planning and birth control, 1978-1981
(RG 106, vol. 42, file 1300-3)

Records of the Department of Employment and Immigration (RG 118)

The Department of Employment and Immigration has written reports on youth and abortion.

Opportunities for Youth Program; Abortion Opinion Survey; Toronto, Ontario, 1971
(RG 118, vol. 338, file 300-1133)
Opportunities for Youth Program; A Study of Abortion, Its Problems and Their Possible Solutions; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1971
(RG 118, vol. 350, file 402-195)

Records of the Medical Research Council (RG 128)

Special projects; complications to therapeutic abortion, 1974
(RG 128, vol. 175, file 1200-4)

Records of the Court Challenges Program (RG 152)

LEAF; funding of abortion services, 1990
(RG 152, vol. 15, file 90-E-011)

Selected Private Records

Margaret MacLellan Papers
(MG 31 E17, vol. 1, 11 files)

Thematic Guides