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Drifting Apart: the Evolution of Contemporary Abortion Policies across Canada

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Title: Drifting Apart: the Evolution of Contemporary Abortion Policies across Canada
Author: Kiefer, Jake
Department: Department of Political Science
Program: Political Science
Advisor: Johnson, Candace
Abstract: This thesis takes an innovative approach to examining health care policy by applying the concept of policy drift to the issue of access to abortion across Canada through analyzing three explanations: the structure of Canadian federalism, women’s organizations, and rights litigation. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that section 251 of the Criminal Code of Canada was unconstitutional in R v. Morgentaler (1988). Section 251 forced women to secure the approval of a panel of medical experts in order to gain legal consent to seek an abortion. As a result of this decision, women are now able to undergo a therapeutic abortion procedure without facing criminal sanctions. However, the issue of equitable access to abortion services across Canada is still unresolved. For example, women living in Prince Edward Island have to travel out of province at their own expense to undergo an abortion procedure. Meanwhile, women in Ontario are able to undergo an abortion procedure at a number of hospitals and private clinics with provincial insurance subsidizing the financial burdens. Abortion is a time-sensitive procedure and different from other health care procedures because it is also gender-sensitive. Findings within this thesis suggest that the model of Canadian federalism contributes to the inability of women’s organizations to gain audience from the federal government and inhibits the courts from assisting in expanding provincial access, which further facilitates policy drift. Recognizing policy drift concerning access to abortion is significant because it is an issue that involves gender equity at its core as well as discussions over what society deems is a right and what society deems is fair.
Date: 2012-07
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