Note from history: Senate blocked Mulroney's 1990 bid to re-criminalize abortion

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Note from history: Senate blocked Mulroney's 1990 bid to re-criminalize abortion



For those who don't recall, the Supreme Court in 1988 ruled the existing Criminal Code provision (abortion if approved by committee) unconstitutional. The Mulroney government rushed to come up with new legislation - Bill C-43:


On 3 November 1989, the Minister of Justice introduced in the House of Commons Bill C-43, An Act respecting abortion. If Bill C-43 had been approved by both the House of Commons and the Senate, it would have been a criminal offence to induce an abortion on a woman unless it was done by, or under the direction of, a physician who considered that the woman's life or health was otherwise likely to be threatened. "Health" was defined as including physical, mental and psychological health.


On 29 May 1990, the House of Commons passed Bill C-43 on third reading by a vote of 140 to 131. Although Cabinet Ministers were required to support the bill, it was a free vote for all other Members.

On 31 January 1991, the Senate voted on Bill C-43. As with the House of Commons, it was a free vote except for members of the Cabinet (Senator Murray). Of 86 senators present, 43 voted for the bill and 43 voted against it. Under the Rules of the Senate, a tied vote is deemed to be a negative vote; therefore Bill C-43 was defeated.

There were further draft bills in subsequent Parliaments with a similar aim - but of course, none have ever succeeded.



Wow. I knew the Senate had rejected the bill, but I didn't know it had been so close. Interesting that Mulroney didn't invoke his power to temporarily appoint extra senators like he did with the GST.