Update: In a follow-up article (to the one referred to below) on the Montreal Gazette site today, the woman at the centre of this controversy speaks to the paper about her decision to have a late-term abortion. It explains that the medical condition of the fetus was much worse than what had been suggested. Tap here to read it.

I’m leaving the original post up below, for discussion.


At what point is it too late to perform an abortion?

That’s an issue many people are talking about in Montreal today after reports that two area hospitals turned down a woman’s request for an abortion at 30 weeks. They claim they refused her on medical grounds, not ethical grounds. The woman, unnamed, says she wanted the abortion because an ultrasound revealed the fetus “appeared to have physical abnormalities that were not life-threatening to the mother or the baby,” according to a report on the Montreal Gazette site.

The woman turned to a lawyer for help, and he suggested she try another hospital. She ended up having the abortion at 35 weeks.

In Canada, the fetus has no legal status before birth, the woman’s lawyer says in the report. And a woman’s right to an abortion is enshrined, no matter what the reason and at any stage in her pregnancy.

But some might be wondering if the Supreme Court judges, who established the law on this issue, were thinking of such late-term abortions — which are quite rare, apparently.

I handled the above-mentioned article for the paper last night, and it has left me somewhat shaken — as happens sometimes to us copy editors with articles that cross our desks. What truly troubles me are the reader responses, many calling the woman a murderer. I suspect that whoever took this story to the media was not expecting that sort of backlash — and they were just trying to point out that two hospitals denied a woman’s rights that are enshrined by federal law.

I’m troubled this morning because my son was born 8 weeks early — and the thought of someone performing an abortion on such a developed fetus is horrifying, considering how abortions are performed, as some readers graphically pointed out. That’s what truly troubles me today.

I mean, could they not have allowed the fetus to be born, and then used more gentler euthanasia drugs to end its existence?

These are not questions of whether abortion should be legal or not, because it is legal and that will not be changed in Canada. My questions are more about timing, and methods.

Was abortion the right method of ending this particular life?

— Jillian

Photo credit: World Can’t Wait via Foter.com / CC BY