Henry Morgentaler was a physician who performed abortions, acted as a reproductive rights activist, and advocated for legal access to abortions in Canada during the twentieth century. In 1969, he opened his first abortion clinic in Canada and participated in the legal/court case of R v. Morgentaler (1988), which led Canada to decriminalize abortion. Morgentaler helped establish legal access to abortions for women in Canada and advocated for the protection of women's reproductive choices under the law.
Written by Orli Lotan on behalf of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Center for Research and Information, "Limitations in Abortion Legislation: A Comparative Study" (hereafter abbreviated "Legislation") examines abortion legislation in Israel, the US, Canada, and a number of European countries. The study also acknowledges the medical, moral, ethical, and religious implications of abortion and the impact of such legislation on society in each country. It acknowledges the conflicting viewpoints that exist regarding the issue of abortion, but notes the overall global liberalization of the legal system since the 1950s and the significant drop in maternal, abortion-related illness and death. The following is a description of the study, taken from the original Hebrew version written in November 2007.
In September 1979, China's Fifth National People's Congress passed a policy that encouraged one-child families. Following this decision from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), campaigns were initiated to implement the One-Child Policy nationwide. This initiative constituted the most massive governmental attempt to control human fertility and reproduction in human history. These campaigns prioritized reproductive technologies for contraception, abortion, and sterilization in gynecological and obstetric medicine, while downplaying technologies related to fertility treatment. In the late 1980s, one of the consequences was the reorientation of the rationality of governmental funding for research on human in vitro fertilization (IVF) and embryo transfer.
The New York Court of Appeals' 1983 case Weber v. Stony Brook set an important precedent upholding the right of parents to make medical decisions for newborns born with severe congenital defects. A pro-life New York attorney, Lawrence Washburn, attempted to legally intervene in the case of Baby Jane Doe, an infant born with disorders. When the infant's parents chose palliative care over intensive corrective surgery, Washburn made repeated attempts to have the New York courts force through the surgery. The Court of Appeals ultimately ruled not only that Washburn had overstepped his authority, but also that the parents' decision was a medically and legally valid one. The Weber case set an important standard for protecting the rights of parents and limiting the rights of government to make medical decisions for infants with severe congenital defects.
Established under the Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) Act of 2004, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada (AHRC), also known as the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada, was created in 2006 to oversee research related to reproductive technologies and to protect the reproductive rights and interests of Canadian citizens. AHRC serves as a regulatory body for the development and use of such research and technology while enforcing the guidelines and restrictions laid out by the AHR Act.
In the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations Title 45: Public Welfare, part 46 (45 CFR 46) provides protection for human subjects in research carried out or supported by most federal departments and agencies. 45 CFR 46 created a common federal policy for the protection of such human subjects that was accepted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and issued by each of the departments and agencies listed in the document. The code is divided into four subparts: basic protection applicable to all human research subjects; additional protections for women, human fetuses, and neonates; additional protections for prisoners; and additional protections for children. Although 45 CFR 46 contains additional protections for human fetuses, it is important to note that these protections last only from implantation to birth, and are not extended to embryos before implantation.
The 1986 US Supreme Court decision Bowen v. American Hospital Association rejected the federal government's use of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to intervene in a hospital's treatment for neonates born with severe congenital defects. This case set a precedent for the role of government involvement in cases where parents refused consent for care of disabled newborns.
Human pluripotent stem cells are valued for their potential to form numerous specialized cells and for their longevity. In the US, where a portion of the population is opposed to destruction of human embryos to obtain stem cells, what avenues are open to scientists for obtaining pluripotent cells that do not offend the moral sensibilities of a significant number of citizens? It is this question that the official position paper, or white paper, "Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells," published in May 2005 by the President's Council on Bioethics under the chairmanship of Leon Kass, seeks to answer. Three experts external to the council, Andrew Fire from the Stanford University School of Medicine, Markus Grompe of the Oregon Health and Science University, and Janet Rossant from the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto, also reviewed the white paper prior to publication.