Emergency Contraception, Abortion and Evidence-Based Law

Joanna Erdman


Courts and legal tribunals increasingly decline to serve as religious or moral guardians, and require social evidence to support litigants' claims. Recent cases on emergency contraception and abortion are examined to show how judicial interpretations can take account of evidence of the impact that different understandings of the law will have for how ordinary people can plan their lives and reproductive choices. In an emergency contraception case, an interpretation was rejected that would have criminalized choices that millions of decent, law-abiding physicians, pharmacists and women routinely make. In an abortion case, three judges unanimously rejected a government ministry's defence of compliance with the law because the ministry had failed to investigate the needs within its jurisdiction for legal clarity, lawful services, and its responsibility to women returning from having lawful procedures elsewhere. In both cases, litigants prevailed who showed factual evidence that their claims better promoted reproductive health and choice.

This paper was co-authored with Rebecca Cook, University of Toronto (rebecca.cook@utoronto.ca) and Bernard Dickens, University of Toronto (bernard.dickens@utoronto.ca).


Health Law; Gender and Sexuality

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