The government acted on Friday to fill Canada's legislative void on abortion, introducing a bill that would allow a woman to end pregnancy with a doctor's consent but stopping short of abortion on demand.
"We must not turn back the clock to a time when women's lives were threatened because they could not obtain a legal abortion," Justice Minister Doug Lewis told a news conference.
The bill proposed at Parliament in Ottawa puts abortion in the criminal code. It allows the procedure only with one doctor's consent when a woman's physical, mental or psychological health is considered threatened.
"Health will be the grounds," Lewis said in Ottawa. "This is a matter between a woman and her doctor."
A doctor who violates the law could face up to two years in prison. The same penalty could apply to the woman in certain limited circumstances, such as performing an abortion on herself.
Pro-abortion groups immediately objected to placing the procedure in the criminal code. Anti-abortion organizations complained that the measure gives in to pro-choice demands and promised to continue their protests.
Canada has been without an abortion law since January, 1988, when the Supreme Court ruled that the existing law's stringent requirements for approval infringed on a woman's rights.