Quebec hopes to offer late-term abortions

Quebec hopes to have a doctor in place next year that will offer late-term abortions to women over six months pregnant, the province says.

The province hopes to have a doctor in place next year that will offer late-term abortions to women six months pregnant and beyond, Quebec health officials announced Friday.

Canadian women now travel to Colorado, Kansas and Washington to obtain these abortions because no Canadian doctor will perform them, including Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who says he has ethical problems performing 24-week pregnancies.

But despite his personal views, Morgentaler doesn't believe new rules on late-term abortions are needed because most abortions take place between six and nine weeks of pregnancy.

The government's decision on late-term abortion was defended by Quebec Health Minister Philippe Couillard who said, "In Quebec, our doctors at the present time don't feel comfortable doing abortions later than 22 weeks. From 20 to 22 weeks they're all done in Sherbrooke, after that we still don't have the capacity to do them here."

"It is extremely hard for a woman to have a late abortion and also hard for the doctor that performs it, both psychologically and other ways," Couillard told CBC radio.

Quebec's bishop Msgr. Marc Ouellet criticized the government's announcement saying the whole concept of abortion is unacceptable, regardless of weeks. He would prefer the money be spent helping women complete their pregnancy and offer the child for adoption.

The Canadian Medical Association suggests an abortion take place before the fetus is viable, usually at 500 grams or 20 weeks of pregnancy.

In 2003, 30 women from Quebec sought abortions in the U.S. past 22 weeks of pregnancy. A B.C. health official says that a handful of women from the province head to Washington state each week.

Each late-term abortion costs about $5,000 US.

In 2001, 96.7 per cent of Canadians had abortions before 16 weeks of pregnancy, a Statistics Canada survey shows.