This case concerned whether a fetus was a legal person with a right to life, and whether fathers had the right to veto a woman’s decisions as to the fetus she was carrying.  

LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Facts 

Chantal Daigle and Jean-Guy Tremblay ended their relationship after five months of co-habitation. At the time of their separation, Daigle was 18 weeks pregnant and decided to terminate the pregnancy. Mr. Tremblay applied for an interlocutory injunction from the Superior Court to prevent Ms. Daigle from receiving an abortion.   

The trial judge ruled the fetus was a “human being” within the meaning of Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and had a right to life under s. 1. The trial judge found that this was consistent with Quebec’s Civil Code’s recognition of the fetus as an entity with legal rights. As a result, the fetus’ rights should prevail so that Ms. Daigle could not have an abortion. The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the decision. Ms. Daigle appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

LEAF’s arguments 

LEAF argued that there had been no constitutional recognition of a right to life for fetuses, or for the right to procreation for potential fathers. The rights created by the lower courts were incompatible with the rights granted to women under Quebec’s Charter and the national Charter, including the right to life, their fundamental freedoms, and their equality rights. Recognizing a fetus as a legal rights-holding entity would undermine the rights of women, with serious consequences. Finally, the injunction procedure infringed the fundamental rights of women, causing delays in accessing abortions and making abortion access even more difficult.  

Outcome 

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed Ms. Daigle’s appeal and set aside the injunction. The Court explicitly found that the rights alleged – those given to a fetus or a potential father – did not exist. Neither the Canadian nor the Quebec Charter contained explicit language granting the fetus the right to life, or had a definition of “person” or “human being” that incorporated the fetus. If the legislature intended to protect the rights of the fetus or recognize it as a rights-bearing entity, it would have contained language doing so. Quebec’s Civil Code also did not generally give fetuses rights. Finally, there was no legal basis for the argument that a potential father’s interest in a fetus gave him the right to veto a women’s decision as to the fetus.  

LEAF is grateful to Suzanne Bovin, counsel in this case.  

Download LEAF’s factum here

Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here

Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].