Canadian Journal of Family Law

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"Involuntary parenthood" actions are negligence actions, usually medical malpractice cases involving a failed sterilization, inadequate warning about the risks of pregnancy, or a failed abortion. In Canada, they will soon also involve product liability claims against negligent birth control manufacturers, providers and regulators. This article considers whether the parents' damages ought to include the cost of raising the child. No Canadian appellate court has ever ruled on this point, although it has been adjudicated extensively by the highest courts elsewhere in the common law world. At least 7 different rules limiting such recovery have been endorsed in the Canadian lower courts. Most of the limiting rules are unique to involuntary parenthood cases, deviating from the outcome that would prevail were the standard rules of negligence law applied. Many have no rational foundation. This article concludes that the failure to compensate parents for the cost of raising the child cannot be justified. Rather the refusal to compensate for reasonable child rearing expenses constitutes discrimination against parents, especially women who are mothers. This discrimination is sometimes, perhaps often, perpetrated by judges who refuse to accept and protect a woman's right to reproductive freedom. These mothers are under-compensated, and the medical establishment that failed them is under-deterred.