Ottawa, June 26: Canadian advocates supporting abortion rights caution against complacency regarding protections in place in this country — after a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively ending America’s constitutional protections for abortion for the last nearly 50 years.
While abortion was decriminalized in Canada in 1988, no legislation was ever passed to replace it, and the issue remains an ongoing topic of political conversation in this country.
Experts also say that there are several barriers to access to abortion in the country, including geography, equity and immigration status.
“While we have a well-protected right to access abortion here in Canada, we should be vigilant about protecting and defending that right.”
The ruling in the U.S. is likely to hit racialized women the hardest, Pam Hrick, the executive director and general council at Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).
“I am angry and I am heartbroken for the millions of women and pregnant people in the United States who are going to be impacted by this decision … and will be forced to carry pregnancies to turn that they do not want to put their health and in some cases, their lives at risk,” she said.
“And, we have to be clear this is not going to be an impact that is equitable across women and pregnant people. It will be disproportionately borne by Black, racialized, poor and otherwise marginalized people.”
Speaking at a press briefing in Rwanda, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will continue to fight to protect the rights of everyone after the “devastating setback” in the United States.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court leak, the Liberal government announced in early May it plans to spend $3.5 million to improve abortion access in Canada. However, advocates have warned that more permanent funding and legislation for sexual and reproductive health care are needed in Canada.
Hrick says that the possibility of improving abortion access in the U.S. now depends on the state level and to what extent they will implement bans on abortions.
“So, there will be I certainly hope, a tremendous fight and focus on state legislatures and people trying to elect pro-choice, progressive people into those positions to make decisions that will actually give and respect the rights of women to be able to access this incredibly important medical procedure,” she said.
Bowden says that abortion rights and access will impact the younger generations of women from racialized and marginalized communities in Canada the most, and these are the faces she’s seeing more of in pro-choice rallies.
“The majority of the people (in pro-choice rallies) were young women, young Trans folks and people of colour who have come out because they know that this is an issue that will impact their lives, their livelihoods, their ability to choose and how and when they want to have families.
“And, I’m proud and pleased to see young people who are standing up and speaking out in defence of these rights. And what we do have them here in Canada,” she said.
Bowden says she advocates a “wait and watch” approach to see if there will be a spillover effect to the overturning of Roe V. Wade in Canada, and that Action Canada will be monitoring the situation closely.
“The actual numerical impact of that is yet to come in the U.S. as well as, enshrined right here in Canada is that Canadians continue to face barriers to access here.