With funding for a Planned Parenthood initiative and a commitment to increase funding for reproductive health initiatives overseas, Canada is setting itself apart from the Trump administration in its support for safe and legal abortion access.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Status of Women Minister Maryam Monsef said denying access to a full range of reproductive services — including abortion — is a form of violence against women.
“Lack of attention to sexual and reproductive health and rights is a driver for maternal mortality, poor health and disenfranchisement for far too many women and girls,” Monsef told Yahoo Canada News in a written statement. “We are committed to the protection and promotion of the health and rights of women and girls globally — especially their sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Monsef’s statements came as the Liberal government announced $285,000 in funding from Status of Women Canada to Planned Parenthood Ottawa for a three-year project. The project will aim to improve local services for women and girls who face barriers to their reproductive rights, such as being coerced into either pregnancy or abortion.
Although abortion access in Canada is not limited by any federal laws or restrictions, there are still logistical and legislative barriers to access in many parts of the country.
In New Brunswick, for example, the Medical Services Payment Act stipulates that abortions must be performed in a hospital in order to be covered by provincial funds. This has often represented a significant barrier to abortion access in New Brunswick. Prior to 2014, the province required two doctors to approve the procedure. That led to a large number of women opting to pay out of pocket to visit a private clinic in the province or elsewhere. The government eventually removed the requirement. Funded surgical abortions are now available in three hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst.
On Thursday, the Reproductive Justice New Brunswick community group criticized the province’s health minister for what it calls a ‘betrayal’ of the Liberal government’s campaign promise to remove all barriers to abortion in the province.
Reproductive Justice NB spokeswoman Alison Webster issued a statement. In it, she said: “We are deeply disappointed that people will continue to face significant barriers such as hospital wait times, travel costs and risks, having to pay out of pocket for clinic services, and stigma.”
In addition to efforts to widen access to abortion services in Canada, the Liberal government and advocacy groups are also working to support pro-choice measures overseas. This again sets the government apart from the United States, where President Donald Trump signed an executive order to reintroduce the global gag rule that keeps funding from any international organization that does not disavow abortion.
Last week Norway pledged $10 million to counter Trump’s global anti-abortion move. And just a month ago, International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Canada would increase its funding for global sexual health and reproductive rights, possibly through a safe-abortion fund announced by the Netherlands. She will travel there to discuss the issue at the international ‘She Decides’ conference on March 2.
Yahoo Canada News spoke to Sandeep Prasad, the executive director of Action Canada Sexual Health and Rights. According to him, with cuts to international funding already reducing global access to safe abortion and the potential of reduced access within the U.S., now is the time for Canada to step up to support sexual and reproductive rights.
“It’s certainly clear that during the presidential elections the issue of abortion and sexual and reproductive rights was front and centre,” Prasad said. “Trump’s views are shocking and regressive on the issue.”