N.S. abortion advocates urge calm in light of U.S. draft decision

·3 min read
Demonstrators march following a rally in support of abortion rights near Pike Place Market on May 3, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. A leaked draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito has suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a historic ruling that gives women in America the ability to legally have abortions.  (David Ryder/Getty Images - image credit)
Demonstrators march following a rally in support of abortion rights near Pike Place Market on May 3, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. A leaked draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito has suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a historic ruling that gives women in America the ability to legally have abortions. (David Ryder/Getty Images - image credit)

Abortion advocates in Nova Scotia say that Canadians should be assured that regardless of what is happening south of the border, access to the procedure will always exist in this country.

That's despite warnings from some people in political circles who say that Canada might one day restrict access to abortions.

Bernadette Jordan, the former Liberal cabinet minister from South Shore-St. Margarets, took to Twitter Tuesday to warn her followers that abortion in Canada could someday be criminalized.

"Don't think for a second that it can't happen here," she tweeted.

Her tweet came after the Bloc Quebecois failed to get unanimous consent in the House of Commons to affirm a woman's right to choose.

Jordan also pointed to a bill tabled in the House last June by Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall. Wagantall wanted to ban any abortion based on the sex of a fetus. It failed, but 82 Conservative MPs voted in favour.

CBC
CBC

"To me, it's a red flag," Jordan said. "When you have anybody who says we're going to start looking at what a woman's right is in terms of her reproductive health."

'Never say never'

Halifax lawyer and abortion advocate Jennifer Taylor calls comments like that "inflammatory."

"Obviously we can never say never," she said. "But I think our first job as Canadians responding to bad news about abortion coming out of the States is to provide accurate information about how to access abortion in Canada."

She said political speculation about the future of abortion access in Canada "doesn't help connect people to the services that they need and are able to access today."

"Abortions are going to happen regardless of politics, regardless of the law, even. And, yes, we need to — in some ways — be prepared for the worst case scenario," she said.

"But we also need to really trumpet and champion and promote the scenario that we have right now, which, while not perfect, is pretty good."

Access improving

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

If anything, Joanna Erdman of Dalhousie's Schulich School of Law said access to — and support for — abortions is improving in Canada.

Erdman, who is the MacBain chair in health law and policy, said the anti-choice movement is being far outpaced by the pro-choice movement in this country.

She said it's protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and was reaffirmed in 1988 when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country's abortion law as unconstitutional, calling it a profound interference with a woman's body.

"I think this is where abortion has moved from a political issue in this country — one that different parties can negotiate. It's simply not that in people's lives anymore," said Erdman.

"It has been so part of people's lives for so long that it's just not considered a political issue in the way it once was."

The word "abortion" doesn't appear in the Charter, but Erdman says Canada takes a very different approach to the constitutional text than the U.S.

"We tend to work with the doctrine of the living tree."

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