Abortion rights activists took part in Pride Toronto's Dyke March downtown on Saturday to show support for those who will be affected by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Members of the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics carried a large coat hanger in the march to demonstrate opposition to the decision on Friday that strips away constitutional protections for abortion. The coalition believes women should have the right to control their own bodies.
The coat hanger symbolizes illegal abortions.
Carolyn Egan, spokesperson for the coalition, said the organization takes part in the Dyke March every year but it was especially important to march this year.
"It was just horrific hearing the actual news that it had been overturned," Egan said.
"The effects on people across the United States, the fact that they will not have access to such a basic human right, is just terrifying, frankly. And I know we have always said that it is the most vulnerable who are at risk here," she added.
"We also know that people die from illegal abortions all around the world."
When abortion is unavailable or illegal, people will still seek it, she said. That's why it needs to be safe, legal and free. Canadians need to guard against such a decision here and to avoid "anti-choice by stealth," she said.
"We don't want to take any chances," she said.
Egan said there is a strong connection between the women's movement and members of the LGBTQ community.
"We all stand in solidarity together," she said. "We will do everything to support our sisters, brothers and others in the United States."
On its website, the coalition says: "... we must be very vigilant in Canada to maintain the gains that we have made and move forward so that all have full access to free abortion and the services and resources needed to have real choices in our lives."
'We must be in the street'
Michelle Robidoux, another member of the coalition, said she believes that Canada could suffer a similar setback to abortion rights and deplored the lack of access to abortion clinics in several regions of Canada. She said the decision will embolden the anti-abortion movement in Canada.
"There is no doubt that this decision will give a lot of momentum to the anti-abortion movement in Canada. It is important that people understand that it is a minority. It is a minority but they have succeeded because they have mobilized," she said.
Robidoux said the majority of Canadians support the right of women to choose and the majority must organize.
"We must be in the street," she said.
Karen Kelly, another participant in the Dyke March, said the decision is a huge setback for women's rights.
"I'm really disappointed because 50 years in Canada, we were fighting for the same thing and we've gotten some rights. A lot of poor people will not have health care anymore. That's a basic right. And it's rich white people who are making those laws. It's wrong. It's so wrong," Kelly said.
Later on Saturday, abortion rights activists gathered outside the U.S. consulate later to protest the ruling, which will likely lead to abortion bans in roughly half of American states.
The Dyke March itself drew thousands of people. The march began on Charles and Church streets, headed north to Bloor Street East, west to Yonge Street, down Yonge Street, then east on Carlton Street to Allan Gardens.