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Abortion ban: It can’t happen here, right?

Since 1987 there have been 47 private members bills introduced to restrict or ban abortion in Canada
Pro-choice protest organizers speaking to a large crowd across from Kelowna City Hall July 4, 2022 (Brittany Webster - Capital News)

It can’t happen here.

The last words said, before something happens.

Many Canadians dart nervous glances towards the border following the once-unthinkable overturning of the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling – the one ensuring the rights of women to reproductive freedom – executed recently by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Over the past six years, we’ve experienced a migration of damaging ideas brewed in America – escalating racial intolerance, misplaced nationalism and an aggression towards once-trusted media sources.

In Canada, abortion is legal simply because it isn’t illegal.

Our own Supreme Court struck down the abortion law in 1988, based on the fact it infringes on a woman’s right to life, liberty and security of person, as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Yet access to abortion varies among the provinces and disadvantages women who live in rural areas.

In Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon there are no rural abortion providers.

In B.C there is just one.

Women living outside of a city confront significant costs and related barriers in order to seek the procedure.

Access to abortion in Canada is determined by how provincial governments direct dollars, and again there are differences.

Some provinces fund abortion only up to a 12-week gestation, while others like B.C. extend that to 24 weeks plus six days.

There are at least 84 anti-abortion groups operating in Canada, and a significant political will supporting them.

Since 1987, there have been 47 private members bills introduced in Parliament to restrict or ban abortion.

The most recent was about nine months ago, when a bill was proposed to forbid abortion based on sex selection. Two-thirds of the Conservative caucus voted in its favour. Still it was defeated 248-82.

Fourteen of B.C.’s 17 Conservative MPs supported the bill, with Dan Albas (Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola), Cathy McLeod (Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo) and Rob Morrison (Kootenay-Columbia) saying ‘Nay.’

Meanwhile, abortion rates have steadily declined in the past 15 years.

According to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, in 2020 74,155 women had abortions, compared to 2012 when there were 100,958.

The majority of these procedures take place in clinics, as opposed to hospitals. For the most part the numbers do not include medical, as opposed to surgical, abortions.

Medical abortions are accomplished with Mifegymiso, which is a combination of drugs that block progesterone. It is available in Canada by prescription and can only be used in the first nine weeks of a pregnancy.

There is anecdotal evidence suggesting there are doctors and other qualified health-care workers who will not write those prescriptions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to enshrine abortion rights into law so they could not easily be rescinded by future governments. That has yet to happen.

The leadership race underway in the Conservative Party also reflects the mood of the nation.

Forerunner Pierre Poilievre declares his ease with the current situation and says he has no plans to change it. Contender Leslyn Lewis is transparent in her goal to ban abortions in this country.

Some of the other hopefuls talk about respecting women, while conceding there is room for interfering legislation and votes of conscience.

This discussion is not about conscience or cradles, babies or booties.

It’s about a woman’s right to life, liberty and security of person, as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

So it can’t happen here, right?

Andrea DeMeer

About the Author: Andrea DeMeer

Andrea is the publisher of the Similkameen Spotlight.
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