Canadians concerned for Americans who may lack abortion access in wake of top court ruling

A U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down constitutional abortion protections has left some Canadian observers concerned for those who will struggle to access services they may urgently need as a result of the ruling.

The decision of the highest American court had been announced weeks ago, when a draft version was leaked to the media.

But the decision triggered so-called trigger laws in at least 13 states, banning or severely limiting abortion access there.

“I think that really sets the United States of America up as sort of an exception in the western world,” said Noreen Golfman, a Canadian scholar who helped set up the first abortion clinic in Newfoundland and Labrador over three decades ago.

A woman stands in front of a beige and burgundy background.  She wears large purple glasses and has short, gray hair.
Noreen Golfman believes the US Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights could have consequences across Canada and around the world. (Henrike Wilhelm/CBC)

“It’s not just rolling back women’s rights, it’s like rolling back the whole country in many ways.”

In Windsor, Ont., Pat Papadeas said the decision will hurt marginalized people and takes the United States in the wrong direction.

“I’m saddened, I’m angry and I feel a lot of despair,” Papadeas told CBC News near the waterfront in the border town, which sits across from neighboring Detroit.

The news was equally heartbreaking for Mohini Datta-Ray, executive director of Planned Parenthood Toronto, even though it was expected.

“I cried for 45 minutes,” Datta-Ray said Friday. “Those of us who work within the reproductive justice movement have obviously seen it happen…but it’s still devastating.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the US court decision ‘horrendous’ tweeting that her heart goes out to “American women who are now on the verge of losing their legal right to abortion.”

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a press release that the highest court in the United States had “backtracked on women’s rights” and insisted that “these dangerous policies…must not be allowed to take root in Canada.”

Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis, who is currently running for the leadership of the Conservatives with self-proclaimed “pro-life” opinionsmade a distinction between the two countries on Friday, tweeting that “Canada is not the United States” and that she believes Canadians can have “adult conversations” about abortion.

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“Shockwaves” outside the United States

Abortion is decriminalized in Canada due to a 1988 Supreme Court decision. But no bill has ever been passed to enshrine access in law, and that is also not considered a constitutionally protected right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

An abortion rights protester is seen wearing a costume from the universe of Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ during a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Although the U.S. court’s decision sends “shockwaves” around the world, the legal ability to have an abortion in Canada is not at risk, says Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Human Rights Coalition. Canada abortion.

But her organization is concerned that Americans are coming north for abortion care. He’s asking federal and provincial governments to provide more funding to clinics because, as Arthur puts it, “even a small number of Americans can overwhelm our system.”

In Regina, Andra Broussard, executive director of the Options Pregnancy Center, said Saskatchewan could see residents of North Dakota cross the border to get an abortion.

“I would say it’s totally possible. Abortion is always something women are looking for. So given how close we are, I’m sure women will come here to find it,” Broussard said.

In neighboring Alberta, provincial NDP leader Rachel Notley said events unfolding in the United States were a reminder that “basic human rights” should never be taken for granted.

“We always have to fight to protect them,” Notley said, in a video shared on Twitter.

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