Roe v. Wade case set a precedence for the last 50 years in decriminalizing abortion, for all women (cis or trans) in the U.S.
If the American supreme court overturns women’s right to abortion, this will effectively ban it across the country. In Canada, however, we are not being threatened the same way, but barriers do exist to access abortions.
In the supreme court ruling of 1988 R. v. Morgentaler, abortion was decriminalized in Canada. It was removed from the criminal code, making it no longer a crime and no different from any other type of health care service.
Fears of increased restrictions
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information data, more than 74, 000 abortions were performed in clinics and hospitals in Canada. Although it is a common procedure in Canada, there is a fear by many abortion advocacy groups that the increased restriction will spill over to Canada.
Their fears are not unfounded, there are no federal laws governing abortion. This means that nothing is ensuring that a women’s right to safe and legal abortion is permanently protected in Canada.
Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was heard reaffirming his support for abortion rights in Canada. Stating that the Minister of Health and the status of women will be looking at the Canada Health Act to ensure the right of women to safe abortion in Canada is permanently protected. Followed by Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos’s stating that funding for abortion access would be coming soon, on Monday, May 9th. It appears that access to abortion is on the government’s radar.
Uneven access across the country
In Canada, abortions are usually performed in clinics or hospitals, many of which are located in urban areas. This means that many women have to travel a long distance, which is difficult for people with limited financial resources, lack transportation or child care, or are unable to take time off work. Provincial and Territorial governments should cover the costs incurred when people cannot get health services they need close to home.
There is a limited number of practitioners in reproductive care. Abortion, despite its importance, is not a standard curriculum for nurses and doctors.
Prescriptions and referrals
Doctor referrals and abortion pills are available by prescription only. The wait creates delay for a time-sensitive, medically necessary service.
Some Canadian hospital regulations still exist that require a patient to be referred to an abortion provider by another doctor.
Mifegymiso, better known as the abortion pill, is available by prescription only. It is a combination of two drugs and can be taken at home with guidance and monitoring from a healthcare professional during the first nine weeks of pregnancy. Many prescriptions continue to be written by abortion clinics. Many patients have reported that their healthcare providers would not prescribe the medication.
All hospitals must have self-referred privacy for abortion services, where the patient can directly call a clinic and get an abortion.
Enforcing parental involvement as mandatory can put young people when accessing abortion services at risk and jeopardize access to reproductive health care. Government should not introduce legislation such as parental consent for abortion.
While we have to protect what we have achieved in terms of abortion, we have to continue to push for expansion of the reproductive health and rights in Canada.