Americans will be able to access abortions in Canada if Roe overturned, Ottawa says

‘If they, people, come here and need access, certainly, you know, that’s a service that would be provided,’ said Canada’s minister of families, children and social development

Johanna Chisholm
Thursday 05 May 2022 16:46 BST
Amy Schumer and NY Attorney General speak at abortion rights rally
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While many Americans were left unnerved by Monday’s leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court, which seems poised to reverse federal abortion protections, a Canadian official has reassured those thinking of potentially travelling up north to receive the procedure will be granted safe access.

In an interview with the CBC on Tuesday, Karina Gould, the minister of families, children and social development, told the broadcaster that Canada would continue, like they have in the past, to allow Americans to travel to the country to receive abortions.

“I don’t see why we would not,” she said in an interview with CBC’s Power & Politics. “If they, people, come here and need access, certainly, you know, that’s a service that would be provided.”

Costs for these procedures, a representative for Ms Gould later clarified for the network in a statement, would remain to be paid for by Americans travelling to the country either out-of-pocket, through private insurers, or, if they’re covered by one of the country’s provincial health plans, through that.

Concerns for southern neighbours flooding north to receive the procedure, should the landmark Roe v Wade decision be overturned, were later assuaged by the Marco Mendicino, the country’s minister of public safety, who told Canada’s Global News that he was in talks with the federal border agency to ensure that Americans crossing into Canada for the procedure were granted access.

“I’ve engaged CBSA, my office is currently working with them to make sure there are clear guidelines so that women who may not be able to access healthcare including abortions are able to come to Canada,” Mr Menicino, Global News reported.

“If some women want to come to Canada to access those procedures, I have given them the directive to welcome them,” he added, while speaking in French.

Those feelings were similarly reiterated across the federal branch of government, with Chrystia Freeland, the country’s deputy prime minister and minister of finance, tweeting out on Wednesday in response to the news first reported by Politico: “As part of Canada’s feminist foreign policy, it has been a priority for our government to support the reproductive rights of women and girls around the world. We will continue to do so with greater determination than ever.”

The news even brought Canada’s own prime minister into the fold, with Justin Trudeau tweeting in the immediate aftermath of the news breaking on Tuesday morning that, “The right to choose is a woman’s right and a woman’s right alone.”

“We’ll never back down from protecting and promoting women’s rights in Canada and around the world,” the prime minister added, only a day before heading into meetings where he and his cabinet began discussions to look into the “legal framework” for ensuring that abortion rights are protected “not just under this government, but under any future government”, The Toronto Star reported.

Canada decriminalised abortions in 1969, but only for pregnant people who faced threats to their life or overall health. The country later decriminalised the procedure for the general population in 1988 in the Morgentaler decision, and, in a bleak role reversal, in the years preceding that ruling, women from the north would travel south across the Canadian-American border for the procedure.

But critics and advocates of Canada’s abortion access are quick to point out that legality does not immediately translate to equitable, or affordable, access.

Especially in smaller provinces and in rural regions, access to abortions can be cumbersome and expensive if you’re closest provider is in one of the major cities, or neighbouring provinces, that has a clinic nearby that offers the procedure.

One province in particular has come under scorn from both advocates and federal leaders in recent years for its lack of abortion clinics. New Brunswick, which borders the US with the Northeast US state of Maine, had federal healthcare transfers withheld by Mr Trudeau last August arising over the province’s policy to ban government funding of abortions conducted outside of approved hospitals.

“This means that abortions provided in clinics are not funded by the government,” writes Action Canada for Sexual Health Writes. “This is a human rights violation and contravenes the Canada Health Act, which requires that all medically necessary services be cost covered through provincial health insurance.”

Unlike in the US, those aligned on Canada’s political right have indicated no intention to change the country’s laws around abortion access.

Candice Bergen, Mr Trudeau’s main opposition in Parliament and the interim leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, has stated that her party has no intention of introducing legislation that would place restrictions on abortion.

Following Monday’s leaked opinion, the same interim leader reportedly sent out a memo to caucus members to remain hush about the news coming from their allies south of the border.

“Conservatives will not be commenting on draft rulings leaked from the Supreme Court of the United States,” the emailed memo said, according to CBC.

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