When a leaked document showed the U.S. Supreme Court’s intentions to overturn Roe v. Wade, putting American women’s right to abortion in jeopardy, the outcry didn’t stop at the border. And in Canada, MP Karina Gould was quick to ensure that American women who could make the trip knew they would be able to access abortions in Canada.
In an interview with CBC News, Gould, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, expressed her concern for the health and safety of women seeking abortions amidst the looming decision. “We need to make sure that we are protecting this right here in Canada, and around the world,” she said. “Twenty-five million unsafe abortions happen every single year. Criminalizing abortion doesn’t mean that those abortions won’t happen—it means that those will be unsafe abortions.”
Studies show that American women who weren’t able to access wanted abortions experienced economic hardship that lasted for years, and were at higher risk of developing serious health conditions. Conversely, women who receive a wanted abortion are more financially stable, set more ambitious goals, raise children under more stable conditions and are more likely to have a wanted child later.
The Supreme Court opinion was reported to have been circulating since February, and leaked to the news site Politico on Monday. It showed that at least five of the nine justices support overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that guaranteed abortion rights to women across the country. In a statement Tuesday, the court confirmed the draft was authentic but noted that it didn’t represent its final opinion. The opinion relates to a pending Mississippi case, which is expected to be decided in late June or early July. It would allow states to decide their own rules around abortion. This would put women at the mercy of restrictive local governments, and force them to seek abortions elsewhere—including Canada.
“Americans who come to Canada are able to access medical services here today if they need it,” a spokesperson for Gould told Today’s Parent on Wednesday. “Americans accessing health care services in Canada would continue to have to pay for the service out-of-pocket or by their own private insurance if they are not covered by a provincial health insurance, by the Interim Federal Health Program or Non-Insured Health Benefits.”
News of the leak sparked reactions across the U.S., with President Joe Biden issuing a statement on Tuesday that he believes a woman’s right to choose is fundamental. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed suit on Twitter, saying: “The right to choose is a woman’s right and a woman’s right alone. Every woman in Canada has a right to a safe and legal abortion. We’ll never back down from protecting and promoting women’s rights in Canada and around the world.” Liberal states like California braced themselves to take on an influx of women seeking abortions. Demonstrations raged outside of the Supreme Court and in cities across the U.S.
In her interview with CBC, Gould said she was not only concerned about the impacts of the decision on American women, but also on Canadian women, many of whom don’t live near big cities and have to access abortion providers in the United States. The Liberal party platform promised to uphold abortion rights, and the government has already taken actions against New Brunswick over access to abortion concerns. Alberta, Manitoba, PEI, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon do not have a single rural abortion clinic. Ontario has only four, and British Columbia only a single one. This means that women in rural areas in need of an abortion have to arrange travel to obtain one.
“In Canada, there is no room for encroaching on reproductive rights,” Gould’s spokesperson said. “Our Government will continue to protect this right for Canadian women.”