WHOSE CHOICE? Anti-choice on the rise in the USA. It couldn’t happen here. Could it?

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SOUTH OF THE BORDER male lawmakers are competing with each other in state legislatures to impose restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. The latest and most sweeping laws come from Alabama where the Republicans used their majority in their state senate to pass a law that bans abortion in that state at every stage of pregnancy. That would make the procedure virtually illegal and criminalizes doctors who would perform abortions by up to 99 years in prison.


It is important to note that they are criminalizing abortions without any extra funds to support birth control or for single parent families who would have to raise a child. They are removing the exception for abortions in the case of rape or incest and they are in effect driving abortions underground again. Women in dire situations will still have abortions. They will now revert back to more dangerous and certainly less-safe backroom operations.


These conservative states in the less than United States are trying to undo the legislative and medical underpinnings that came from the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision by the American Supreme Court that legalized abortion federally in that country. Alabama is just the latest and most punitive of those attempts to re-regulate women’s bodies. Many even expect that a new challenge to the federal decision to be in front of the Supreme Court, now clearly anti-choice, within the next two years.


What about Canada?

But what about here in Canada. We don’t have anything to worry about. That debate is closed, right? Well, not exactly.

The religious right in Canada is feeling pretty good about themselves right now. Their voices and votes were a driving force in Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s rise to lead that party into the next federal election. At the Provincial level we now have two strong ant-abortion people as leaders of Ontario and Alberta.


Anti-choice activists worked hard for Jason Kenney in Alberta and the Campaign Life Coalition threw its support behind Doug Ford’s party after he reassured them that he supports their agenda. According to Macleans magazine that included to defund abortion; to require parental consent before a minor receives an abortion; to uphold “conscience rights” that allow medical professionals not to refer a patient needing abortion or assisted suicide. He also agreed to scrap the sex-ed curriculum of Kathleen Wynne’s government. An action he has already carried out.


Anti-choice not dead yet

Both Andrew Scheer and Doug Ford have stated that they do not intend to re-open the abortion debate. But dozens of Conservative MPs are openly anti-choice and many attended a so-called Rally for Life recently on Parliament Hill. At another rally at Queen’s Park in Toronto, one of Doug Ford’s MPPs Sam Oosterhoff, said that they would make abortion “unthinkable in our lifetime”. Ford’s response was that Conservative MPPs are “open to speak their mind”.


A woman’s right to have a legal medical procedure like abortion may not be completely on the chopping block in Canada. But it sure looks like there is backroom maneuvering to re-open a debate that we really did think was over in this country.


The fact is that it is already difficult to have that procedure in many parts of Canada, particularly in the Atlantic region and in rural and remote areas. Now, two of our biggest provinces are led by men who do not believe that women have the right to control their own bodies. And by a federal leader who came to office on the backs of the most rabid anti-choice organizations in the country.


What could possibly go wrong?


This article was originally published by The Canadian Labour Institute.  

Reprinted with permission for CALM Members use.