The U.S. Supreme Court draft ruling on overturning the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade demonstrates why Canada must continue to “stand up” to protect access to abortion, says one cabinet minister.
In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorensen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould said news that the U.S. Supreme Court appears set to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling is “very alarming” and drives home the need to protect access in Canada.
“We’re not immune to the forces that want to limit or restrict a woman’s right to access abortion services in Canada,” said Gould. “We have to, first of all, stand up and protect it.”
However, she did not provide any specifics when pressed on what she’s going to do next to address the fact that abortion isn’t accessible everywhere in Canada.
A leaked initial majority draft opinion first reported on May 2 by Politico suggests the court has voted to overturn the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. The resulting outcry has seen Canadian leaders weighing in to advocate for abortion access, while facing questions about continued challenges facing access to abortion domestically.
Ontario, Canada’s most populated province, has the most abortion clinics in the country with 23, according to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
Quebec has 12, Alberta and Manitoba have three, British Columbia has eight, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have five and the other provinces and territories have four or less abortion clinics.
“We need to be doing everything we can to ensure that if someone needs access to sexual and reproductive health services, it is available to them wherever they live in this country,” Gould said.
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Gould explained that most of the power to improve abortion access in Canada lies with provinces through their authority on health care.
“That’s why we’re using the tools available at the federal levels of the Canada Health Act,” she said.
One of these tools was used in 2021 when the federal government withheld health transfers to New Brunswick in relation to events at Clinic 554 in Fredericton.
The Blaine Higgs government was criticized for refusing to pay for abortion services offered at Clinic 554, forcing it to scale back its operations.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time that New Brunswick is not getting its full health funding because it continues “to make it difficult for women to access the full range of reproductive services.”
Gould said the tools that the federal government has used don’t happen in a vacuum.
“They happen after conversations between the federal and provincial government, between the ministers. Those conversations are absolutely ongoing,” said Gould.
“And the message that we sent from the federal government is that the provinces and territories have a responsibility to uphold the Charter rights of their citizens when it comes to access to reproductive and sexual health services. And certainly, we will continue to press that and to work with them.”