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Alberta NDP pledges to protect abortion access while UCP remains silent

Click to play video: 'The future of abortion rights in Alberta questioned in wake of Roe v. Wade draft leak'
The future of abortion rights in Alberta questioned in wake of Roe v. Wade draft leak
After the leak of a draft decision suggesting America's top court may overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion in that country, the situation is being watched closely in Canada. Some Alberta politicians are worried rights could be rolled back here. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. – May 3, 2022

The United Conservative Party has largely remained silent despite calls to protect reproductive rights and abortion access in Alberta.

In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley called on the UCP to protect reproductive rights in the province. She also called on Premier Jason Kenney to pass legislation to prevent further restrictions on reproductive health care in Alberta.

“Canadian politicians at all levels of government must declare their unwavering support for a women’s right to choose,” Notley said at the press conference.

“I give Albertans my categorical guarantee that the NDP government will do everything we can to protect reproductive rights here in Alberta and across the country.”

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The calls come as outcries pour in after reporting from Politico revealed a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft ruling after a private vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Roe v. Wade is a landmark ruling in the U.S. that established the constitutional right to have an abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy in 1973.

UCP MLAs have largely been silent on reproductive issues, accusing the NDP of trying to interfere with matters before foreign courts.

“(Notley) wants to debate a potential decision of a court in a foreign country about a matter that is under federal jurisdiction in Canada,” Kenney said during oral question period on Tuesday afternoon.

“She has chosen to create controversy when there is none in Alberta and there is no precedent for us to get involved.”

Some MLAs chose to deflect the issue altogether, dodging questions about abortion access from reporters.

“I hear decent reports about access to women’s health services… Some women may have to travel but those services are available,” Whitney Issik, Alberta’s associate minister of status of women, told reporters on Tuesday.

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Eddy Robinson, director of program and services at Skipping Stone in Calgary, said trans and non-binary people often have trouble finding adequate reproductive health care in the province because of barriers such as gendered language.

“There aren’t a lot of spaces that are inclusive of diverse experiences. Trans men and non-binary people don’t feel like they can access these services because they don’t think they will be respected,” Robinson said.

“The staff often aren’t knowledgeable about how to provide sexual health support or even parenthood support for trans people… We’re talking about life-saving services here.”

Robinson also raised concerns about gendered language in public policies. Barriers to abortion and reproductive services don’t just affect women, they said.

“There are so many different variations to which gender could be talked about and taking gender out of the conversation can actually make communications more clear,” Robinson said.

“Gendered language can actually be harmful and more confusing because it lumps people into a category instead of clarifying what actual aspects of our bodies we’re talking about.”

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Robinson warned that reproductive rights and abortion access should not be taken for granted in Canada, adding that many rural communities and low-income communities in Alberta do not have access to abortion clinics.

“Access is also about how many clinics are in the province and who gets access, not just about the law,” Robinson said. “Can trans and non-binary people get access? How about Black and Indigenous people? Fat people?”

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