About 100 people turned out in rainy weather for a rally in support of abortion rights in downtown Vancouver on Saturday.
The event was scheduled in tandem with hundreds of similar rallies across the United States and Canada in the wake of a leaked draft ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court suggesting it would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe V. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.
Vancouver family physician Amada Whitten, who also provides reproductive and abortion care, was among the speakers.
“I’m very concerned about the laws in the ‘states, but it really helps draw attention to our access issues in Canada,” she told Global News.
“We have disparate access when it comes to contraception — it’s not covered for many patients in this region — we have disparate access when it comes to abortion clinics in this region — Most clinics are in urban areas, patients have to travel long distances, they have to take time off from work and arrange childcare and school.”
Whitten said the political situation around abortion in the United States also highlights the ongoing stigma around the procedure, which she said is essential healthcare.
“If this is how easy even such precedent law can be eroded in the ‘states, what difference do we have here?” she said.
“We have a lot of politicians who routinely here try to restrict abortion rights, to restrict abortion clinics. We have a very long process to approve medical abortion here in Canada.”
Vancouver-Mount Pleasant NDP MP Jenny Kwan also addressed the crowd.
She told Global News that while what is happening in the U.S. is “horrifying,” Canadians should remain focused on the right to access safe abortion here.
“While it is true that abortion is legal here in Canada, the reality is that many communities do not have access to abortion services, and sexual health services for the LGBTQ2+ community, for the trans community is also not available if you happen to live in a remote community, in a rural community,” she said.
Kwan argued the Liberal government is not doing enough to ensure abortion services are available to Canadians everywhere, pointing to the battle in New Brunswick over Clinic 554.
New Brunswick’s provincial government refuses to fund abortions at the clinic, the only facility in the province providing surgical abortions outside of a hospital.
In response, the federal government withheld some health transfers to the province, but the clinic’s operator was forced scale back services.
Abortion was decriminalized in Canada in 1988 by the Supreme Court in the case of R v Morgentaler, however advocates say access remains uneven, particularly in rural and remote communities.
On Wednesday, the federal government pledged $3.5 million for two projects to help improve access to abortion in Canada.