Prime Minister Justin Trudeau slammed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling stripping American women and people who can get pregnant of the right to abortions, calling it “horrific.”
The top court overturned the precedent-setting Roe v. Wade decision on Friday.
“The news coming out of the United States is horrific. My heart goes out to the millions of American women who are now set to lose their legal right to an abortion. I can’t imagine the fear and anger you are feeling right now,” Trudeau tweeted.
“No government, politician, or man should tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. I want women in Canada to know that we will always stand up for your right to choose.”
Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly spoke with journalists following that statement.
Joly called it a “dark day” for women not only in the United States, but around the world.
“It’s a reversal of hard-won gains by generations of women, and this decision will put women’s lives at risk. And it has a domino effect on other rights,” Joly said.
“But the message we’re conveying today is that your voice matters, your vote matters, and no country in the world — including Canada — is immune to what’s going on in the United States.”
Joly pointed to a 2021 vote in the House of Commons that saw 82 Conservative MPs vote in favour of restricting when healthcare providers can perform abortions in Canada.
That Conservative private members bill proposed imprisoning those abortion providers for up to five years, and also specifically targeted “sex-selective abortion” despite no evidence that is a common occurrence in this country.
A 2018 study frequently cited by Conservatives proposing bans on sex-selective abortion suggested there is a higher ratio of boys born in one sub-section of Canadian women: second-generation Ontario women of South Asian ethnicity — specifically from India — who have had at least one prior abortion.
Even as it noted the difference in birth ratios, the study noted: “We do not know why some first-generation and second-generation mothers with SA ethnicity opted to have an abortion. All women in Canada have the legal right to choose abortion without having to provide their reasons for doing so.”
That study also specifically warned measures restricting access to abortion in a bid to prevent sex-selection would risk “endangering women’s lives,” and said community outreach was the best option.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the right to abortion does not change the legal standing of abortion in Canada. However, dozens of Canadian women travel to the U.S. for abortions every year due to a lack of access and patchwork care at hospitals in Canada, as Global News has documented.
Dozens of protesters angered by the court’s decision gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa Friday evening.
Abortion rights advocates in Canada have warned that the inconsistent level of access to abortion in Canada could be disrupted if American women come north for care unless the healthcare system here is bolstered to improve gaps in abortion access.
“I think it’s really important that we’re aware of what type of precedent a ruling like this can set and what that means for other protections, for re-igniting this conversation in the U.S., for reigniting it in Canada,” said T.K. Pritchard, executive director of The SHORE Centre in Kitchener, Ont., last month.
Pritchard added that restrictions in the U.S. embolden people who want to strip or restrict equality rights in Canada.
“We absolutely have politicians that would love to see this conversation happen again,” Pritchard said.
“Whether or not it would ever move forward in law or to vote or anything like that, it still has an impact on the people who live here and the stigma, and again giving validation to people who want to oppose things like abortion and same-sex marriage.”
Nicole Sarauer, NDP justice critic in Saskatchewan, issued a statement following the court ruling on Friday warning that the decision puts the spotlight on what Canadians will do to protect abortion.
“The U.S. Supreme Court decision to rollback Roe v. Wade shows that the fight for reproductive rights is never over,” Sarauer said in the statement.
“The same political forces determined to overturn hard-won reproductive rights in the United States also exist here in Canada. Now more than ever, we need to recommit ourselves to the defense of abortion rights.”
Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, called the decision “another setback for human rights, women, and the rule of law,” warning it will have spillover effects beyond the U.S.