CANADA IN A POST ROE V. WADE ERA
Will there be a difference?
June 21, 2022
by Laura Lewis MD, CCFP
It has been hard to miss the headlines and media frenzy surrounding Roe v. Wade after the leaked Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) document on May 2, 2022. The draft document indicates a willingness of the highest court in the U.S. to overturn Roe v. Wade in their final decision on the Dobbs vs. Jackson case. This latter case began in 2018, when an abortion facility challenged a newly passed Mississippi law which banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
In brief, Roe v. Wade is a 1973 landmark legal decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that the United States Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s right to choose an abortion without excessive government restriction.
It’s important to note that abortion in the U.S. would not be outlawed if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Instead, it would return the legal governance of abortion to individual states. In anticipation of this, some states have “trigger” laws ready to be enacted. The outcome of this is that some states will be permissive regarding abortion, others restrictive.
The question that many are asking: Will Canada be impacted if Roe v. Wade is overturned?
The answer is mixed: In some ways, yes, but in many ways – no.
The media focus has already had an impact here in Canada. Articles inciting concern that access to abortion could be at risk have provoked debate, abortion funding, and strong opinions, as many Canadians do not know the legal reality of abortion in Canada.
Before forming an opinion, it is essential to consider the facts.
- Fact: Canada has no abortion law. The last Canadian abortion law was struck down in 1988, making abortion up until birth legal in Canada. There is no legal right to abortion; what exists is an absence of laws restricting abortion.
- Fact: Legal decisions made in the U.S. are not legal decisions in Canada. Abortion laws in the U.S. are not Canadian abortion laws.
- Fact: Access to reproductive choice is not only about abortion; there are other options involved in reproductive choice. A reproductive choice must also include alternatives to abortion and respect for the validity of not choosing abortion.
- Fact: Unexpected pregnancies will never be legislated out of existence.
Because unexpected pregnancies will always exist, individuals will continue to need access to information and support. This means the need for pregnancy care centres will continue to exist – a safe place for women and men to work through their unique challenges and make life-impacting decisions. Through compassionate care, medically accurate information, and practical resources, pregnancy care centre staff and volunteers fill an important gap in our community safety nets.
Will an overturned Roe v. Wade affect us in Canada? Yes, but we have the power to determine what difference it makes.
Even before a legal decision is released, we can use the attention given to this matter to increase awareness of the need for abortion alternatives and the charitable value of local pregnancy care centres.
We must look beyond the legal framework and give attention to the vulnerable women and men looking for support as they navigate their pregnancy decision. We must empower them with information, practical support, and, most importantly, hope. We can help them find strength in the uncertainty of an unexpected pregnancy.
Pregnancy Care Canada is committed to telling the real story about pregnancy care centres and their important role in providing help to those facing an unexpected pregnancy.