- Alisha Grech
Abortion Access in Canada: Where Are We?
A month has passed since the overturning of Roe V. Wade.
Like many other issues in our mainstream consciousness, the overturning of Roe V. Wade has been swept away. Many news agencies have seemingly moved on to the next top story, burying the significance of what this means for women and femmes into a heap of other tossed-aside intersectional problems.
A lot of people in so-called Canada have stopped talking about it.
But we—women, femmes, people with uteruses, and allies—have not stopped talking. Actually, if anything, we’ve gotten louder.
On Tuesday, July 19th, more than a dozen Democratic members of Congress were arrested by Capitol Police in Washington, D.C; for protesting in front of the Supreme Court. Wearing green bandanas, the colour of abortion rights, these politicians marched from the Capitol to the Court, only to be met by police ordering them to cease their peaceful protest.
Since the overturning of Roe V. Wade, President Joe Biden announced the passing of bills that offer federal protections—although these bills are largely symbolic or decorative, considering the Senate will (most likely) reject this legislation.
Among those apprehended by police for “disturbing the peace” were:
Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark of Massachusetts
Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts
Barbara Lee of California
Jackie Speier of California
Sara Jacobs of California
Ilhan Omar of Minnesota
Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey
Andy Levin of Michigan
Rashida Tlaib of Michigan
Jan Schakowsky of Illinois
Madeline Dean of Pennsylvania
Cori Bush of Missouri
Carolyn Maloney of New York
Nydia Velazquez of New York
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York
Alma Adams of North Carolina
In a previous blog post, I wrote about the importance of Roe V. Wade and what its downfall really meant. Fundamentally, this overturning is one of the many white supremacist strategies that have been employed over the past year to keep the oppressed in an oppressed state and keep the rich in a state of power.
Fundamental healthcare procedures and treatments should be accessible to all that need them. In places like **Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming, **abortion has either been banned or is under serious threat to being banned.
The access to abortion is changing every day between states, making it challenging to navigate what services are available where, when, and to whom.
But what does abortion access look like in the city that I live in? What does abortion access look like in the province that I live in? Or, on a larger, national scale?
In Tkaronto, the original homes of the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat, Mississaugas of the Credit and Chippewa—now also home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, Métis and Newcomer peoples—Abortion is largely accessible.
In Tkaronto, as of July 22nd, there are over twenty different sexual health resource centres and abortion centres in the city (and neighbouring areas). Emergency contraception such as Plan B is available in many pharmacies—and for those who cannot access this paid option—support is available through Planned Parenthood, Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic, and more.
As of 2019, it was reported that Ontario has the most crisis pregnancy centres in Canada. As well it also has the most providers of abortion procedures. Ontario has an urban provider amount of 43 and a rural provider amount of 6.
That is a drastic difference — and sure, some of you might be sitting there thinking: “yeah, of course, cities and other urban areas have more abortion care access because there are more people” — and on the surface level, you’d be right.
But only six rural providers for all of the rural areas in Ontario?
To illustrate my point (I guess not really a point and more of a statement of disbelief or questioning), take a look at the graphs.
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights reported: “There are significant disparities between rural and urban access to abortion. In some provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, abortion providers are only in urban centres, despite 35-40% of the population living in rural or remote communities.” In order to get to abortion or other reproductive health appointments, most patients require an escort for support.
This means that it is not only the patient who pays out of pocket to travel (quite far, sometimes) to access fundamental care but also the family members or friends. More often than not, travelling to access abortion care involves external costs, such as transit, gas, hotel stays, and other expenses. Because of this, “Some people can’t afford to pay for those expenses, and many have to delay their procedure to raise the funds.
Delaying an abortion can mean exceeding the gestational limit in your province, which then means having to travel even further.”
But economic barriers are not the only disruptions to abortion access in Canada. Like many issues involving gender, this intersectional issue operates on various levels of income, identity, location, class, age and race. It is much easier, for example, for a white, middle-class, familially supported, urban-based, cis-gender woman to access abortion care.
On the opposite end of this spectrum, a person who is disabled, a non-English speaker, houseless, a sex worker or of a minority ethnicity will face significant difficulties in obtaining the abortion care they need. Those without traditional “Canadian” documentation, such as citizenship, health insurance, or other documents, will find receiving treatment challenging.
As well transgender individuals “experience discrimination at higher rates in reproductive health care settings. Providers may also lack the knowledge or training to provide trans-affirming abortion care, and abortion services are typically housed within ‘women’s health care’ departments.”
On an institutional level, racism within the Canadian healthcare system(s) runs rampant. Racialized women, femmes and those with uteruses are often discriminated against by doctors and other care professionals. After all, the needs of white, privileged women are upheld over the needs of the marginalized and the oppressed time and time again—especially in a nation that has prioritized colonial systems and procedures, such as the forced sterilization of Indigenous women. Hospitals, clinics and other traditional health care spaces do not promote the same levels of safety among individuals.
Canada is not a perfect place. Although, it is an idealized one, where many issues and undercurrents of inequality are swept away by surface-level niceties and bare-bones examples of care. To quote planned parenthood: “Abortion access should not be based on your ZIP code, income level, or immigration status.”
CLICK HERE to learn more about the importance of abortion as a treatment and procedure
To donate to the Repro Legal Defense fund, supporting those who have been criminalized for seeking abortions, CLICK HERE.
To donate to the National Network of Abortion Funds, CLICK HERE.
CLICK HERE to share Abortion Access Resources to your social media platform of choice to support those seeking care.