Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday June 28, 2022
Equitable abortion access now
The U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion ruling was not a surprise. But it was stunning all the same.
Stunning for the fact the court actually reversed its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, upending almost 50 years of constitutionally-protected access to abortion. It’s disturbing for its impact on gender rights. And it’s deeply upsetting for the immediate practical effect it now has on individuals seeking the procedure.
We knew it was coming, thanks to the leak of a draft ruling in May. Those who held out faint hope that the outcry that followed that revelation might prompt the top justices to rethink or water down their ruling were left disappointed. They did not.
The decision removes the protection which had guaranteed access to abortions. With that protection gone, it’s now up to each individual state to determine the legality of the procedure. In more than a dozen states, abortion is now illegal as a result of the decision. Other states, like California, are looking for enshrine the right to abortion. And in many others, the fate of the procedure will hinge on protracted political debates.
In their dissenting opinion, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan declared that the majority refused to consider the “life-altering” consequences of reversing the law.
“After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had. The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away,” they wrote.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there were 629,898 abortions in 2019. Women in their 20s accounted for 57 per cent of them. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that about one in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 45.
It’s hard then to fathom the far-reaching and terrible consequences of the court ruling on individual lives. But they will be profound.
As Canadians, we can be smug that what happens south of the border is at times distressing and worrisome but it is not us, we reassure ourselves. Smugness invites complacency. As we’ve seen with other issues — Exhibit A, the bitter partisanship that has eroded, some say eliminated, the civility of political debate — the border is no barrier to opinions and movements.
It’s reassuring that there are serious hurdles to criminalizing abortion here. It would take an act of Parliament. It’s hard to imagine that, given Canadian attitudes. In a May survey, Abacus Data found that Canadians viewed abortion as more morally acceptable than Americans did — 70 per cent vs 52 per cent.
Yet the U.S. Supreme Court decision was the result of relentless work by those opposed to abortion and the protections afforded by Roe v. Wade. This decision is a victory for them and it will empower anti-abortion forces in Canada.
For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a “devastating setback.
“We will always defend women’s rights to choose and continue to work to expand access to the full range of reproductive health and services across the country,” he said.
That rhetoric, which mirrors Trudeau’s talk after the leak of the draft ruling, needs to be matched by action. The reality is that access to abortion services — which falls to provinces and their responsibility for health services — is uneven across Canada with far fewer services available in rural centres. The federal government has the funding and the levers, through the Canada Health Act, to level the field.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision is an attack on a woman’s right to choose. Ottawa should use this ruling as further impetus to ensure the protection of those rights in Canada. That means ensuring equitable access to abortion services nationwide. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)