Abortion debate revived in Canada

Explosive revelations about the US Supreme Court, which seems ready to set back the right to abortion 50 years back, have given voice to Canadian opponents.

They were a few thousand to parade Thursday in the streets of the federal capital Ottawa. “I hope we are at a turning point” in history, Emily Helferty, 23, told AFP, taking part in the march with her parents. “A lot of people have been praying for this for a long time,” she added.

Because as on the other side of the border, the right to abortion in Canada is not protected by law, but by case law. It is based on the “Morgentaler” judgment of January 1988, which bears the name of a doctor prosecuted for having carried out voluntary terminations of pregnancy.

In this judgment, the Supreme Court completely decriminalized abortion based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Clearly we do not have the same legal profile as the United States because the political polarization is not as strong,” said Isabelle Duplessis, law professor in Montreal and specialist in women’s rights.

The latter therefore does not believe in a reversal of the Canadian Supreme Court but is concerned about the consequences of this debate on civil society.

“This debate will have an influence on us,” she worries. “It is obvious that there can be a backlash against women’s rights and the right to abortion in Canada. »

Aware of the growing concern, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has sought to reassure Canadians, saying it will protect access to abortion, even raising the possibility of a new legal framework to guarantee this right.

“This is a time when the threat of a potential reversal in the United States worries women in Canada and around the world,” Justin Trudeau said Thursday.

– The issue of rural areas –

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In Canada, voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) is theoretically permitted for the entire duration of pregnancy. It is the provinces and territories of the country that must then guarantee its application. And this is the real issue in a vast country, where nearly 80% of the inhabitants say they are in favor of the right to abortion.

“At the heart of the problem, there is access to hospitals practicing abortion in certain regions”, which requires some women to travel for hours, said Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Coalition for the Right to Abortion. abortion in Canada.

On average, only one in six hospitals perform abortions. Of the hundred hospitals and clinics practicing them in Canada, half are in Quebec.

In many provinces – Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Alberta – it is impossible to obtain an abortion in rural areas.

In New Brunswick, repeatedly singled out by the Canadian government for its policy in this area, abortion is not reimbursed if performed outside one of the three hospitals. Some provinces do not reimburse the abortion pill, which was authorized only in the 2000s.

Aware of this weakness, the Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos announced Wednesday more than 3.5 million Canadian dollars (2.58 million euros) to eliminate certain obstacles to access to abortion.

“The legal debate over abortion is over in this country, but that doesn’t mean the battle is over,” he said.

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