Pregnancy centers and anti-choice candidates, unfunded abortion clinics: if the political milieu has not invested as heavily as it has in the United States, the anti-abortion movement remains very present in Canada and Quebec. Overview of an ideology that works in the shadows but has some very real implications for the lives of Canadian women.
In New Brunswick, abortions are only paid for by the government if they are performed in a hospital. The policy, which is unique in the country, led to the closure of the last abortion clinic in the province in 2020, leaving women only to three hospitals for an abortion.
“In places in Canada where access to abortion has been restricted, this is partly due to the reluctance of certain elected officials or their anti-choice opinions,” claims Executive Director of the Coalition for Abortion Rights in Canada, Joyce Arthur.
Arriving in Vancouver, she doesn’t believe abortion rights are under as threatened in Canada as they are in the United States, where a document leaked by media Politico on Monday night lays out a draft Supreme Court decision overturning the ban deer v. wade, which protects American women’s right to abortion. But according to Mme Arthur, the anti-abortion movement in Canada, “can do a lot of damage through stigma and misinformation, and create an atmosphere of silence around abortion.”
Although less radical than in the USA, this ideology also invites itself into politics. According to an October 2021 poll conducted by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, 74% of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) caucuses oppose abortion. And of the 159 members of the Liberal Party, five oppose the election or have expressed positions along those lines in the past.
The CCP leadership also sent a note to its lawmakers on Tuesday, urging them not to comment on the leak of the Supreme Court document while the party is in the midst of a leadership race. As the only woman in the running among the six contenders, Leslyn Lewis is also the only openly anti-choice candidate. “In a way, it’s good that Conservatives are afraid to speak out on this issue, as it demonstrates the strength of our pro-choice policies,” Arthur said.
She still points to the involvement of certain anti-abortion groups in the leadership race, including one of the country’s largest, the Campaign Life Coalition, which offered Leslyn Lewis its support. Mme Arthur says these groups mobilize on behalf of anti-choice candidates and in return “expect them to take action. [pour restreindre le droit à l’avortement] She regrets that such groups contributed in particular to the election of Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole to chair the CPC, as well as Doug Ford to the premiership of Ontario.
It should be noted that during the last election campaign Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to regulate access to abortion services under Canada’s Health Care Act. A promise that has not been fulfilled to this day.
Quebec not left out
Last February, Quebec Conservative Party leader Éric Duhaime presented an anti-abortion candidate for the next provincial elections, which Dright Roy Eappen. The latter said he didn’t want to legislate on the issue but wanted to talk to people to “change their minds”.
The anti-abortion movement in Quebec is also present in anti-choice pregnancy centers which, under neutral guise, discourage the women they consult from resorting to abortion. According to the Federation of Quebec for planning births, between 15 and 30 would be active in the territory.
In February, an Urbania investigation found that two CAQ MPs had funded such centers. The Minister for the Status of Women, Isabelle Charest, then invoked “credulous error” to justify this funding.
Proof, according to the director of the pro-choice organization Grossesse-Secours in Montreal, Josiane Robert, that “we are not immune to it”. For her, the battle is far from won: “We must continue to mention that abortion is a fundamental, legal and secure right.”
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