Following the publication of a leaked early draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could result in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Canadian politicians and activists responded to the news with pro-lifers saying it could reinvigorate the abortion debate in Canada and the Liberal government vowing to welcome American women seeking abortions abroad.
“If Roe is officially overturned, we will immediately see several states become pro-life with total or near-total bans on abortion,” Campaign Life Coalition national president Jeff Gunnarson said in a statement. “This will undoubtedly be a victory for the pro-life movement and signifies a loosening of the iron grip that the pro-abortion movement has had on America.”
Gunnarson said, “American culture will inevitably change for the better post-Roe, and because of the U.S.’ influence on Canada, our own culture will inevitably change too. When life is winning in America, it is only a matter of time before life will win in Canada too.”
Josie Luetke, youth co-coordinator for Campaign Life Coalition, said the challenge for the pro-life movement in Canada now is to “reignite the abortion debate” and “keep the momentum going.” Luetke said, “Abortion has become a kind of sacred cow in Canada that many mistakenly think cannot be challenged,” but “if Roe is overturned, the abortion debate is certainly coming to Canada where we’ll be advocating for protection for preborn children.”
The leaked decision already reignited the subject of abortion in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “The right to choose is a woman’s right and a woman’s right alone. Every woman in Canada has a right to a safe and legal abortion. We’ll never back down from protecting and promoting women’s rights in Canada and around the world.”
Numerous other members of the Trudeau government repeated the sentiment. During debate in the House of Commons, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “As many Canadians I was both shocked and deeply troubled by the news emanating from the United States yesterday evening with regards to the right to abortion.” She added: “Expressing myself here today as a woman, as a mother, and as the deputy prime minister of Canada, it is important for me to highlight the clear and determined commitments that our government has in protecting women’s right to choose.” Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien said Canadians “cannot afford to be bystanders when it comes to protecting reproductive rights.” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said that “our government will continue to uphold” abortion at home and abroad.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced $3.5 million for projects for pro-abortion non-governmental organizations to promote abortion. Duclos said the timing of the announcement was a coincidence and was already budgeted for the 2022 fiscal year although there was no mention of it in the federal budget announced in April.
Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development Karina Gould told the CBC that American women would be allowed to procure abortions in Canada. “If they, people, come here and need access, certainly, you know, that’s a service that would be provided,” Gould told the CBC’s Vassy Kapelos. She said, “Americans accessing health care services in Canada would continue to have to pay for the service out-of-pocket or by their own private insurance if they are not covered by a provincial health insurance, by the Interim Federal Health Program or Non-Insured Health Benefits.”
Gould also worried that Canadian women who cross the U.S. border to obtain an abortion could be affected if Roe v. Wade is overturned. “One of the concerning factors here is that there are many Canadian women who maybe don’t live near a major city in Canada, but will often access these services in the United State.”
Gunnarson said that Gould’s concern was misguided because most of the U.S. border states have pro-abortion policies are less likely to enact pro-life legislation, noting that many of the New England and Great Lake states have some of the most permissive abortion laws in the U.S.
Bloc Québécois deputy House leader Christine Normandin (Saint-Jean) attempted a voice-vote on a consent motion after question period on May 3 stating “that the House reiterates that a woman’s body belongs to her and her alone, and recognizes her freedom of choice on abortion for any reason.” It needed the unanimous consent of the House and there were several shouts of no from the Conservative side of the House floor, although it was not clear which MPs opposed the motion.
Normandin said after the vote, “We have to keep fighting because one moment of inattention can set us back for decades.” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Canada needs to guard against any “backsliding” of abortion rights and chastised Conservatives for permitting pro-life MPs to bring forward pro-life bills and motions.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in a press conference that he found the possibility of Roe being overturned, “deeply concerning,” claiming: “We know that when abortion rights are denied or when abortion services are denied, the result is women die.” He said that the government should do more to increase abortion access in Canada, urging the Trudeau government to withhold transfer funds to provinces that provide “inadequate” abortion access.
An email from interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen’s office said that “Conservatives will not be commenting” on the leaked decision. Bergen later told journalists that “It would be inappropriate to comment on matters before the U.S. courts.” Bergen explained the party’s position: “When it comes to the debate in Canada, Conservatives’ position remains what it has been since the Harper government. Access to abortion was not restricted under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the Conservative Party will not introduce legislation or reopen the abortion debate.”
Still, several pro-abortion Tories reiterated their abortion credentials. “I have always been the person that says it’s a woman’s right,” said MP Karen Vecchio (Elgin-Middlesex-London), chair of the House Status of Women Committee, of her support for abortion. Asked whether she thought the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision could affect the Canadian abortion debate, Vecchio said, “I’m not too worried about this right now.”
Conservative MP Arnold Viersen (Peace River–Westlock), chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, said “human rights begin when the human begins,” telling reporters, “I should know; I have five children, human beings begin at conception.” Viersen said that the abortion debate “has never been closed” in Canada.
The Conservative leadership contenders indicated they were pro-abortion and considered the abortion issue closed.
MP and Conservative leadership frontrunner Pierre Poilievre (Carleton) said, “a Poilievre government will not introduce or pass any laws restricting abortion.” MP Scott Aitchison (Parry Sound—Muskoka) tweeted, “I will always defend a woman’s right to choose. Any efforts to restrict access to abortion would have terrible consequences for the health of women, families, and our country.” Fellow Conservative leadership hopeful, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown issued a statement saying he “will always support the right of a woman’s decision on her reproductive health. Full stop.” He added, “The vast majority of Canadians do not want this issue reopened.”
Former Quebec premier Jean Charest said through his spokesman, Michelle Coates Mather, that Charest supports abortion and would not vote for any bill that restricts abortion in Canada.
Ontario independent MPP Roman Baber (York Centre) said he supported a “diversity of opinion” within the Conservative Party and would allow MPs to bring forth private member’s business on moral issues and permit free votes for the caucus.
A spokesman for Leslyn Lewis, who is green-lit by Campaign Life Coalition, said she would “not be commenting on the leaked U.S. Supreme Court documents as it is not a final decision.”
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Canada, complained in a press release, “The overturning of Roe v. Wade by a politicized judiciary is an example of the overtaking of democratic institutions by a small faction of fundamentalists around the world who are leading a global backlash on sexual and reproductive health and rights.” Action Canada, which receives tens of millions of dollars from the Trudeau government to agitate for abortion, said that the possible overturning of Roe could energize the Canadian pro-life movement. “It would be naive to ignore the impact of these movements on abortion access in Canada.”
Gunnarson told The Interim if the Supreme Court of the United States does overturn Roe, “Canadian pro-lifers will be encouraged to work even harder to bring legal protection to children in the womb from conception onward.”
During a Campaign Life Coalition press conference held on the grounds in front of the Supreme Court of Canada on May 11, CLC’s Jack Fonseca and Josie Luetke said that the Canadian Supreme Court in its 1988 Morgentaler decision, like the U.S. Court in Roe, made up a rationale to justify throwing out laws against abortion. Fonseca and Luetke called upon parliamentarians to reclaim the issue and enact a law protecting the preborn without exception.