Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy was protected under the country’s constitution. Prior to this landmark reproductive rights case, the abortion laws were determined state by state, meaning that not only did women in certain parts of the country not have access to safe abortion services, but they could also be arrested for it. In this case, Norma McCorvey (aka “Jane Roe”)—a mother of two who sought out an abortion in Texas, where termination was illegal—challenged district attorney Henry Wade, asserting that the laws in her state were unconstitutional. In January 1973, SCOTUS issued a seven-to-two milestone decision that the fundamental “right to privacy” under the fourteenth amendment protected a pregnant woman’s right to an abortion. It was a hotly contested and widely covered case at the time because it called for reproductive rights to come before political and religious interference; it also made people consider for the first time that safe, legal abortion services were an important element of healthcare.
Roe v. Wade decision overturned
And yet, on June 24, 2022, after close to five decades of American women being allowed to govern the decisions over their own lives and bodies, Roe v. Wade was overturned by the current Supreme Court justices. This means that the availability and legality of termination will now be left up to individual states, and that people who seek an abortion in a state where it is illegal can again be arrested and charged. Yes, seriously. In 2022. It sounds like something out of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
Reproductive rights are a human rights issue
Whether or not you agree with abortion isn’t actually the question here. The ability to make decisions about your own body is. No other law tells you what you can or can’t do for your own health and wellbeing. No other law makes doctors question their ability to help patients for fear of having their actions criminalized. We are already hearing reports out of the US that doctors are having to consider the legal consequences of making important healthcare decisions for those who are pregnant—including those with ectopic pregnancies, those enduring non-viable pregnancies, those with life-threatening complications as a result of pregnancy. Religious, moral and political beliefs should not matter when it comes to saving the life of the person who is pregnant. We use “saving the life of” loosely here, too, because even if a pregnancy is viable, if someone does not want to have a baby, they should not have to. End of story.
What you can do to help
At ParentsCanada, we believe that a person’s right to choose is vital and important. We stand in solidarity with our neighbours to the south who are fighting this fight, and we will not be complacent about the possibility of a similar offensive on our reproductive rights in Canada.
If you want to show your support for the reinstatement of the reproductive rights of Americans, there are ways to help. Here’s what you can do:
- Educate yourself. Read the background on Roe v. Wade as well as the current decision. Don’t make snap personal decisions based on your own religious or political background. This issue is not about your belief system. This is a human rights issue.
- Recognize that this has been a fight for the queer and BIPOC communities for a very long time, and listen to and amplify those voices whenever you can. Also, remember that this isn’t just a women’s issue; trans men, non-binary people and intersex people are also affected.
- Consider financially contributing to already existing abortion funds in the US. There are a lot of social media invitations to Americans to come across the border to access the services they need, but this isn’t a fix. Donations to the cause in the United States will go farther. Check out the National Network of Abortion Funds for more info.
If you are concerned about how our reproductive rights could be affected in Canada, write to or call your Member of Parliament and ask how they intend to show their support for strengthening the Canada Health Act. This act is the framework for how provincial healthcare plans are funded, but compliance by the provinces is voluntary and the scope of what should qualify for funding is a constant conversation. Abortion is not currently covered under the Act despite being a medically necessary service. And no, this isn’t up for debate.