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US Supreme Court kills abortion rights, Canada may open borders for US women seeking abortions

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau described the U.S. Supreme Court's decision as “horrific”.

Washington: After the US Supreme Court in Washington ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years, an animated debate on the right of women to choose what to do with their own bodies has been revived with redoubled vigour all over North America.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn decades-old jurisprudence on abortion as “horrific”, a section of  Conservatives, the official Opposition party, hailed the verdict calling what’s unfolding south of the border a “horrific” development that threatens the right of women to choose what to do with their own bodies.

However, one of the Conservative party’s leadership contenders, Leslyn Lewis, MP, in a letter to supporters on Friday, said Conservatives shouldn’t be afraid to discuss anti-abortion policies.

She also released a policy platform promising what she calls “pro-life” policies if elected, including a ban on “sex-selective” abortions, criminal penalties for “coerced” abortions, increased funding for pregnancy centres (organizations that persuade pregnant women against having abortions) and an end to federal funding for abortion services overseas.

Another leadership candidate, MP Pierre Poilievre, however, has an altogether different stand on the issue.

In the past, Poilievre supported initiatives such as Motion 312 — which would have prompted a review of when a child becomes a human being in Canadian law — and a private member’s bill that would have stiffened criminal penalties for the murder of an unborn child.

But, in this leadership election, Poilievre has been categoric that he was not interested in legislating against abortion, if elected.

During the party’s French-language leadership debate last month, Poilievre said he was “pro-choice.”

A spokesperson for Pierre campaign also told a section of media on Friday that “a Poilievre government will not introduce or pass any laws restricting abortion.”

The other two leading candidates for the party’s top job, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown and former Quebec premier Jean Charest have  are also solidly pro-choice.

In a social media post, Charest said he was “disturbed” that Roe vs Wade has been overturned.

“While I recognize there are strongly held beliefs on this issue, reproductive rights in Canada are non-negotiable,” he said.

Justin Trudeau, in a social media post, said, “My heart goes out to the millions of American women who are now set to lose their legal right to an abortion. I can’t imagine the fear and anger you are feeling right now,” Trudeau said in a social media post.

He said “no government, politician, or man” should force a woman to carry out a pregnancy, reiterating that, under his Liberal government, “women in Canada know that we will always stand up for your right to choose.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also condemned the ruling, saying she had a “visceral reaction” when she first heard of the court’s decision.

“I was just shocked and horrified and so worried, actually,” Freeland said in an interview with a major news channel.

Freeland said generations of feminists fought for abortion access in Canada, and she’ll do what she can to help preserve that right.

“I want all Canadian women and girls to hear from me that the right to choice, their right to an abortion is a fundamental right. We will not let that right be undermined in any way here in our country,” she said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said

while the Liberal Party has taken a hard line on abortion by barring anti-abortion candidates from running, the Conservatives are a “big-tent party of unity” that should accommodate social conservatives and their views.

“We can try what our party has done in the last several elections and run from the issue, letting the Liberals set the agenda, or we can be the voice of unity and take control of the conversation,” she said.

Canada’s Families Minister Karina Gould went a step ahead to suggest that the U.S. women will be able to obtain an abortion in Canada. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has also instructed Canadian Border Services Agency officials to allow free passage to U.S. women seeking abortion.

Though the Canadian offer is well intended to help US women seeking abortions but the question being asked is how many US women can benefit from the Canadian offer as only 40 percent of Americans hold passports. No one without a passport can travel from the US to Canada.

The NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said that “women will die as a result of this devastating decision,” while reiterating that these “dangerous policies” must not be allowed to take hold in Canada.

He said Trudeau and the federal Liberals have taken the right stand about abortion access in Canada but  that was not enough and more was needed on the issue.

“Women in many parts of the country, particularly in rural communities, have to drive hundreds of miles to access the care they need. This is wrong. It has never been more important for the Liberals to make the much-needed and long-overdue investments in women’s health care services,” Singh said.

With abortion access soon to be limited in some U.S. states, including in states that border Canada, there could be a run on abortion providers here as American women flee to friendlier jurisdictions for the medical procedure. He said Canada should be prepared.

The U.S. top court on Friday overruled Roe vs Wade and Planned Parenthood of South-Eastern Pa vs Casey — two landmark decisions that allowed for legal abortions in the U.S. — ending the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy and returning the issue to state legislatures for further action.

The majority opinion, written by Samuel Alito, a Republican nominee, claims the 1973 Roe decision was constitutionally dubious and “egregiously wrong from the start” because its reasoning was “exceptionally weak.”

Alito said that decision, which essentially found that the right to privacy extended to reproductive choices like an abortion, has had “damaging consequences” by dividing a nation into anti-abortion and pro-choice factions and robbing state officials of the power to regulate the practice.

In the U.S. the issue of abortion has been the subject of much political debate  as supporters of both pro and anti-abortion groups had gathered in large numbers to hear the Supreme Court ruling on Friday.

While there were jubilations in the anti-abortion camp, the pro-abortion camp reiterated to continue its fight till women got the right to decide what they wanted to do with their own bodies.

Interestingly, a large number of immigrants of Indian descent, both in USA and Canada, appeared to be with the pro-abortion lobby. Most of the  South Asian protesters who gathered  outside the US Supreme Court in Washington held that “courts cannot take away their right to choose what they wanted to do with their bodies”.

“A woman does not have to travel long distances to go to a state where she can undergo an abortion,’ they said.

Prabhjot Singh
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