Protecting Reproductive Rights: A Look at the Canadian Anti-Abortion Movement

On January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. His presidency marks a considerable step forward in terms of protecting reproductive freedom in the US. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have promised to protect and uphold abortion rights. They have also promised to continue building on the progress of the Affordable Care Act, to protect Roe v. Wade, to continue federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and to reverse the Trump-era attacks on abortions. Their policies are a breath of fresh air because, over the past four years, we have witnessed the constant endangerment of women's rights to bodily autonomy in the United States. Notably, for example, when Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that would punish doctors who perform abortions (even in cases of rape or incest) with life in prison, and when Judge Amy Coney Barrett—a devout anti-abortion Catholic who previously served as a trustee at a private school that barred admission to children of LGBTQ people and banned gay and lesbian teachers—was nominated by Donald Trump to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States just three days after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.

As a Canadian, it’s easy to read about these attacks on abortion rights and simply think, “that could never happen to me.” Abortion has been legal in Canada since 1988, and there are currently no legal restrictions on the procedure. However, anti-abortion groups are looming in Canada, and many of them want things to change. Anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) works to, in their own words, “secure full legal protection for all human beings, from time of conception to natural death.” The organization puts substantial emphasis on the importance of supporting anti-abortion candidates in all elections (federal, provincial, school board, etc.). Their website features a tool where you can enter your postal code and compare candidates in these elections to see if they are deemed “supportable” in regards to their stance on topics like abortion, LGBTQ rights, and euthanasia. 

CLC also features a website and blog for anti-abortion youth, where they can connect to share ‘anti-abortion memes’ and sign petitions to prohibit sex education in schools, euthanasia, same-sex marriage and abortion. The group encourages its members to take action in making sure their anti-abortion candidates are supported. Another prominent Canadian anti-abortion organization is 40 Days For Life. Each year, this anti-abortion group hosts an international 40-day vigil to end abortion. The group often gathers outside hospitals, abortion clinics and doctors’ offices, intending to change the minds of the women getting an abortion. Perhaps the most widely known anti-abortion demonstration in Canada is the March for Life, an event where thousands of Canadian anti-abortion protesters flood parliament hill to demand justice for aborted fetuses. 

Canadian anti-abortion groups and their supporters are currently advocating for a future where abortion is banned, regardless of the circumstance or context. Whatever your position is on abortion, it’s important to consider that quantitative studies have proven that banning access to contraception and limiting sexual education increases the number of abortions performed per year. The World Health Organization estimates that between 2010 and 2014, approximately 45% of abortions performed worldwide were unsafe; almost all of these abortions were performed in developing countries where access to contraception and sexual health education is extremely limited. When access to abortions and sexual health resources is limited, women will still find ways to have these abortions performed. The World Health Organization estimates that 30 women die for every 100,000 unsafe abortions in developed regions, and 220 women die for every 100,000 unsafe abortions in developing regions.

So, is putting government restrictions on abortion going to save lives? No. The solution to decreasing the number of abortions performed each year and lowering the number of unsafe-abortion-related deaths and negative health outcomes is the normalization of inclusive sexual health education, easier access to effective contraception and the legalization of abortion. 

For more resources and information about advancing and protecting reproductive rights and freedoms in Canada, you can check out Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada at https://www.arcc-cdac.ca/about-us/.