'Fatigue, frustration and anger' felt in Hamilton, Niagara region after Roe v. Wade overturned in U.S.

Community members in Hamilton and Niagara regions say they worry about the impact in Canada and the U.S., following Friday's ruling that has the potential to claw back abortion access across the U.S.

Women and gender studies prof says she feels the importance of strategizing for 'long fight' ahead

A large crowd of people, some holding signs with messages such as "My Body, My Choice," gather outside a courthouse.
Protesters gather following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. (Gemunu Amarasinghe/The Associated Press)

When Ahona Mehdi heard about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, her first reaction was fear.

"I feel a lot of fear for folks who will not be able to access abortion care and abortion services because of [this]," the 19-year-old Hamilton resident told CBC Hamilton. 

"I'm also worried about disabled folk who could be pregnant and who will not have access to abortion care and this could this could lead to their death," she added.

The Roe v. Wade opinion has secured constitutional protections for abortion in the U.S. for nearly 50 years. Friday's milestone ruling has the potential to claw back abortion access for women, transgender men and non-binary people across the country by allowing states to restrict or ban the procedure.

Mehdi said she also fears for those who may come to Canada in the future seeking abortion care and who might not "be able to receive it because of inadequate support."

Hamilton resident Ahona Mehdi, 19, says when she first heard the news Friday she felt fear for those who will be in need of abortion services in future. (HWDSB)

She said she has seen, through her friends and people close to her who have sought out abortion services, that "the resources are already not there."

"People working in abortion care currently don't have the resources," said Mehdi, a former Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board student trustee who is running for school board trustee in the fall municipal election. 

"They also don't have enough training on how to care for patients, and wait lists can be really long … on top of the fact that there's the need oftentimes to travel far away in order to receive this care at all."

The Hamilton Women's Clinic, which opened in 2018 and provides abortion services for people who are less than nine weeks pregnant, confirmed to CBC Hamilton that they are able to serve clients who are not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, such as U.S. citizens. In that case, an abortion costs around $800, the clinic said.

While it did not confirm whether there is a current wait for services, its website says it serves patients from other parts of Ontario, including London, Kitchener, Brantford and Niagara Falls and refers those who are over nine weeks pregnant to a Mississauga clinic. 

A spokesperson for Niagara Reproductive Justice, an abortion rights group based in the Niagara region, told CBC Hamilton by email that the ruling will "result in hundreds of thousands of people being denied essential healthcare."

"Abortion is a human right, and a safe and normal healthcare procedure."

The group said it would continue to counter anti-abortion narratives in the region and encouraged its supporters to participate in demonstrations like the ones planned in front of the U.S. consulate in Toronto Saturday and Wednesday afternoons. 

"If you haven't gotten involved before, now is the time to get involved in local community organizing because it is clear that we cannot rely on government and oppressive power structures to act in our collective interest," the group said. 

'This is a long fight'

Margot Francis, an associate professor of women's and gender studies professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, said the U.S. ruling will ensure 58 per cent of U.S. women lose access to abortion. 

As a result, those seeking abortion services will be criminalized, she said, as "restricting access to abortion does not make it go away; it only makes it clandestine and unsafe."

The ruling will "impact the conversation in Canada," says Brock University associate professor Margot Francis. (Submitted by Margot Francis)

The impact will be disproportionate on those who are poor, racialized and survivors of sexual abuse, she said. "They will have more difficulties crossing state and national lines to places where the abortions are safe and available."

Francis also worries such a decision in the U.S. will embolden anti-abortion politicians and supporters. "In-so-far as this dramatic curtailment of women's rights is endorsed by law, by the largest imperial nation in the world, this will always impact the conversation in Canada," she said. 

She says now abortion clinics in Canada close to the border will "be put under increasing strain as people travel across the border to try to gain access." 

"Of course, those who can afford the money, time, and have support (childcare, personal support) will be much more able to do this."

Fellow Brock professor Charlotte Henay said she's feeling "deep, deep fatigue, frustration and anger" following the news.

She's specifically devastated about the disproportionate impact the ruling will have on Black women in the American south, said Henay, who is also a scholar of women's and gender studies.

"[They] are already carrying the legacies and material violences of enslavement, including sexual violence, a maternal mortality rate that exceeds all other communities."

A portrait of a smiling woman with curly black hair and purple lipstick.
Brock University assistant professor Charlotte Henay said she's preparing for a ''long fight" ahead. (Submitted by Charlotte Henay)

Henay says she's worried about "the intended omissions that are ominous" and that "signal this is just the beginning. Clarence Thomas setting his sights on same-sex relationships, and marriage, and contraception first and foremost amongst them," she said.

"This is about white control over more than reproductive rights, it's about control over agency and access, it's about enforced poverty and power.

"Knowing that, and that this is a long fight — then it's important to know how to strategize — and this applies to the Canadian geopolitical space as well," Henay wrote to CBC by email. 


Aura Carreño Rosas

Freelance reporter, CBC Hamilton

Aura Carreño Rosas is a Hamilton-based freelance journalist from Venezuela, with a passion for pop culture and unique people with diverse journeys.

With files from Mark Gollom, Chris Iorfida, Jessica Maxwell