U.S. abortion ruling prompts reaction, offer of support in Windsor, Ont.

There's strong reaction in Windsor-Essex following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which has protected abortion rights in the U.S. for nearly five decades. 

U.S. Supreme Court overturns protections for abortion set out in Roe v. Wade

'I'm saddened, I'm angry and I feel a lot of despair'

1 year ago
Duration 2:00
Pat Papadeas weighs in on the overturning of Roe V. Wade, the landmark ruling that protected abortion rights in the U.S.

There's strong reaction in Windsor-Essex following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, which had protected abortion rights in the U.S. for nearly five decades. 

"Despite seeing it coming, frankly, it was devastating. The sense of despair," said Pat Papadeas.

Papadeas was part of a group of Windsor-area women who attended the Women's March in Washington, D.C., in 2017 following the election of president Donald Trump.

"Those of us that went down there — and those that supported that and could have, would have been down there — saw this coming. This is the reality of it," she said.

"And you know, what's ironic about that is I feel that way today. There are things that are happening right now that you can foresee coming if we're not careful and if we're not vigilant about people's rights."

The milestone ruling, a draft of which was leaked last month, has the potential to claw back abortion access across the country by allowing states to restrict or outright ban the procedure.

Friday's 6-3 decision delivered by Justice Samuel Alito, with all three liberal justices dissenting, reverses the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. That original ruling found that a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy was protected by the right to privacy that flows from the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects a citizen's right to "life, liberty and property."

"The constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision," Alito wrote.

Catherine Eberhardt is the executive director of Windsor Against Abortion, an anti-abortion group that campaigns on the street using large graphic photos of aborted fetuses.

She said it was "a great day for the pro-life movement" in the U.S.

Eberhardt would welcome similar action in Canada, but acknowledged that a lot of people support the choice to have an abortion.

"If public opinion doesn't change on abortion, then that law that would be put in place would be slightly ineffective because people would still think abortion is OK...that's why our group goes out on the streets and we engage in conversation with the public in hopes to have their minds changed."

Theatre to offer space for U.S. women seeking abortions

Patricia Fell, artistic director of Waawiiyaatanong Feminist Theatre in Windsor, wants to see the right to abortion in Canada formally enshrined in law.

She expressed concern about politicians in Canada who don't support abortion, and the influence of American lobbyists.

"It's that old saying: when America sneezes we get a cold," she said.

Artistic director of the Waawiiyaatanong Feminist Theatre Patricia Fell appears in a file photo. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The organization operates a small house in Windsor for artist residencies, and plans to offer the space as a recovery place for American women when coming to Canada seeking abortions.

"I think lot of people in Windsor have that opportunity to just offer women a bed for a night after they've had a procedure. And I'll tell you, those women will never forget that kindness."

Meanwhile, local health officials are not speculating on what the overturning of Roe v. Wade could mean for our region given its proximity to Detroit.

CBC News has reached out to local hospitals and public health but they declined interviews.

Michigan governor condemns ruling

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer took to Twitter Friday, telling her state she'd not settle for the decision.

"I've filed a motion urging the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately take up my lawsuit to protect abortion for Michigan women," Whitmer, a democrat, wrote in a tweet. "The urgency of this moment is clear: we MUST clarify whether this right is constitutionally protected under Michigan law."

In May, a judge suspended Michigan's dormant, decades-old ban on abortion, which means the procedure would not be illegal in the state despite of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The Michigan law, which makes it a crime to assist in an abortion, has been on the books since 1931. But it has had no practical effect since 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide.

Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher granted a preliminary injunction in May, sought by Planned Parenthood of Michigan, saying the abortion ban likely violates the Michigan Constitution.

"After 50 years of legal abortion in Michigan, there can be no doubt but that the right of personal autonomy and bodily integrity enjoyed by our citizens includes the right of a woman, in consultation with her physician, to terminate a pregnancy," the judge said at the time.

Gleicher said other Michigan laws regulating abortion will remain in full effect. 

However on Friday, Whitmer said the 1931 law which does not include exceptions for rape or incest is at risk of taking effect. 

"And I'm disappointed that the GOP legislative leaders have gone to court to defend that ban," she said on Twitter. 

The temporary injunction has been appealed, and Michigan's ban could go back into effect, said Whitmer. 

In a statement, Michigan's chief medical executive, Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, condemned the ruling. 

"Decisions about whether to end or continue a pregnancy should be made by a woman with the counsel of her family, her faith and her doctor – not politics," wrote Bagdasarian. 

"As a physician, I know that the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn nearly half a century of precedent protecting safe, legal abortion violates the trusted relationship between a patient and their doctor."

The doctor said she's concerned how the decision will negatively impact the health of women saying it overrides a woman's ability to make choices based on her own health with her doctor. 

"And it clears a path for draconian laws like Michigan's 1931 criminal abortion ban to take full effect," she said, adding that the ruling is a punishment both to woman seeking healthcare and to physicians and the medical community. 

Protests planned in Detroit

Following the ruling, social media was abuzz as residents began to organize and plan protests in Detroit. 

Some have planned what they're calling an "Emergency Response Rally to Defend Roe v. Wade." In a Facebook group, residents plan to gather at the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse in the city's downtown core. 

Another protest is planned for Palmer Park. 

With files from the Associated Press and Chris Ensing