American women can obtain abortions in Canada if Roe v. Wade falls, minister says
Families Minister Karina Gould worries Canadian women from border regions could lose abortion access in U.S.
American women will be able to obtain abortions in Canada if the United States Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and returns abortion law to the state level, says Karina Gould, minister of families, children and social development.
In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Tuesday, Gould was asked if American women would be allowed to access the procedure in Canada.
"I don't see why we would not," she told host Vassy Kapelos. "If they, people, come here and need access, certainly, you know, that's a service that would be provided."
Gould's remarks came after U.S. political news outlet Politico published a copy of an initial draft opinion written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a Republican appointee. That opinion suggests a majority of justices are prepared to overrule Roe v. Wade — the landmark decision that allowed legal abortions in the U.S. — and return the issue to state legislatures.
WATCH: Karina Gould says American women can access abortion services in Canada
The opinion claims the 1973 Roe decision was constitutionally dubious and "egregiously wrong from the start" because its reasoning was "exceptionally weak."
The opinion argues that decades-old decision — which essentially found that the right to privacy extends to reproductive choices like an abortion — has had "damaging consequences" by dividing the nation into anti-abortion and pro-choice factions and robbing state officials of the power to regulate the practice.
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Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter to reaffirm his support for women's reproductive rights without specifically mentioning the leak from the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The right to choose is a woman's right and a woman's right alone," he said. "Every woman in Canada has a right to a safe and legal abortion. We'll never back down from protecting and promoting women's rights in Canada and around the world."
Coming to Canada
In recent years, numerous Republican-led states have passed abortion restrictions and so-called "trigger laws" which would kick in and automatically ban abortions if the Supreme Court provides the legal foundation.
If Roe is overturned, abortion is likely to remain legal in liberal states. More than a dozen states have laws protecting abortion rights.
California has said it would look for more ways to accommodate out-of-state individuals seeking abortions if the law is overturned.
Judy Chu, a Democrat U.S. representative from California, also told CBC News Network's Power & Politics Tuesday that her state already is seeing women crossing the border from Texas seeking abortions, a practice she said will only increase if Roe vs. Wade is overturned.
"There is a definite uptick already. Can you imagine if 26 states were banning abortion because of Roe v. Wade falling?" she said. "Yes, there [would] definitely be women coming to Canada, Mexico and to the other states which are upholding abortion."
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Concerns for Canadian women
Gould said that while Canada will remain open to American women seeking abortions, she also has concerns about what overturning Roe v. Wade could mean for Canadian women seeking abortions.
"One of the concerning factors here is that there are many Canadian women who maybe don't live near a major city in Canada, but will often access these services in the United States," she said. "I'm very concerned about the leak yesterday. I'm very concerned about what this means, particularly for American women, but also for Canadian women."
A spokesperson for Gould told CBC News women can obtain abortions in Canada now, at a cost.
"Americans accessing health care services in Canada would continue to have to pay for the service out-of-pocket or by their own private insurance if they are not covered by a provincial health insurance, by the Interim Federal Health Program or Non-Insured Health Benefits."
The issue of abortion has been the subject of much political debate in Canada — perhaps nowhere more so than within the Conservative Party.
Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney failed to pass legislation on abortion after the Supreme Court's 1988 R. v. Morgentaler decision invalidated past Canadian law on the practice.
As it stands, there is no federal law governing access to abortion.
In this context, the Conservative Party's previous leaders, including former prime minister Stephen Harper and MPs Andrew Scheer and Erin O'Toole, have been dogged by questions from the press and the public about their position on legislating abortion access — and successive Liberal and NDP leaders have made Conservative ambiguity on the topic an election issue.
With files from the CBC's John Paul Tasker, Earvin Solitario