Canada announces millions in funding to remove barriers to abortion access

By Cormac Mac Sweeney and Claire Fenton

The federal government has announced millions of dollars in funding to improve access to safe abortions, reiterating that Canada’s abortion laws are strong and unchanging.

The $3.5 million will go towards two organizations to promote equity, ensuring no matter where a person lives, access to abortion in Canada is equal.

Action Canada, formally Planned Parenthood, will be given $2 million. The National Abortion Federation has been awarded $1.5 million.

Members of each organization say the funding will be used to fill gaps that exist in Canada.

In addition to education and advocacy, both organizations are able to help people travel to get abortions, including those who are not able to get a clinic in their community due to several factors. As well, the groups sometimes assist the person in travelling to the U.S. for a procedure, if the person’s pregnancy has passed 24 weeks.

The additional funding will go a long way to ensuring many marginalized groups are not disproportionately impacted by abortion barriers, advocates say.

“Generations of women have fought for far too long, have fought far too hard, to have these rights slip away at the hands of the minority which believes women should not have agency over our own bodies,” Marci Len, Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Canada said Wednesday.

She says LGBTQ2S+ people, Indigenous people, those on low income, and those in remote communities continue to see barriers. Len says Canada is working to ensure access to abortions is equal.

“Nobody should be denied an abortion because it is too far to travel or too difficult to coordinate an abortion.”

More announcements and program partnerships are expected in the coming days, as the federal Health Minister Yves Jean-Yves Duclos promised the government would be working to defend the right and access to abortions.

“This is two projects out of a total of nine projects which we have been able to engage on with credible organizations,” he said, noting it will be a $45-million commitment.

The funding also includes training for health care providers in providing abortions. In Canada, physicians can refuse a patient an abortion due to their own personal beliefs.

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The move comes on the heels of the leaked draft opinion of a U.S. Supreme Court judge which suggested the majority of justices are prepared to overrule Roe v. Wade, the decision which allows legal abortions in the U.S. Overturning it would give the power to ban abortions to state legislatures.

Meanwhile, anti-abortion activists stood in front of the Supreme Court in Ottawa Wednesday, saying they hoped a potential court decision in the U.S. would also be adopted here in Canada.

Josie Luetke, co-youth coordinator for Campaign Life Coalition, says their goal is a blanket abortion ban in Canada — even in circumstances of rape.

In the last federal election, the Liberals vowed to bring in regulations under the Canada Health Act to better protect a woman’s right to choose, although it is unclear when those regulations will be announced.

Wednesday’s funding announcement did not have any details on the next steps regarding those election promises or in bringing new legislation.

“First, there is the legal case for defending abortion is strong in Canada … there is no jurors in Canada which believe this case could be overturned,” Duclos said.

He says experts agree Canada wants to protect abortion laws, but is considering which way to do that.

“As the prime minister said, there is nothing off the table.”

There are no laws barring women from having an abortion in Canada, but it is also not constitutionally protected.

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