On Saturday morning, about 100 people gathered in Halifax to rally in response to Friday’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to overturn Roe v. Wade.
One of the attendees at the rally, hosted by Gender Affirming Care Nova Scotia, was N.S. registered nurse and author Dr. Martha Paynter.
“As an abortion care provider in Canada, I feel deep solidarity with colleagues south of the border — and terror for their patients,” said Paynter at the rally.
In Canada, abortion has been decriminalized since a 1988 decision by the Canadian Supreme Court struck down a 1969 law that amended the Criminal Code and made abortion accessible, but only if the mother’s life was in danger as certified by a committee of doctors. Since the SCC decision, abortion has been available under the Canada Health Act with no federal laws restricting it, though access varies across the country.
Paynter said she wasn’t surprised by the U.S. Supreme Court abortion access decision, but she said she wants to make one thing clear.
“We have an incredibly different system in Canada. Abortion is completely decriminalized. There is case, upon case, upon case, that reaffirm we have the right to govern our bodies.”
“We do not want an abortion law to be created,” she said. “As abortion care providers, that would only circumscribe what we are able to do and create the potential for someone to take that law away.”
So for those attending the rally, it was a chance to show solidarity, and ensure Canadians don’t become complacent.
This was the second rally held in Halifax since the ruling was announced Friday morning.
Friday afternoon, the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers (CALL), held an urgent rally in front of the U.S. Consulate in downtown Halifax. They called the ruling “a historic and devastating setback” for those who access abortions.
Of the approximately 100 people that attended Saturday’s rally, one was Timothy Allenby, who said he’s glad Canada has “good” abortion laws.
“The fact that abortion is treated as health care, do not take that for granted. Do not assume that will stay the same way,” Allenby said. “Take that into account when you vote.”
Some attendees said they worry the ruling being overturned will lead to unsafe abortions in the U.S.
Doctor Lianne Yoshida said her only surprise was how emotional and sad she felt when hearing the news.
Yoshida, the co-medical director of Nova Scotia Women’s Choice Clinic, said she had helped patients access safe, publicly funded abortions for 22 years.
“I’ve heard thousands and thousands of stories, and the idea, even imagining that I couldn’t do that, or what would’ve happened to all of those people I’ve helped if they couldn’t have an abortion that I provided… I just was very sad.”
Meanwhile, Paynter said in Nova Scotia, there have been great strides made in improving access to abortion, especially since implementing a self-referral line in 2018.
But, access to reproductive care doesn’t end there, she said.
“What we need to do now is universal coverage for contraception, that’s the number one priority. It doesn’t make any sense that we have public funding for abortion and not the prevention of pregnancy,” Paynter said.
“Number two, we need to expand our gestational age cap. Currently, we only have the capacity to do elective abortions to 16 weeks.”
She also said nurse practioners and midwives need authorization to do surgical abortions, and that abortion care needs to be included in medical and nursing school programs.
— With files from Karla Renic.
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