Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade represents a victory for Republican politicians and the Christian right, but it’s calamitous for millions of American women, abortion rights supporters and pro-choice activists in Toronto say.
Mohini Datta-Ray, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Toronto, says the ruling was a blow even though it was expected that the highest court in the U.S. would overturn the decision that secured constitutional protections for abortion for nearly 50 years.
“I cried for 45 minutes,” Datta-Ray told CBC News.
“Those of us who work at the reproductive justice movement obviously saw it coming down the road … but it is still devastating, devastating.”
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.
This is disgusting. It is anti-woman, it is anti-trans folks, it is anti-non-binary folks, it is anti-choice, and what this is going to do is it’s going to push people underground to accessing unsafe abortions.– Jill Andrew, NDP MPP, Toronto-St. Paul’s
The court, in a 6-3 ruling powered by its conservative majority, upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The vote was 5-4 to overturn Roe v. Wade, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts writing separately to say he would have upheld the Mississippi law without taking the additional step of erasing the Roe precedent altogether.
According to Datta-Ray, the ruling sends a message that if you stack the courts and legislatures and organize for decades, “you will be able to roll back the rights of people of colour, of young people, of women, of trans folks, of queer folks.”
‘An emboldening move to fascist movements’
Datta-Ray describes the ruling as “an emboldening move to fascist movements everywhere.”
She says even though the political systems in Canada and the United States are very different, the same “right wing” forces are at play in both countries.
Datta-Ray says abortion and pro-choice activists want to underscore that “there can be a temptation to want to legislate around abortion access in Canada.”
“We caution strongly against it because that opens the possibility of negotiating some kind of middle ground with the religious right or having a future government come in and place restrictions right now,” she said.
According to Datta-Ray, “only 16 per cent of hospitals in Canada offer abortions [and] that itself should be a matter of great concern.”
Jill Andrew, the NDP MPP who represents the riding of Toronto–St. Paul’s, says her immediate reaction to the ruling was “sheer horror and disgust.”
“This is a nightmare for women, for non-binary folks, for trans men, for trans folks,” Andrew said.
“People should be able to get access to abortions, to safe abortions. This is health care. Activists have fought for decades to have this right and to see it stripped is a huge crime against humanity, against civil rights, against human rights, and I am appalled.”
Andrew says the ruling sends a message to anyone seeking to have an abortion, that they do not have the right to their own reproductive rights or to make a choice.”
“This is disgusting. It is anti-woman, it is anti-trans folks, it is anti-non-binary folks, it is anti-choice, and what this is going to do is it’s going to push people underground to accessing unsafe abortions,” Andrew said.
‘We’re ecstatic,’ anti-abortion group says
Meanwhile, Andrew said the ruling is an attack against civil rights that has left millions of people upset.
“I’m hearing the rage, I’m hearing the shock, the fear,” she said.
“This is taking us way back, way back to a place in history that we should never want to revisit. It’s an attack against human rights, and it is an attack against people’s access to health care … It should not be happening. It is a disgrace.”
But the ruling has been welcomed by Campaign Life Coalition — a political lobbying group based in Hamilton, Ont.
Campaign Life Coalition is opposed to abortion in all circumstances. Ludtke says if a woman does not want to keep her child, the most logical option would be to place that child with an adoptive family.
Josie Ludtke, one of the coalition’s youth organizers, says they hope to see Canada follow in the footsteps of the United States “in terms of extending human rights to all human beings.”
According to Ludtke, the group hopes the end of Roe v. Wade will start conversations between neighbours, friends and family members, and that people will start to talk about what abortion really is.
“We’re ecstatic. We look forward to the lives that are going to be saved as a result of this decision,” Ludtke said.
“We’re very optimistic that this will reignite the abortion debate here in Canada.”