'Over my dead body': B.C. politicians vow abortion access won't change in province

With the U.S. Supreme Court now expected to strike down the 50-year-old law guaranteeing access to abortion for all Americans, politicians and pro-choice activists in B.C. are sounding off.

“It’s extremely shocking, devastating actually. I cried, it’s awful,” said Joyce Arthur the Vancouver-based executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

Michelle Fortin with Options for Sexual Health B.C. was equally stunned.

“I’m really concerned for the rights that people have over their own bodies and autonomy. It is shocking,” she said. “It’s is 2022 and I feel like we are living in a dystopian novel.”

The NDP’s parliamentary secretary for gender equality Grace Lore stood up in the legislature Tuesday to blast the impending court decision.

“Their plan to overturn Roe v. Wade and strip women across the country of access to safe abortions is chilling and horrifying news,” said Lore, adding “Abortion is healthcare.”

But it hasn’t always been that way. Canada had anti-abortion laws on the books as recently as 34 years ago.

“In 1988 the law against abortion was struck down and we don’t have a law in support of abortion, what we do have are Charter rights that say that as a woman, we have a right to bodily autonomy, and therefore to choice,” said Fortin.

Unlike the U.S., there is no mechanism to suddenly outlaw or even restrict abortion in Canada.

“We don’t have the same concerns because we don’t have a body like the Supreme Court that holds so much power over rights and freedoms,” said Fortin.

Arthur pointed out that Canadian provinces can't act on their own because the Criminal Code is federal jurisdiction.

And she thinks the public would revolt if politicians tried.

“Canada is more liberal, I think. Less religious than the U.S.,” she said. “There is a lot of power in the anti-choice movement in the U.S. compared to Canada, where they don’t have nearly as much influence. They can’t get any laws passed here.”

But pro-choice activists say what’s happening south of the border should still be a wake-up call for Canadians.

“The reality is that hard-fought rights are always at risk if we get complacent,” said Fortin. “I think those of us that are pro-choice need to be vocal about being pro-choice.”

B.C. finance minister Selena Robinson believes the issue is settled in Canada, but she says she’s ready to fight if necessary.

“Any change in access to abortion will be over my dead body. This is a critical issue for all Canadians and British Columbians," she said.

It’s an issue that’s been thrust to the forefront of American politics once again, and is highlighting the very real differences between two neighboruing countries.