'They're our neighbours': Rally voices concerns American abortion decision could impact Alberta

A rally outside the legislature on Sunday called for concrete action to protect abortion access in Alberta in light of reports a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion law could be overturned.

Last week, a leaked draft from the top American court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion-rights decision sent shockwaves across the globe, introducing the possibility that a nearly 50-year-old precedent could be changed.

While no final determination from the court has been issued, the disclosure of the draft highlighted concerns about abortion access in the United States and Canada.

Nicole Pope moved from New Mexico to Edmonton for school. Should the United States Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, she says she may not return home.

"I think I would be more likely to stay in Canada because I'd like to live somewhere where I have access to healthcare and my rights are being protected," Pope said.

Despite being thousands of kilometres from her Alabama home, Kierston Withrow said she felt compelled to attend the rally outside Alberta's Legislature.

"I was really angry, not surprised," Withrow said.

"Lots of friends, lots of people who could get pregnant and may need an abortion," Withrow said. "I know that they have a lot of privilege in the fact that they have more access, and they can go to another state or even come here to get an abortion, but there are so many people who can't even drive."

Abortion was decriminalized in Canada in 1988, with the federal government passing laws but provinces holding the jurisdiction to determine access and fund services.

A common sentiment among those gathered was worry that what happens south of the border could make its way to Canada.

"With what's going on in the U.S., it's obviously making people pretty worried that the access we have are going to be in jeopardy," said Lauren Higginbotham. "Just with the influence that America has."

"It's the 21st century, and it's happening in the U.S.," said Jessica Skoreyko. "(They're) our neighbours, so you never know."

The New Democratic Party in Alberta wants the United Conservative Party government to take a stance on the issue.

"We would like to see the government actually say definitively that they're going to expand services to other parts of the province that need them," said Sarah Hoffman, NDP deputy leader.

Last week, Premier Jason Kenney accused the Opposition of trying to invent a political controversy.

"The health minister said the government has no intention of changing access to abortion," Kenney said.