'Dark day for women': Quebec political leaders unanimous in condemning removal of abortion rights in U.S.

Politicians across the political spectrum in Quebec were swift to denounce the roll-back of reproductive rights south of the border Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark case known as Roe v. Wade.

Premier François Legault reacted to the news Friday, saying in a tweet that he believed it was a "sad setback for women's rights and freedoms." His CAQ Minister for Women, Isabelle Charest, also vowed to protect a woman's right to choose, saying that it should "never be called into question."

In a historic move, the country's highest court overturned constitutional protections for women that had been in place for more than 50 years, stripping them of the right to universal access to abortion. The 6-3 ruling paves the way for states to ban abortion — with some like Louisiana, Missouri, and Kentucky, among others, already enacting immediate bans.

In Missouri, for example, anyone caught performing an abortion could face up to 15 years in prison, unless it's deemed an emergency, U.S. media reported.

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade expressed her disappointment in the high-court ruling, calling it a "dark day for women and their rights and freedoms."

"We must continue to fight so that our daughters always have more rights than us, not less," she wrote on Twitter.

Triste recul pour les droits et libertés des femmes. https://t.co/57vf5ss3mD

— François Legault (@francoislegault) June 24, 2022

Other opposition parties echoed those sentiments, including the Parti Québécois, whose leader , Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, said overturning Roe v. Wade is "a reminder of the fragility of achievements, which we must always seek to protect."

Meanwhile, Manon Massé, co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, said she was "angry" by the Supreme Court's decision, calling it "a 50-year setback for American society, a dangerous decision for its women."

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante was also among those who said Friday she was "outraged" by the ruling. 

"This decision is an unacceptable setback," she wrote on Twitter. "Let us denounce it forcefully and vigorously, here as elsewhere."

Je suis outrée par le renversement de l’arrêt Roe vs Wade, et solidaire de toutes les Américaines qui voient leur droit de disposer de leur corps être bafoué.

Cette décision est un recul inacceptable.

Dénonçons-la avec force et vigueur, ici comme ailleurs. #RoeVsWade #polmtl

— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) June 24, 2022

While abortion has been decriminalized in Canada since 1988, there is still no law that guarantees it as a universal right and some pro-abortion advocates point to gaps in access in some parts of the country. At least one candidate in the running to be the next leader of the Conservative Pary of Canada — Leslyn Lewis — has said she supports limiting access to abortion in certain circumstances.

In Quebec, pro-abortion advocates held a protest outside the American consulate last month to demand better access to abortion on both sides of the border. They pointed to wait times, restrictive laws in some provinces, travel distances and unequal access based on residence as issues many women in Canada have accessing safe abortions.

Their protest came three weeks following the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito hinting that the overturning of abortion rights was imminent.

"We want to counteract the influence that such a decision could have in Canada," said Élise Landriault-Dupont, spokesperson for the Regroupement des groupes de femmes de la Capitale-Nationale (RGF-CN), at the May 28 protest, which coincided with the International Day of Action for Women's Health.

"And although there are many attacks on this right here as well, it is important to remember that case law clearly establishes the legitimacy of the right to abortion in Canada."