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Abortion | A Right Never Really Gained

On the morning of June 24, 2022, the first thing I see when I open my cell phone is an article removing the federal right to abortion: "U.S. Supreme Court Repeals Roe v. Wade".

Abortion remains a highly debated topic around the world. The control of a woman's body is still a hot topic whether it is for its physiognomic attributes or to legislate the rights a woman has over it.

Criminalized until 1988 in Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law as unconstitutional, legalizing abortion. However, equality should not be confused with the inherent right to abortion.

The Supreme Court of Canada did not declare abortion to be an inherent right of women under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but rather that the law criminalizing abortion violated the Charter and legalized the medical procedure.

Although legal, abortion is not readily available in all provinces. Moreover, it is only since 2008 that abortion services are free of charge and fully financed by the State (upon presentation of a valid health insurance card).

In Quebec, two abortion methods are available:

  • Instrumental abortion, which is a minor procedure lasting less than 10 minutes;

  • Medication abortion (approved by Health Canada since 2015), which consists of medication (a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol) that causes the termination and expulsion of the pregnancy (up to 9 weeks of pregnancy).

What do "pro-choice" and "pro-life" mean?

The public square is divided between two camps, "pro-choice" and "pro-life". One side claims women's political and ethical right to have power and control over their bodies with respect to fertility and pregnancy, and the other side claims to be a "defender" of the right to life by opposing the right to abortion.

The "pro-life" movement is particularly supported by various religious movements and appeals to the right to life to challenge the right to abortion, prioritizing the right to life of the fetus over the right to life of the person carrying the fetus, regardless of the risks sometimes incurred to the physical health and integrity of the person concerned.

The term "pro-choice" supports the bodily autonomy of all women and trans and non-binary people to choose if and when they want to have children. Being pro-choice is about defending free and open access to abortion, but also to contraception and sex education. It is about recognizing the autonomy and inherent right of a person to choose to dispose of her body as she sees fit and to have access to fair and reliable information without judgment and with respect.

Thus, abortion is a right that has never been fully achieved and is constantly challenged, even here in Canada. Recent events in the United States, where several states have recriminalized abortion, underscore the importance of continuing to fight for the rights of women, trans and non-binary people to have autonomy over their bodies.

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