Abortion has been legal in Canada for 30 years, and yet many people across the country STILL can’t access an abortion when they need it.
Access to abortion still depends on your financial situation, geographic location, immigration status, and whether physicians in your community are willing to provide a referral. Certain provinces and territories have regulations that limit access to abortion, even though under the Canada Health Act, the Government of Canada is required to intervene when access to abortion is restricted.
Abortion is a common procedure but most abortion providers are located less than 150 km from the US border.
Not all people who want an abortion in Canada have access to abortion because:
- There are medically unnecessarily rules and regulations at provincial and territorial levels, or within regional health systems and hospital settings, that prevent access.
- In Nunavut, medical abortion (the abortion pill) is not covered for everyone, and access to surgical abortion requires air travel (for those outside of Iqaluit).
- In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the governments will not cover the cost of surgical abortion services outside of hospitals. This means that freestanding abortion clinics either cannot exist or must charge patients for services that should, by federal law, be covered by Medicare.
- They have to travel large distances to access abortion, either within or across provincial lines;
- They have to travel to the US for abortion services post-23 weeks.
- The interference and intimidation from anti-choice organizations and activists that often mislead, confuse, and delay individuals seeking an abortion.
- The harassment, threats, violence, and intimidation from anti-choice protesters outside of sexual health clinics and hospitals providing abortion.
- The lack of resources (money, car, credit card, etc.) required to book and travel to an abortion appointment.
- The unavailability of culturally safe and appropriate sexual health services for people who do not speak English or French or who are immigrants, refugees or members of minority cultures.
- There are judgemental service providers who stigmatize people with addictions and other mental and physical health challenges.
Increasing access to medical abortion (the abortion pill, Mifegymiso) could address inequalities. It can be administered by different health care providers, including family doctors, midwives and nurses, which increases access in more remote and rural areas and within under-serviced communities.
Canada must do more to stop anti-choice organizations and individuals from harassing, misleading, intimidating, and threatening people who want an abortion and who provide abortions. A small, vocal, and well-funded minority of people in Canada and around the world are dedicated to curtailing and violating abortion rights. Many of these anti-choice organizations actively interfere with people’s access to abortion care by sharing misleading information, representing themselves as unbiased pregnancy counselling services, or picketing abortion clinics or hospitals.
What the Federal Government can do to right now to ensure all people have equal access to abortion:
- Withhold cash transfers to provinces and territories failing to ensure the availability and accessibility of abortion services.
- Publish accurate health information about abortion and actively dispel false health information proliferated by anti-choice organizations.
- Establish a fully-funded national protocol for people seeking abortion services post-23 weeks outside of Canada.