Source: Stephanie Taylor | CBC News
A pro-choice organization in Canada says that even if Saskatchewan’s next premier wanted to restrict abortion access in the province, they couldn’t.
“Essentially provinces don’t have the choice to become anti-choice,” says Darrah Teitel, public affairs officer for Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. “The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is clear, so is the Canada Health Act, which includes abortion as a medical service and so is international law around non-discrimination and reproductive rights.”
Teitel said any move to strip existing abortion services of funding would contravene federal law.
However, Teitel listed examples where access to abortion was restricted in other provinces.
She said that until recently in Nova Scotia, a woman seeking an abortion was required to be referred by a doctor —known as the two-doctor rule — while women living on Prince Edward Island went without abortion services for more than three decades.
New Brunswick has also faced criticism for not funding abortions at private clinics.
Ken Cheveldayoff, ranked as the number one candidate by the anti-abortion group Right Now, and Scott Moe, billed as the group’s second pick, have both confirmed they have no intention to introduce anti-abortion legislation.
Pandering for Brad Trost voters
But why, as a candidate, engage in the debate in the first place? A political scientist who teaches at the University of Regina says it comes down to votes.
“There is certainly a caucus in the party, a group of voters, that are motivated by this issue, the Brad Trost voters, if you will,” said Ken Rasmussen. “It’s definitely a constituency within the party that they have to consider.”
While abortion is an issue that garners little reaction in the general public, he said, it can play a more prominent role in a leadership race, which is appealing to a more select group of individuals — people who joined the party who are committed to various causes.
“Cheveldayoff is making a gamble that there are enough voters within the party that are going to support his position to push him over the top,” said Rasmussen. “It may indicate that the election is much closer than we think.”
Kelly Gordon has studied the strategies utilized by the anti-abortion movement in Canada.
She said it’s difficult to determine how effective tactics such as the one employed by Right Now are on campaigns, but said it helps “raise the profile” of the issue.
Frustration and disappointment
Natalya Mason, an education and outreach coordinator with the Saskatoon Sexual Health Centre, said she felt both frustration and disappointment when hearing the statements made about the issue this week.
“There are a number of anti-choice, pro-life groups who have very loud voices and they are the ones that are often bringing this issue up, especially during leadership races,” she said.
“It was not surprising that the candidates expressing those views were male. Abortion isn’t likely an issue that is going to have an impact on their own personal life, health or safety, so not having a full understanding of its importance.”