Abortion access is an integral part of healthcare

Kirby Harris

For over 30 years, Canada has been the only nation in the world to have no legal abortion restrictions at a federal level. However, abortions are still far more politicized than other medical procedures, meaning your ability to access the procedure in Canada depends on how your provincial government, city, and doctor feel about abortion.

Since the 1990s, abortion has been a relatively easy service to access in Canada’s urban centres. Cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver have multiple abortion clinics as well as hospitals that provide the procedure. However, for those outside of our country’s largest cities, easy abortion access is far from a reality.

While abortions are insured in all provinces and territories, some provinces have limited funding for the procedure. Ontario won’t fund abortions at every clinic. New Brunswick doesn’t fund abortion clinics at all. Prince Edward Island didn’t have a single abortion clinic until 2017. However, if you are more than 12 weeks pregnant, you still have to travel outside the province for an abortion.

If there are no abortion clinics in your area, hospital access is an option but not guaranteed. Medical practitioners can refuse to provide abortions due to personal belief, meaning that even if you find a willing doctor at a local hospital, you may also need a willing anesthesiologist and nurse.

Even then, waitlists can be weeks long. If you don’t find out you’re pregnant early on, those extra weeks could mean the difference between getting an abortion at home and having to travel to another province that allows the procedure at a later date.

Travelling for an abortion isn’t realistic for everyone for a variety of reasons. As most abortions are a multiple-day process, requiring two appointments 24-hours apart, travelling to receive the procedure is more than a one-day trip. The cost of travel, lodging, and missing work is simply too high for some.

For others, such as minors looking to get the procedure without the knowledge of their legal guardian, it’s difficult—possibly dangerous—to travel a long distance alone.

It’s not enough for abortion to be legal; it must be accessible to anyone who requires one. As long as anyone in Canada struggles to receive the procedure, the discussion surrounding abortion isn’t over.

Instead of being a politicized topic, abortion must be treated as the necessary medical procedure it is. There cannot continue to be special rules and exceptions that allow limited access.

Abortion funding should be dispensed by the need of each province, not by the political interest of each provincial administration. If provinces like New Brunswick continue to withhold funding, the federal government must be willing to step in. Only when abortion is accessible to everyone, regardless of location, will the barriers put up by decades of political divide be torn down.

Kirby is a third-year Global Development student and The Journal’s Assistant Lifestyle Editor.

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