Aheer lone UCP leadership candidate to condemn U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision
Many UCP leadership hopefuls and the Alberta government say a U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and allow individual states to ban abortion won’t affect their policy.
Advocates across the country on both sides of the issue have suggested the historic reversal could have a political impact in Canada, but Alberta’s Status of Women Associate Minister Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk noted in a Friday statement the legal status of abortion in Canada falls strictly within federal jurisdiction, and the American ruling doesn’t apply.
“There has been no change in policy in our province and none is proposed,” she said. Most of those running for UCP leadership who responded to Postmedia echoed that statement, promising no changes to abortion policy.
However, MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore Leela Aheer called the court decision an attack on bodily autonomy and warned against dismissing its potential impact north of the border.
“It’s an American decision, but the idea that that could not bleed into our system is ludicrous,” said Aheer, adding that Alberta has a lot of issues with access, particularly in rural areas, and she would work to extend women’s health care across the province.
Aheer said making statements that “there’s nothing to see here,” avoids discussion and debate instead of making progress.
“There is a will by people to try and see that laws are being created to create barriers to women’s reproductive rights,” she said.
Former transportation minister Rajan Sawhney noted it’s a federal matter.
“Having said that, my government will not make any legislative changes on abortion.”
Former children’s services minister Rebecca Schulz said she believes all women should have the freedom to choose and have access to the health-care services they need.
“Under a Schulz government this will not change,” she said.
MLA for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche Brian Jean said nothing about the ruling changed any law, regulation or rule in Alberta or Canada.
“Any politician or leftist activist who implies otherwise is simply trying to create divisions amongst Albertans.”
Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith also said the decision has no bearing on what happens in Alberta or Canada.
“That said, I am pro-choice, and that includes supporting a person’s right to make choices on what to do with their own body, such as medical treatments and vaccines,” she said, promising to amend the Human Rights Act to protect against discrimination based on medical choices or political beliefs.
Former finance minister Travis Toews’ campaign pointed to comments made last week to Postmedia columnist Don Braid, when Toews said his personal views are “pro-life.”
“But, I have no intention or agenda on limiting access to health care with respect to abortion,” he said. A new leader, and premier, will be elected on Oct. 6.
In Canada, abortion is decriminalized and publicly funded, but access to health services is left up to provinces and varies widely. Three facilities officially offer surgical procedures in Alberta, including one in Edmonton and two in Calgary.
Health Minister Jason Copping has previously noted that abortion pill Mifegymiso is available across the province, and that Alberta Health Services decides what services will be provided and where, based on demand.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said at a news conference from Calgary Friday the U.S. decision is “abhorrent,” and illustrates the need to fight for fundamental human rights and increase access to abortion in Alberta.
“Lives will be ruined as the result of this court decision, and make no mistake, people will die,” said Notley, adding anti-abortion groups are hard at work in Alberta and Canada.
“I am horrified, but we would also be naive to think that this is a ‘somewhere else’ problem,” she said.
Jeff Gunnarson, national president of the Campaign Life Coalition said in a Friday release the reversal of Roe v. Wade is encouraging.
“When life is winning in America, it is only a matter of time before life will be winning here in Canada too,” he said.
Melanie Anderson with the Alberta Society for the Promotion of Sexual Health said she anticipates a political impact.
“We also expect that there’s going to be a little bit more anti-choice activity up in Canada, they always seem to take the lead from the U.S.”
-With files from Dylan Short
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