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'Over my dead body' will abortion laws change, says B.C. finance minister

“As a government, we’re committed to continuing to deliver abortion services to those who are pregnant. We see this as health care.”
B.C. finance minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. MLAs made impassioned statements at the legislature Tuesday on the prospect of changes to abortion laws in Canada on the heels of a leaked draft decision on overturning abortion rights south of the border.

“Any change to access to abortion will be over my dead body,” said Finance Minister Selina Robinson.

Robinson was asked in a scrum about any possible changes to abortion access in the province and country on the heels of a leaked draft decision that would overturn a landmark decision on abortion rights in the United States.

“This is a critical issue for all Canadians and British Columbians,” Robinson said, adding she believes the matter is settled here. “As a government, we’re committed to continuing to deliver abortion services to those who are pregnant. We see this as health care.”

A U.S. Supreme Court draft decision on abortion was reported late Monday by Politico. The draft, which has yet to be voted on by the court, would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that effectively guaranteed the right to an abortion. The high court has acknowledged the draft is authentic but said it does not represent a final decision or opinion.

Abortion in Canada is legal at all stages of pregnancy for any reason and is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the combined federal Canada Health Act and provincial health-care systems that deliver health care.

In B.C., a medical abortion, which uses medication to cause the abortion, can be done up to seven weeks after the last menstrual period. Surgical abortion can be done from the fifth week after the last menstrual period up to the 20th week of pregnancy, according to HealthLinkBC.

In Canada, the Bloc Québécois is expected to ask the House of Commons to vote on a motion confirming the right to an abortion.

The draft decision south of the border also prompted the Bloc Québécois to signal Tuesday it would present a motion after question period confirming that a woman’s body is hers alone, as is her decision to have an abortion for whatever reason.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long supported a woman’s right to choose.

“The right to choose is a woman’s right and a woman’s right alone,” Trudeau said last year. “Every woman in Canada has a right to a safe and legal abortion. It’s time men stop telling other men that it’s OK for them to decide what women can or cannot do with their bodies.”

He shared similar sentiments in a tweet on Tuesday.

Abortion remains a thorny political issue for the Conservatives, however. The party is in the middle of a leadership race in which anti-abortion groups are mobilizing to back candidates who oppose the procedure.

In B.C., Robinson cited the standing ovation given to Grace Lore, parliamentary secretary for gender equity, after her passionate statement on the issue as an indication of where B.C. MLAs stand on the issue.

“I believe everybody in this house stood to applaud as Grace Lore,” Robinson said.

In her statement, Lore, who represents Victoria-Beacon Hill, called the idea of stripping women of their access to safe abortions “chilling and horrifying.”

“Today, I think of the women and others who have fought for the right to choose and protected that right over many years, including women in this house.”

Lore and Robinson both stressed that abortion is health care.

“It is a profoundly personal choice that should not be decided or influenced by anyone beyond the person who is pregnant,” Lore said.

She said society needs to consider the countless women who have died when safe access was denied. “Actions like this won’t stop abortions — they will just stop safe ones.”

The B.C. government has taken important steps to support access to safe abortions, including providing universal no-cost access to medical abortion and stocking it in rural pharmacies, she said.

“There is more to do, especially with access in rural areas, and our government will continue to work to support and improve access across the province,” Lore said.

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— With files from The Canadian Press