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A Canadian official says Americans can get abortions there if Roe is overturned

Pro-choice demonstrators make signs Tuesday in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.
Brendan Smialowski
/
AFP via Getty Images
Pro-choice demonstrators make signs Tuesday in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.

While it's not yet clear what resemblance the Supreme Court's leaked draft opinion will bear to the final version, its current form suggests Justices may soon reverse federal abortion protections.

And if that does come to pass, at least one Canadian official says Americans who are able to travel across the northern border will be able access the procedure there.

Karina Gould, the minister of families, children and social development, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that Canada would allow Americans to obtain abortions.

"I don't see why we would not," she said on the CBC News Network's Power & Politics. "If they, people, come here and need access, certainly, you know, that's a service that would be provided."

A spokesperson for Gould later told the network that Americans accessing health care services in Canada — which has a universal, publicly-funded health care system — would continue to have to pay for the service either out-of-pocket or with their own private insurance, if they're not covered by one of Canada's provincial health plans.

The Detroit Free Press says the move would be possible in theory but more complicated in practice, noting that availability isn't the same as accessibility. Distance from an abortion provider could pose a challenge, as could pandemic precautions at the international border and the additional cost of travel.

Gould also expressed worry about what such a decision could mean for Canadians who would otherwise travel to the U.S. for an abortion.

"One of the concerning factors here is that there are many Canadian women who maybe don't live near a major city in Canada, but will often access these services in the United States," she said. "I'm very concerned about the leak yesterday. I'm very concerned about what this means, particularly for American women, but also for Canadian women."

Thousands of Canadians had abortions in the U.S. in the 1980s, after Roe was first decided but before abortion became legal in Canada, according to the Detroit Free Press. Canada does not currently have a federal law governing abortion, which is legal at all stages of pregnancy, regardless of the reason.

Its National Abortion Federation explains that it is "treated like other medical procedures and regulated through provincial/territorial and professional bodies."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted on Tuesday about the importance of protecting women's rights, without specifically mentioning the Supreme Court's draft opinion.

"The right to choose is a woman's right and a woman's right alone. Every woman in Canada has a right to a safe and legal abortion," he wrote. "We'll never back down from protecting and promoting women's rights in Canada and around the world."

As Americans find themselves on the cusp of potentially losing federal abortion protections, many other countries are in the process of making it more accessible, as The Associated Press reports.

Argentina, Ireland, Mexico and most recently Colombia are among the countries that have moved to legalize or ease access to abortion in the past few years. Mexico's Supreme Court voted to decriminalize abortion this past September, days after Texas enacted a law banning the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.

Paula Avila-Guillen, executive director of the Women's Equality Center, noted at the time that it was legal for people in the border state of Coahuila to terminate their pregnancies through the first trimester, and asked: "Could the safest way for Texan women to have access to a safe, legal abortion soon be to make their way to Mexico?"


This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.