Op-Ed

Pierre Karl Péladeau, leader of the Parti Québécois. Photo: CC, Samounet.

Women deserve the right to safe and calm abortions in Canada

Imagine going to the clinic for surgery and feeling anxious, the only thing keeping you together is thinking about how all of this will be over in a few hours and how much better you’ll feel after it.

As you approach the clinic, a mob of angry protesters run up and start screaming at you, telling you that you’ll regret this surgery and that you’re making an awful decision. They begin shoving photos of surgeries in your face, gory photos that would make you sick even if you weren’t already feeling unwell.

This is the reality that many girls and women face when they make the decision to get an abortion, which is why Quebec’s opposition party, the Parti Québécois, has proposed a “safe zone” around abortion clinics in their province that would prevent “pro-life” protests from taking place within 50 meters of these clinics.

This law is one that should be common sense in a country where abortion is legal, and thousands of women seek abortions each year. It is not completely stopping anti-abortion groups from protesting, it’s just making it safer for women to get these legal surgeries that they have full right to.

According to a VICE News article, the “safe zone” law is based on similar laws already in place in British Columbia and 13 American states. The article says that the law in BC was created after the attempted murder of Dr. Garson Romalis, an abortion provider, in 1994.

This law in Quebec would ensure the safety and well-being of women who are going to these clinics for abortions, many of whom are most likely already feeling anxious about the procedure, and who may have experienced traumatic events beforehand leading to the pregnancy.

The law would also ensure the safety of people who work at abortion clinics, especially following the mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last year, which Parti Québécois member Carole Poirier says inspired the Quebec law, according to VICE News.

Although some anti-abortion activists believe this law is infringing on their right to “freedom of speech”, the article mentions that these protests can cause stress that increases risks to the procedure, not only affecting a woman’s mental health, but also her physical health.

If this law passes, Quebec will be taking a step in the right direction, and other provinces should follow suit. Ontario, which according to data compiled by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada from Canadian Institute for Health Information, had the second-highest abortion rates in Canada, behind Quebec, in 2014, and should therefore be the first province to follow in Quebec’s footsteps to ensure the safety and well-being of the many women who seek abortions in their province.

Until Mifegymiso, better known as RU-486 or the “abortion pill”, is released in Canada later this year, surgical abortions will remain the best and most often-used method by women seeking to terminate their pregnancy. While we wait for this less intrusive and easier-to-access pill to become available, women deserve to be able to have a safe and calm place to access abortion, something this law will hopefully ensure.