The fight for abortion rights is a fight for democracy

LEAF and Action Canada
March 19, 2024
Having control over our bodies is crucial for having control over our lives. Because of this, abortion is not just a health issue. Whether women and people capable of becoming pregnant can make decisions about if, when, or with whom to have children and about what they do with their body, for health or any other reason, is an equity issue. 

The systemic denial of sexual and reproductive rights has far-reaching consequences. It perpetuates gender inequity, restricts peoples' autonomy over their body, and restricts their agency to make informed decisions about their health and their lives. It compounds social and economic inequalities and perpetuates cycles of poverty, limiting people's opportunities and potential. It also destabilizes democracies.

We are currently witnessing a coordinated global backlash against sexual and reproductive rights, gender equality, and democracy. 

Around the world, a number of governments and influential actors are actively working to undermine the progress made in advancing sexual and reproductive rights. They are taking over democratic institutions and deploying regressive policies, restrictive legislation, and harmful narratives that seek to control and suppress people's autonomy and bodily integrity. These efforts disproportionately affect women, girls, 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, and other marginalized groups.

It is no accident that sexual and reproductive rights are targeted. The issue of abortion has been strategically used by supporters of authoritarian movements to mobilize their base and build political power and influence. By framing abortion as a moral issue, these groups can rally their followers and galvanize them to vote and engage in political activism that infringes upon human rights. Abortion becomes a rallying cry and a prominent issue used to mobilize supporters during elections, distracting from other authoritarian objectives like voter suppression or the dismantling of social services like public health care and education. 

Targeting abortion rights is also at the very heart of the authoritarian worldview. Authoritarian movements often promote a conservative social and cultural agenda that seeks to “go back to” and impose what is perceived as traditional values and norms. Enforcing a hierarchy of genders, with people performing their strict gender roles, for example, men being head of states and of the family while women raise children and perform domestic duties, is key to the realization of their vision. Restricting abortion then becomes part of a larger effort to enforce specific values, norms, family structures and gender roles.

We do not have to look far to see an example of such attacks on sexual and reproductive rights with the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States, which stripped away constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place for over 50 years. In the devastating wake of that Supreme Court decision, Canadians were rightly worried and many wondered how to protect abortion rights in Canada.

It is in this spirit that LEAF and Action Canada, with the support of several other reproductive rights organizations and advocates, have joined forces to create a comprehensive resource offering information about the state of abortion in Canada. 

The Abortion Access Tracker aims to paint a clear picture of the legal landscape for abortion and the reality of accessing abortion services across the country to help us better understand gaps and identify opportunities to protect and improve access for everyone in Canada.. 

By outlining the policies, regulations, and laws that impact abortion access, we hope to offer a powerful tool for advocacy and education. 

By highlighting the barriers to accessing abortion services in regions and communities, we hope to help mobilize efforts to address these disparities and ensure that all individuals have equal access to the reproductive healthcare they need and are entitled to.