About 200 Calgarians gathered downtown at Olympic Plaza on Sunday afternoon for a rally supporting abortion rights.
The event came in the wake of a leaked United States Supreme Court draft decision that indicated justices might overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in that country.
Rally host and organizer Adora Nwofor voiced concern the developments south of the border could embolden abortion opponents, both in the political sphere as well as in broader society.
“Very often the decisions that are made in the States impact Canadians,” Nwofor told Postmedia. “They are planning to keep pushing their pro-life point of view.”
In early May, after reports of the possible U.S. decision to rescind reproductive rights, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the issue falls under federal jurisdiction and that his UCP government has no plans to change abortion access in the province.
Abortions in Canada are decriminalized and publicly funded, though provinces control access to services. In Alberta, three clinics offer abortions: two in Calgary and one in Edmonton, meaning those living outside these cities must travel to access the procedure.
Andie MacKenzie attended the rally over worries that restrictions on abortion could reduce access at a time when services need to be expanded.
“Whoever needs abortions deserve to be able to access them safely and easily,” MacKenzie said. “Abortion is not some stigmatized thing or some controversial thing. It’s just health care, and it’s something a lot of people need, and probably someone you know yourself will need in your lifetime. It’s something that needs to be protected.”
Erin Gallon was at the rally carrying a sign that read “reproductive rights = human rights.” She’s completing a sexual and reproductive health education program, with plans to become a sex educator.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that to have less abortions happen, comprehensive, inclusive sex-ed is a way to do that, not abstinence-only,” Gallon said.
University of Calgary professor emerita of history Betsy Jameson was among the speakers at the event. Jameson said she’s been a reproductive rights advocate since before Roe v. Wade, and witnessed first-hand the consequences of criminalized abortions while coming of age in the U.S.
“For the first third of my life, I lived in places where abortion was illegal,” Jameson said.
“I remember when it wasn’t legal. I remember the lies that you had to tell to get one. I remember how far you had to go. I remember the expense and I remember the danger.”
Nwofor said she hopes more Calgarians take an active voice in advocating for abortion rights.
“It’s always nice to have support and people standing in solidarity, but the numbers that we’re seeing aren’t enough,” Nwofor said.
“This is not a hundreds or thousands of people issue. It’s a hundreds of thousands if not millions of people issue.”
— With files from Lisa Johnson