access to abortion in Canada and USA

The National Women’s Law Center has a fantastic page of legal issues regarding abortion access overall which is fantastic here. I want to outline some of what it includes about abortion access for minors, but you can take a look at that page yourself for more information.

Currently, 27 states require parental consent to abortion for women under 18. Those are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Parental consent means that a young women will have to have at least one parent or guardian give her permission in order to have an abortion, and that a doctor legally requires that permission in order to provide that woman with an abortion.

16 states restrict young women’s access to abortion by requiring parental notice. Those are Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, MN, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Parental notice means that at least one parent or guardian of a young women will be notified about her abortion. She will not need their permission — in other words, even if they say she can’t have one, they cannot legally stop her from terminating — but her abortion cannot and will not be kept private from her parents or guardians.

In both cases, there is also something called a Judicial Bypass. That is the option for a young woman to go through the courts to obtain legal permission to have an abortion without parental notification or consent. To do that, she will need to first contact a local abortion provider to get information she needs on it. Then, she will have to hire an attorney and they’ll file her case. When her case comes up, it is a private hearing — there isn’t a jury or anything — and what the judge will do is make a determination on if she is mature enough to make her own decision about her pregnancyThis blog entry from has a fantastic, simple list, state-by-state, of a young woman’s first steps in seeking out a Judicial Bypass.

Obviously, going through the courts is hardly ideal. Terminating a pregnancy is a time-sensitive issue — and providers and states differ in terms of how late in a pregnancy they will do a termination — and sometimes court cases can take a while to come up. Even finding the money to pay the lawyer and any court fees can be tough, and the longer a woman waits to get an abortion, the more it costs, to boot. As well, some women don’t feel the same about abortion at all stages of a pregnancy. For example, a woman who feels comfortable terminating at six weeks may not feel the same way about terminating at 12 or 18 weeks. Some simply will not want to have to defend their right to make their own reproductive choices for any number of reasons.

Some states also have laws or policies around a minor being transported to another state for a procedure, and/or who transports the minor. As well, in some states it is unlawful for an adult who is not a relative of the minor, or does not have parental permission from a parent or guardian, to transport a minor out of state for any number of reasons.

What are the most important access issues being faced by girls and women in Canada? And please explain how access issues are impacted by location, culture, age, status, etc.

I think the issue of reproductive access in Canada is a fascinating one for two reasons: 1) many folks in large urban Canadian cities and outside of Canada see the country as a ‘prochoice beacon’ – a place where the debate has ended and abortion is accessible; and 2) those folks are incredibly wrong.

Whether you have access to abortion in Canada is completely dependent on your geographic location and your privilege within Canadian society. For anyone outside major urban centres, access is anything but straight forward. I’ll use PEI as a devastating example. If you’re in Charlottetown and require an abortion, you must leave the island due to restrictive provincial legislation. You can try to go to Halifax or Moncton where there are two hospitals who will see PEI residents but there are a lot of obstacles in your way. First, there is the need for transportation on and off the island. Keeping in mind that you cannot drive immediately following an abortion, you either need a support person to drive you or use public transport. That’s if the weather allows you to leave the island – the Confederation Bridge often shuts down during high winds and storms (so consider the winter months). You can fly, but it will cost you. If you drive yourself or take public transport, but you may need to consider accommodations. You have to consider days off from work. And all of this is running on the assumption that you even get an appointment before the week limit. The only other option is to travel to Clinic 554, the only private healthcare facility in the Maritimes that offers abortion in addition to other inclusive and reproductive justice focused healthcare. You still must contend with all of the aforementioned barriers, in addition to the $700-850 price for the procedure due to lack of public healthcare funding.

We also have to consider small town shame and stigma around abortion. That’s not to say that large urban centres don’t have these same concerns, but it’s easier to find other modes of support and non-judgmental, like-minded folks.

Now, imagine all of these access concerns amplified because of intersecting identities. For example, imagine how difficult it would be for a trans/gender diverse person to access care when their reproductive healthcare is delegitimized by healthcare practitioners or they feel unwelcome in ‘cis women centered’ facilities. Think about the historical and current discrimination and oppression faced by Indigenous women and how this significantly impacts access to healthcare today. Or any other form of marginalization including, but not limited to, race/ethnicity, ability, body size, religious affiliation, gender identity and expression, and sexual attraction (orientation).The more oppressive identities you have, the more barriers you face.

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