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Anti-abortion demonstrators meet counter-protesters at Parliament Hill

By Denise Wong, Cormac Mac Sweeney, and Claire Fenton

The annual March for Life rally took place on Parliament Hill Thursday, with anti-abortion activists meeting counter-protesters in Ottawa. The rallies took place amid growing debate in the United States.

There was a smaller crowd at this year’s demonstration compared to years past, given the previous two events were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the atmosphere was loud, as those against abortion were met by pro-abortion rights supporters.

Josie Luetke with the Campaign Life Coalition hopes the debate in the U.S., where the Supreme Court may be poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, heads north.

“We expect for Roe v. Wade to eventually be overturned and that will be one step towards abolishing abortion in the United States and then eventually around the whole world, including here in Canada.”

But the decision has also emboldened those looking to protect women’s rights, including Karina, who was at Parliament Hill for the counter-demonstration.

“Governments need to just make abortion a health-care service and fund it properly everywhere, and make it accessible.”

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In Canada, the debate centres more around parliament, with the issue being brought up in the Conservative leadership race. The Trudeau government says all options are on the table to protect a woman’s right to choose, including possible legislation.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced millions of dollars in funding to improve access to safe abortions, reiterating that Canada’s abortion laws are strong and unchanging.

The $3.5 million will go towards two organizations to promote equity, ensuring no matter where a person lives, access to abortion in Canada is equal.

Action Canada, formally Planned Parenthood, will be given $2 million. The National Abortion Federation has been awarded $1.5 million. Members of each organization say the funding will be used to fill gaps that exist in this country.

In addition to education and advocacy, both organizations are able to help people travel to get abortions. This includes people who are not able to get to a clinic in their community due to several factors. As well, the groups sometimes assist the person in travelling to the U.S. for a procedure, if the person’s pregnancy has passed 24 weeks.

Advocates say the additional funding will go a long way to ensuring many marginalized groups are not disproportionately affected by abortion barriers.

“Generations of women have fought for far too long, have fought far too hard, to have these rights slip away at the hands of the minority which believes women should not have agency over our own bodies,” Marci Len, Minister for Women and Gender Equality of Canada said Wednesday.

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