The rise of anti-abortion legislation

The Bible Belt in the U.S. is currently riding a wave of anti-abortion legislation this year, with Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi passing heartbeat bills (they have not taken effect yet). In many of the states, as soon as a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus it will be illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion. A further 11 states, including New York, are considering pushing their own bill.

Alabama’s legislation is much more restrictive than the others, allowing abortion only in cases where the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus has no chance of living. Under the ban, which doesn’t take effect until November, abortions in cases of rape and incest will not be permitted (however, it should be noted that until November woman can still make appointments and get the procedure). Women who do get an abortion after the ban takes effect (provided it is passed in the Supreme Court) will not be arrested and imprisoned (doctors can though).

Like the rest of the world, Canada will be watching how our southern neighbours, a nation where abortion is currently legal in all 50 states (however, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 90 per cent of U.S. counties in all states do not have a clinic), will move forward with these bans.

Many of the bills have been challenged and are going to court, such as in Ohio, where Planned Parenthood filed suit challenging the ban for an Ohio abortion clinic.

In Alabama, the Alabama Women’s Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama are legally challenging their state’s new bill.

Essentially, all the so-called heartbeat bills have been blocked by courts or challenged in court.

Canada, with abortion legal in all provinces and for all stages of pregnancy, public discourse on the subject will rear it’s head again. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was ‘disappointed’ by the U.S.’ “backslide.”

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has said he will never reopen the abortion debate. However, in 2017 during the leadership race for his party, he told anti-abortion group RightNow during an interview that “we don’t tell anyone that they have to park their conscience or faith at the door. It’s important that the next leader of our party not only allows that but celebrates that tradition of having free votes on matters of conscience.”

He also added he has always voted in favour of pro-life legislation.

Even if Scheer does keep his promise not to revisit the issue, whose to say a future politician won’t try to limit women’s sovereign right to their own body?

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