Sask. residents assess local abortion access

We might not be in a worst-case scenario, but Sask is far from fine. Benjamin Moss via Unsplash

An overview of what you can do if you’re feeling adrift post-overturning

While rights may now be restricted in the United States, many people in Saskatchewan are looking to strengthen abortion services.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in a 6-3 vote on Friday, which previously protected the right of Americans to access safe and legal abortions. Following this ruling, 14 states pushed through legislation that criminalized everything from accessing to providing abortions. The decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion in the United States has sent shock waves across the world.

Jenelle Lippai, a journalism student who focuses on women’s health, was “disgusted” by the Supreme Court’s decision. “I think that this decision is a giant step backwards for women everywhere,” said Lippai. “I think that it really represents the lack of respect and compassion for women, especially in moments where things are really hard, and decisions aren’t easy to be made. I think that this infringes on a women’s right to able to decide whether they want to receive an abortion or not.”

Lippai also expresses concerns that criminal penalties of getting an abortion will not stop individuals from seeking abortions. She says people will continue to pursue abortions in unsafe and uncontrolled environments. “I think that it could be life threatening. I think for a lot of women this could be fatal. The mental distress that I’m sure goes along with a decision could lead women and people with uteruses down a really scary, bad road.” Lippai goes on to explain the barriers to receive an abortion in Saskatchewan can lead people with uteruses to conduct unsafe abortions.

While many people in Canada have protested anti-abortion laws in the US, they are also highlighting some of the issues with abortion access in Canada. Particularly in Saskatchewan, limited abortion services are available in rural and northern communities. Abortion clinics are only offered in two cities: Regina and Saskatoon, with Saskatoon being the most northern place in Saskatchewan to access abortion services. From the North-West Territories to Saskatoon, it is 1569km, or 2013km of roads.

This could mean someone attempting to access abortion care may be faced with over 24 hours of total driving time, or almost 6 hours of flying. With travel and hospitality expenses combined, this can make it unfeasible for individuals to access abortion services. There are also limits as to when someone seeking an abortion can be given one. Saskatoon offers abortions up to 12 weeks after conception (roughly 8 weeks past the pregnant person’s first missed menstruation), and in Regina it is extended to 18 weeks. Many other provinces offer abortion services up to 24 weeks.

Kasia Wicijowski volunteers with the Saskatchewan Abortion Support Network (SASN), a pro-choice organization that helps individuals overcome abortion barriers. The abortion care services can provide individuals with transportation and temporary housing while they receive medical services. They even provide a support partner to attend the appointment with them if the patient wishes.

Wicijowski said her first reaction to Roe v. Wade being overturned made her feel nauseated. “It was just an immediate reaction of disgust and fear and grief. I just have so much empathy for them. I fear for them, I’m so, so worried, and I feel like there’s not a ton that I alone can do to help them.” To Wicijowski, aiding individuals’ sexual health rights means implementing services that overcome abortion barriers. “It’s definitely concerning,” said Wicijowski. “I’ve always been concerned with the access of abortions, and the lack of access, that is, especially for people in northern communities. It definitely is worrisome, especially since there hasn’t been much done for access as is.”

Wicijowski explained that organizations like SASN are vital for individuals who need to receive an abortion, but it is essential they receive the proper funding to continue to with efforts to help individuals overcome abortion barriers. SASN’s services work in partnership with the Saskatoon Sexual Health clinic (otherwise known as OUTSaskatoon). The Saskatoon Sexual Health clinic also provides education on sexual health, drop-in clinics, contraceptive referrals, and many more things to improve sexual well-being.

Wicijowski said the implementation of more abortion centres in northern communities would greatly cut down on travel times. “Having a little bit more flexibility and when you’re able to get abortions would be helpful,” said Wicijowski. “[Including] programs that will help northern communities, since Saskatoon is the northern most community in Saskatchewan that you can actually get an abortion, which I think is ridiculous, especially since there’s not many ways for people in marginalized communities to travel that far.” Right now, Wicijowski said SANS are trying to create a better way to transport people from Prince Albert to Saskatoon to access abortion care. Private transport services to assist abortion services may exist through healthcare systems in Regina, but there is not an organization like SANS stationed in Regina or the surrounding area.

Talking to your local representatives is another good way to protect and strengthen abortion services. “I’m definitely concerned with seeing how many MLAs and people in political power have anti-choice beliefs,” said Wicijowski. At current count, there are 14 MPs that hold anti-choice beliefs in Saskatchewan.

Lippai said abortion services are still available but hidden in urban settings. Encouraging uncomfortable conversations will help people better understand abortion processes, and build a broader network for people to get services they need. “Even something as small as talking about it more and letting women know the choices they have, and the closest region to them where they can access abortion services, would make a huge deal of a difference […] I don’t think that it’s talked about enough. Women don’t know where to turn to in a situation like that. They don’t know where the closest places that they can go to for help. I think opening up that door for discussion would give them the knowledge to know these are their choices.”

No matter what the reasoning behind the decision for an abortion, Lippai said it is up to the patient to be able to receive an abortion in a safe environment. “Regardless of what you would choose for yourself, the decision isn’t yours to be made if it’s not your body. So, even if you choose to never receive an abortion, that’s okay. But that’s not your decision to make for other women, uterus or not. I think it has to be a very independent and individualized choice.”


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