A leaked Supreme Court decision suggests US may overturn Roe vs. Wade. At this point it is only a draft one, not final, but there is a very strong likelihood it does get overturned. Below are my thoughts on what it means for US both in impacts and how it will impact elections. Then on Canada and how it will impact Canadian politics. And finally what Canada needs to do to ensure abortion remains safe and legal for all women coast to coast.
If this is done, it will have huge repercussions and impacts that could be long lasting and many even unknown. It will likely divide a bitter polarized country even more. Also sets horrible precedent that other long held rights are on chopping block too. No doubt many conservative states will ban abortion and in some cases even in case of rape and incest. At same time one should note overturning Roe vs. Wade does not mean abortion will be illegal coast to coast. What it simply means is it is up to each individual state to decide. As such I think abortion is safe in most of the solid blue states where we have seen strong commitments to protect a woman’s right to choose. Even Vermont and Massachusetts which have Republican governors have come out in support of a woman’s right to choose. So woman in those states will be fine. Likewise those with money will be fine too as they can travel to states where legal. However for poorer women in red states, this will be an unmitigated disaster. It will mean more back alley abortions but also more unwanted children born. Raising a child is no easy task and forcing one to give birth when they don’t want to doesn’t just harm individual women, but harms society at large. This will likely mean poverty rates rise, crime rates go up and many other consequences we may not realize. Fact these states have very weak social safety nets is especially galling as that will exacerbate the problem even more than say in countries like Malta or until recently Ireland where banned but at least have strong social safety nets much of US lacks (note I think any ban is wrong, but with weak social safety net makes problem even worse). In purple states, it could make this central issue and even result in instability where it gets legalized for a few years then recriminalized and thus back and forth depending on who is in power.
On the political front, this may just be a lifeline to Democrats who were on track for bad losses in midterms. Probably not enough to save them, but likely makes it more competitive. Also may help elect Democrat governors in purple states that would have otherwise gone Republican. Heck in light red states like Florida or Texas, this might just be an issue that tips enough voters over to Democrats to win those states (although far from guaranteed). If any lesson here, this shows why voting is so important and its not just GOP to blame here, but also Democrats who stayed home and made this possible. While mostly bad, if any positive comes out of this, that will be it ensures turnouts in midterms are higher as each election will put this on ballot so people won’t have luxury of staying home. I also think you could see some try to get this on ballot initiatives to protect against state government banning it. Already there is an effort to put this on the ballot in Michigan this fall for that reason.
For Canada, no doubt progressive parties will use this in attacks against conservative parties pointing out if unthinkable can happen in US, it can in Canada too. On one hand we are not US so this has no bearing on our laws. We are a lot more liberal and much less religious so political risk from introducing such ban here is much greater than in US. But if parties on right were hoping to make gains amongst female voters, this will just make it that much harder. As such I think it is time Conservative party bite the bullet on this and firmly say they are pro-choice, no more free votes. You don’t have free votes on fundamental rights, those must be protected irrespective of public opinion. Sure it will anger base and maybe lead to split, but its only way forward. Pro-life types need to accept that while they are entitled to their views, they do not have right to impose them others. If you are against abortions, don’t get one. But don’t tell others what to do with their own body. And no more trying to restrict by stealth. Sex selective abortion bans, late term are red herrings as neither happen much and while most probably don’t support either; pro-life types pushing this as a backdoor way to gradually limit it by stealth with long term goal of banning outright. Pro-life types realize they cannot ban it outright today so its a long term project to nibble away at a woman’s right to choose. Tories need to not fall for this trap and make clear there will be further restrictions on abortion period.
As for laws going forward in Canada, I do think if overturned, federal government should work with provinces that border states where banned to expand or even build new clinics so women in those states can come here to get an abortion. Likewise immigration procedures should be amended to allow those normally inadmissible to Canada to enter for purpose of abortion but still inadmissible for all other purposes. This would apply to someone with a DUI record or unvaccinated for example. They would still be banned from Canada in general, but could enter for purpose of getting an abortion. In addition there are still concerns of access as while access good in large cities, many smaller communities lack it. Its not feasible to have an abortion clinic in every community, but thanks to Canada’s vast geography it means some are going to be very far from one thus limiting access. Solution here is to fund travel costs for women that live in communities with no abortion clinic and where creating one is not feasible so as to ensure their right to choose respected. And likewise both provincial and federal governments should if not already on books create laws requiring employers to give women time off to get an abortion.
4 thoughts on “Potential overturning of Roe vs. Wade”
This is a dream come true for Trudeau and a nightmare for the Conservatives. If such a whipped policy of no free votes happened, I’d think the support for the PPC would skyrocket and they would actually win seats, since it would motivate social conservatives to jump over there. In about 80-90 ridings (mostly rural, from New Brunswick to the BC Interior), social conservatives are a strong force – if not a majority – and if the CPC lost those seats (which tend to be their safest) either directly to the PPC or (in a few cases) to the Liberals on vote splits, they would risk annihilation to chase ridings that are far from guaranteed. That would basically be 1993 all over again.
I’d argue the abortion issue is one reason the Liberals have collapsed in much of rural Canada in the last 10-15 years (losing seats they used to win even without vote splits in Ontario and showing Atlantic weakness, and going from competitive to being obliterated in the West) – and they would be willing to move another step to the right if they had to (from the CPC to the PPC). However, those views are toxic in the majority of the country and they can either concede the base seats (to the PPC or to the Liberals on vote splits) to have a fighting chance in urban Canada, or sit in the opposition benches with a loyal base.
As far as the CPC leadership race, this creates an opening for Leslyn Lewis, but still the math isn’t ideal for her. Being the only social conservative in the race means that she would have a lot to work from, and should at least do very well in those ridings. However, the only pathway I see to victory for her is for Poilievre to falter, finish 3rd or 4th, and then grab the down-ballot support (who would be unlikely to go to Charest or Brown), and then win against one of them. She’d avoid annihilation, but would have almost no chance of forming government since the Liberals would use abortion as a brutal issue – they’d likely be wiped out in Quebec and in upscale urban areas, even if they do very well in rural areas and possibly make inroads among certain ethnic groups.
I’d argue it is a serious lose-lose for the Conservatives. They can’t afford to lose the pro-life base, but that makes it very hard if not impossible to get over the top since urban Canada is largely pro-choice, as is Quebec. Using it as attack ad material would guarantee a Liberal sweep or near-sweep of cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and their suburbs, which together make up nearly 100 ridings.
Definitely puts Tories in bad spot, although I would argue outside a few Bible belt areas, rural Canada is more populist and anti-government than it is pro-life. Also Maxime Bernier is pro-choice himself and PPC is more libertarian than social conservative so its more on things like COVID mandates, funding CBC where PPC could potentially siphon off votes. Christian Heritage Party in theory could, but they are pretty much broke and have no money and organization to run a national campaign. They can just say we won’t touch issue like Harper did and try to avoid mentioning whether vote will be whipped or not and then cross that bridge if comes up.
Ideally CPC, would allow if a free vote if there are certain it has zero chance of passing, but would whip it if risk of passing into law. Harper allowed a few knowing they had no chance of passing as a way to pacify the social conservatives without alienating moderate voters. Best thing Tories can hope for is by 2025 its largely settled in US. If Democrats somehow in 2024 win enough to legislate it that helps. Also if only states that ban it are in Deep South that helps too as most know we have little in common with Deep South. But if some northern states ban it, then more problematic. Idaho and North Dakota of border states I see banning it. Indiana another likely one, possibly Ohio and maybe even Michigan and if those three ban it becomes more a worry than say Alabama, Mississippi or Oklahoma. When Indiana and latter Michigan, legalized right to work laws, they rarely raised alarm bells of unions and they were much more aggressive in ensuring they didn’t expand northward while when largely confined to Southern states few cared.
Regarding the border states, I agree that it creates challenges. However, only Idaho and North Dakota are likely to ban it. Washington, New York and the New England states certainly wouldn’t, while Minnesota is unlikely to (and if it did, it would likely be overturned within 4 years as the Twin Cities wouldn’t stand it). Montana could go either way being very libertarian but not particularly religious, while Michigan would be a dogfight that could oscillate depending on who is in power.
Other than Michigan, none of them really would have any push into Canada – Idaho is close to Spokane, while eastern North Dakota (where the people are and Winnipeg is closest to) could go to Minnesota.
As far as how I see states going:
* Certain to ban, little resistance: AL, AR, ID, IN, KY, LA, MS, MO, NE, ND, OK, SC, SD, TN, UT, WV
* Likely to ban, but with resistance that could be overcome in future elections: AZ, GA, OH, TX
* Unlikely to ban now for legal/constitutional reasons, but may have public support to do so: FL, IA, KS, WY
* At whims of power (could change with any governing trifecta): MI, NC, PA, WI
* Likely to remain legal, would be difficult if overreach undertaken: AK, MN, MT, NV, NH, NM, VA
* Certain to remain legal, would battle if federal interference: CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI, VT, WA
Even if there was a pro-life Conservative leader, s/he is only one vote out of 342 and there would be many pro-choice cabinet ministers. The only way such a law in Canada could pass is if the CPC had well over 200 MP’s, which will never happen, and even if it did, a lot of them would come from places where passing such a bill would be political suicide. A larger Conservative caucus would mean a greater proportion pro-choice, regardless of the leader, since they would represent somewhere where opposing abortion would be toxic.
Agreed if you look at composition of Conservative caucus, probably the caucus from 2011-2015 was most moderate since merger while 2004-2006 probably most right wing as generally the most right wing tend to be from very safe Conservative ridings while usually those in more competitive are moderate. Almost all in Quebec are pro-choice and any sizeable majority would mean big gains in Quebec where population is pretty much united in being pro-choice. In BC and Ontario, most pro-life are in Interior or rural Ontario where party always wins, not 905 belt or Lower Mainland suburbs. Only swing areas you might get some pro-life MPs from are heavily ethnic ridings in GTA and GVRD as a lot of immigrants are fairly socially conservative (but usually only in 1st generation, not 2nd and beyond). Heck even in Prairies, I would say Saskatchewan more so than Alberta has more socially conservative MPs. Alberta more rural/urban split as Rural Alberta ones certainly are but not Edmonton and Calgary. Calgary is a fiscally conservative city but not socially conservative.
Agree on states for most part. Some like Alaska and Montana may vote heavily Republican but aren’t very religious and are more libertarian than conservative. Its why marijuana legal in both. A lot in those two love their guns, hate paying taxes, but don’t care who you marry or if you smoke weed. As for federal government passing it, unlikely and also court may rule differently as some in Republicans see it as a state’s rights issue so its less about abortion and more leaving it up to each individual state to decide.