Canada’s government should offer real help to U.S. women seeking abortions, Michigan advocacy group says

A policy group in Detroit is asking Canadian politicians to back up words with actions when it comes to abortion access for U.S. citizens in this country. 

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, calling it a “horrific” development that threatens women’s rights.

“This is a reminder of how we need to be unequivocal in our defence of peoples rights…. Canada will be there, not just for Canadians, but for friends around the world as well,” he said Saturday at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda. 

Danielle Atkinson, founding director of the group Mothering Justice, which advocates for mothers of colour in Michigan, says the prime minister needs to do more than make a statement. 

“We appreciate so much his willingness to open up the country, but there are the logistics of immigration, right?” she said.

“So we need the prime minister to really make sure that people can go into the country safely and easily.”

Barriers worse for marginalized women

Atkinson said she’s “grateful” for Trudeau’s statement, but said there are many barriers for women who may look to Canada for abortion care outside of their own state — and especially marginalized women. 

Danielle Atkinson is the founding director of Mothering Justice and Mothering Justice Action Fund, advocacy groups that support mothers of colour. (State of Michigan/

“The things that just are everyday problems for people who are marginalized: Do you have gas in your car to get there?,” she said. “Do you have someone who can your children? Is this a secret? And does all of this travel and arrangements, does that expose you? Do you have money for the actual procedure? Do you have somebody that can care for you afterwards?…

“The same reason why reversing these federal protections is harmful for marginalized people is the same reason why going across state lines or going across the border is incredibly difficult.”

Families Minister Karina Gould said when a draft of the Supreme Court decision first leaked that U.S. women will be able to obtain an abortion in Canada. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has also instructed Canadian Border Services Agency officials to allow free passage to U.S. women seeking abortion.

Right now, abortion services are still legal in Michigan, but the law could change. 

A handful of U.S. states including Texas, Missouri and Utah have already banned abortions in the wake of last week’s decision, but for some states, including Michigan, the future of abortion rights is still unclear.

Abortion still legal in Michigan so far

In May, a judge suspended Michigan’s dormant 1931 ban on abortion — which does not offer exclusions for incest or rape — meaning the procedure is legal in the state despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The judge granted a preliminary injunction sought by Planned Parenthood of Michigan; however, that injunction has been appealed. 

“We want to be clear that abortion is still legal in Michigan…. We are continuing to provide abortion to everyone who needs it,” said Ashlea Phenicie, director of communications for Planned Parenthood Michigan. 

“Currently, Michigan is planning to receive an influx of patients ourselves.”

Ashlea Phenicie, director of communications for Planned Parenthood Michigan, said the group is working on national strategies to help women cross between states to access abortion care. (CBC)

Phenicie said Planned Parenthood is currently working on a national strategy to help women cross state lines to access safe and legal abortions if it is illegal in their home state. However, if Michigan loses its fight to keep the procedure legal, Planned Parenthood may look for other strategies. 

“I’m not aware of cross-border collaboration, but if we were in a scenario where Michigan loses access I believe that would be the next step,” said Phenicie. 

Providers in Canada who may be open to providing abortions to U.S. citizens should be aware of the barriers faced by marginalized groups in particular when it comes to navigating an international border, said Phenicie. 

Meanwhile, health officials in Windsor are not speaking on what the overturning of Roe v. Wade could mean for the region given its proximity to Detroit. CBC News has reached out to Windsor-Essex hospitals and public health, but they declined interviews.

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