GIST: When Judge Brett Kavanaugh was under consideration for a position on the U.S. Supreme Court last fall, one thing became clear: Republican senators wanted to appoint him to appease the party’s right-wing base, whose members were confident he would tilt the court’s majority to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a woman’s constitutional protection to terminate a pregnancy. Now, in an effort to get Roe v. Wade overturned, they are working with Republican-controlled state governments to introduce anti-abortion bills designed to get before the Supreme Court. So why should Canadians worry   Because if history has made one thing clear, it’s that women’s rights are fragile and constantly under threat of being extinguished for political purposes. When they are undermined in any country — or any court — that emboldens those who would try to curb them elsewhere. Canadian women, one in three of whom will get an abortion in her lifetime, can’t rest assured that their rights are safe because abortion is legal here. It was legal in Poland until that country’s government fulfilled a backroom deal with the Catholic Church and banned abortion in 1993. That law, which allows for exceptions for serious threats to the health of the mother or the fetus and for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, is now under attack — not from those who want to make abortion legal again, but from those who want to remove any grounds for it. While abortion is still legal in the United States, it is already increasingly difficult to obtain in many states. So Canadians would be wise to look south of the border to ensure there is no “backsliding” here, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it. After all, what is happening in the United States, a country that should be a leader on women’s rights, is shocking. On Wednesday, the Alabama legislature passed the most draconian law to date banning abortions at any stage, without exception for incest or rape. Further, it calls for doctors who perform them to be jailed for up to 99 years. When Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill, she said it “stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious, that every life is a sacred gift from God.” That’s quite a statement from the governor of the U.S. state that has the highest per capita death penalty rate in the country. What it really stands as a testament to, as California Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris tweeted, is Alabama’s goal “to criminalize women for their health care decisions.” While there are efforts to control women’s bodies in Canada, they are more subtle. The fact is, though abortion has been legal in this country since 1988, access to it is still uneven. That is especially true for lower income women. For example, the $450 abortion pill Mifegymiso — which was finally approved for use in Canada in 2015 — is still not universally covered under all provincial and territorial health care plans. It’s not even available at pharmacies in many parts of the country. Some provinces have also erected requirements that make it hard for women to obtain timely surgical abortions. And last week 12 Conservative MPs and three Ontario Progressive Conservative MPPs attended anti-abortion rallies on Parliament Hill and at Queen’s Park. “We pledge to fight to make abortion unthinkable in our lifetime,” MPP Sam Oosterhoff promised. At the same time, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said unequivocally that if his party wins October’s federal election, he won’t re-open the abortion debate in Canada. Still, no one should be complacent about women’s rights on this front — or any other."

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