As women’s reproductive rights face continued assault south of the border, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says new legislation being passed to criminalize abortions in several American states are “backsliding” for rights in the country.
That comes as one of his cabinet ministers challenges Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to explain whether he would support similar efforts here and also as the Liberal Party kicks off a new fundraising campaign aimed at rallying supporters concerned about reproductive choice.
“We’re deeply disappointed by the backsliding we’re seeing on women’s rights, particularly in some of the United States,” Trudeau said during a press conference with reporters from Paris, France on Thursday morning.
He continued, adding while speaking in French that: “We will continue to be a strong voice in defence of everyone’s rights and particularly those rights, and there’s still a great deal of work to be done in this area.”
Global News also received an early copy of the fundraising email going out to Liberal supporters on Thursday, which names 12 Conservatives who attended an anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill last week and warns they will push to “reopen that debate.”
“Women’s rights are human rights, and we need to send a message that no one — including Andrew Scheer or any member of his caucus — has the authority to dictate to women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.”
The Liberals are also using the matter as a way to try to sign up new supporters worried about protecting the right to choose.
WATCH: Alabama lawmakers outlaw abortion
Republican legislators in the U.S. are pushing through a wave of restrictive new laws that severely restrict abortions and criminalize those who terminate a pregnancy. In Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi, legislatures have passed bills banning abortions six weeks after conception, which means a woman who is even two weeks late on her period would have already missed the window to make a choice about whether to terminate her pregnancy.
Alabama has passed what critics decry as the most restrictive of the new set of laws, banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest and creating as its lone exemption the case if a woman’s life is at serious risk.
The Alabama law will also allow those who terminate a pregnancy to be put in prison for 99 years.
There is some ongoing debate about whether the language of the bill could allow for women terminating their own pregnancies to be prosecuted, while supporters say it would target medical professionals rather than women.
All of those bills set up a direct constitutional challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that declared abortion a constitutional right.
And while the anti-abortion movement in Canada is not nearly as powerful as south of the border, such groups have played an increasingly prominent role in organizing around politicians who they feel will support their calls to roll back protections for abortion here.
WATCH: Controversy over anti-abortion rally at Queen’s Park
Anne Kingston of Macleans has documented in detail the growth of the anti-abortion movement in Canada and, in particular, how those groups are working to influence and swing the federal election this fall.
As she noted, Ontario Premier Doug Ford owes much of his leadership victory to the support of social conservatives in the provincial party, and one of his MPPs last week pledged to “make abortion unthinkable in our lifetime” during a rally at Queen’s Park opposing reproductive choice.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has also faced questions over his ties to anti-abortion advocates and past federal votes he cast in the House of Commons that supported anti-abortion positions, including one in 2012 when he supported a failed bid to have a committee study whether a fetus should be considered a human being before it is born.
However, his spokespeople have also said that “a United Conservative government under his leadership will not reopen this debate.”
Scheer is now facing similar questions, particularly after a push to ask the party to legislate on abortion was only narrowly defeated at the Conservative convention last year. He has also said he will not reopen the debate if elected in the fall.
Brock Harrison, his director of communications, reiterated that pledge on Twitter on Thursday and called the accusations from the Liberals “desperation.”
Scheer also tweeted in response to the assertions, saying, “a Conservative government will not re-open this debate.”
In a letter sent to the members of Scheer’s caucus who attended the anti-abortion rally on Wednesday night, Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef also argued the appearances of Conservative MPs at anti-abortion rallies suggested the opposite.
“By attending anti-choice rallies, sponsoring screenings for anti-choice films or by empowering conservative politicians who ‘pledge to fight to make abortion unthinkable in our lifetime,’ the Conservative Party of Canada is demonstrating their willingness to reopen this debate and roll back women’s rights and autonomy,” she wrote in the letter, a copy of which was shared with Global News.
“This is simply unacceptable.”
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