Editor's note: Due to the sensitive nature of this subject matter, the author has been kept anonymous to protect their identity.
When I was about 16, in the late 2000s, my Catholic high school near a big city in Ontario was going on its yearly trip to Ottawa for a pro-life protest. I’m not Catholic and at that time I hadn’t really formed an opinion on abortion. But, a bunch of people from my school were going and we would be staying in a hotel, minimally supervised once the protests were done and that definitely grabbed my attention.
Growing up in a suburb not far from Toronto, there were many privileges I was unaware of.
All I was focused on was taking a trip to Ottawa and hanging out with some of my friends. I didn’t acknowledge the protest—I had never even been to one before. When I asked my mom if I could attend, emotion consumed her as she looked at me sharply and said, “absolutely not!”
To this day, I thank my mom for saying “no'' to what I thought was a harmless request. 16-year-old me had no idea what this trip was to entail, and 16-year-old me got a major talking to from my mom about why our household supports a person's right to choose.
I have a habit of questioning anything my mom says. I think it’s my duty as a daughter to push back—but this was an instance in which I listened to her and dared not interrupt. Everything she said to me made perfect sense and she didn’t even get into the nuances around abortion and the multitude of reasons why people decide to abort their pregnancies.
She just told me it should be left to the person who is bearing the child to decide. I didn’t realize then how important this piece of wisdom would later become.
In Canada there are a lot of things we take for granted, and for obvious reasons, one that is front of mind for me right now is access to abortion.
Many of us, especially those of us who live closer to the big cities, can easily feel like there’s no threat to abortion— access to clinics is available and it doesn’t feel like our laws are under threat. But the reality is, here in Canada our abortion rights are constantly being contested and protests are far more common than many of us may recognize.
I’ve seen many protests myself over the years. I haven't always been sure of how effective they are, but eventually you realize that those with anti-abortion views are working at a slow burn in hopes of eventually changing our laws.
Some of these very protests are even recruiting new protesters to support their cause well before they can understand what’s at stake for themselves. Myself included.
But the truth is, if I were to get pregnant tomorrow, the first thing I would do is Google my nearest abortion clinic.
Without question, I would look for all the resources I would need to have a safe abortion. I am not in a place in my life that warrants me bringing a child into it. And I don’t feel bad about that reality.
It also really isn’t anyone’s business.
Since my years of naivete, I have learned that while abortion is legal in Canada, access to abortion is still incredibly scarce for many. I have also learned that your ability to get an abortion can depend on how close you live to a big city, and that in many cases, women have to travel long distances for the procedure.
Since then, I have also found myself in an instance where I was unemployed, no longer covered by my parent’s health insurance, or school insurance, and had to pay out of my own pocket for birth control—which isn’t a relatively cheap option either.
Since then, I have known women who have to think many times over about taking birth control pills because of the risks associated with it. Sometimes, some people are unable to take it at all.
I have also learned that many people need abortions to save their lives when issues related to pregnancy could become fatal. I’ve learned there are many more reasons one would choose not to carry through a pregnancy.
I realize now that I severely underestimated the impact of these protests. What I once thought was a useless attempt to sway laws that were already in place is so much more sinister than that.
Seeing our neighbours in the U.S. become terrified for their lives at the threat of Roe V. Wade being overturned, I have felt myself constantly overwhelmed for them and constantly frightened for what this will turn into.
Since the news broke that this overturn was in fact underway, many more people from Canada have been shining a spotlight on the ongoing issues with abortion rights in our own backyard. Others who are anti-abortion have been continuing to protest as usual, and on May 12 an annual protest was held in Ottawa.
It is frightening to realize that there are people that live all around us that believe they have ownership over a woman's right to choose. It is frightening to think that many of these people think it is their right to protest how strongly they feel about that fact.
Being a woman in my late twenties, I have come across many peers and loved ones who have opened up about abortion over the years. I couldn’t imagine anybody getting in the way of those decisions being made, and the only thing I can think about is how much anger I would feel if they weren’t allowed to make these decisions for themselves.
That’s why it’s so important for us to own when we have been ignorant and when we can learn more about a topic that certainly many do not know enough about and why we should continue to uphold our beliefs against those that try to argue otherwise.
I will forever be appreciative that my mom challenged me to think further and know better. It’s a lesson that was more necessary than I could have imagined at that young naive age.
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