Friday, April 5, 2013

Access to Abortion in Canada: Distance Travelled


I just stumbled across this very interesting project mapping the distances people travel to access abortion in Canada. One of the ways we talk about moving the focus away from a "pro-choice" framework and into a more holistic reproductive justice one is by looking at who can access sexual and reproductive health services.

Working in abortion provision in New Brunswick, I've talked many times about the barriers to accessing abortion in the Maritimes, specifically financial. All those things that apply to abortion also apply to every other sexual and reproductive health service; there is a wide range of services - of varying degrees of accessibility - concentrated in the larger cities, and next to nothing everywhere else, forcing folks in rural areas to travel.

Unfortunately, Canada is a vast place consisting of relatively remote outposts. Our urban centres are few and far between. So when we talk about abortion being legal in Canada, it doesn't make a lick of difference to those for whom it is not accessible, and there are a lot of reasons that the distance between a person and a clinic can make an abortion inaccessible. Some people don't have the vehicle to make the drive or the money to access mass transit (when it's available). Some cannot afford to take the day (or more likely, two days) off work. Some folks are in abusive relationships or other situations that don't allow them to safely get out of town without explanation for a day. Some cannot afford or find childcare that would allow them to make that trip. Some folks have disabilities that preclude making the trip. And on and on.

Even though there are those who do make the trip, it's a terrible thing to ask of them. Abortion may be legal in this country but if it can't be accessed, where's the choice? Looking at these maps and imagining the vast amounts of time, money and energy involved in each trip is exhausting. It's cruel to tell people we have access to abortion in Canada, because we don't.

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