OPINION: Accessing abortion in Squamish

It was only open for less than a year when Alpenglow — the only abortion clinic in the Sea to Sky Corridor — closed in November. Not that there was a lack of need. While it was open, more than 150 abortions were conducted. Now, where can our women go to access the safe options they are legally entitled to?

Let’s not get bogged down in whether or not someone should get an abortion. That’s an individual decision based on a complex combination of factors, too many to debate here. What we need to talk about is access.

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When I asked the Vancouver Coastal Health agency where someone could get an abortion in the Sea to Sky Corridor, no one was available for an interview. Since I was asking as media and not as a patient, they didn’t go into detail, but said people should ask their family physicians or refer to www.optionsforsexualhealth.org.

They did confirm that VCH provides therapeutic abortions in the Sea to Sky Corridor. Therapeutic abortions are done when a pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or there are severe complications.

It’s understandable that health care providers are hesitant to disclose locations, out of concern for the safety of their patients and even themselves. Protestors outside of abortion-providing clinics are all too familiar a sight, and stories of the security measures some clinics in the U.S. install are chilling in their necessity.

South of the border, the abortion debate continues to rear its ugly head. Five states recently signed laws known as heartbeat bills, preventing abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, and Alabama is trying to essentially outlaw abortions altogether. They’re attempting to push constitutional change against a woman’s right to choose.

It can be easy to shake our heads at our neighbours in the U.S.. At least we’re better than them. Right? That’s debatable. Canada has our own share of problems, and yes, access to abortion is still one of them.

As the federal election looms this fall, Canadian politicians have already started discussing the issue. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was expected to raise the topic with U.S.  Vice-President Mike Pence when they met last week. Whether it will become an election platform for candidates in Canada is yet to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

For now, abortion in B.C. is legal. The question is, how easy are they to get? It can take weeks for a woman to know she is pregnant (some may only find out once the heartbeat bill would already apply). Time is of the essence as she decides what to do with this information. Now, where to go? Add the time and cost it takes to travel, take time off work and get an appointment (should we talk about lack of affordable public transit here too?) and the barriers are obvious.

That doesn’t include the social stigma on top of an already difficult choice to make.

This isn’t the time to breathe a sigh of relief and say, “At least we don’t live there.” We live here. And here, we have plenty of more work to do.

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@ Copyright Squamish Chief