Abortion was decriminalized in Canada nearly three decades ago! You’d think by now access to abortion would be simple and easy to navigate. Thirty years should have been plenty of time to address any barriers standing in the way of a time-sensitive medical service. By now, access to a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion, should be a given for everyone in Canada.
But this isn’t the reality: there are still countless barriers to accessing abortion and other vital services. More frustratingly, the barriers and their impacts have been well-documented, but efforts to create systems-level change are slow moving.
At Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, every day we answer calls on our toll-free 24-hour access line, and talk to people from all over Canada facing serious barriers to abortion services. 42% of our callers tell us that location is a barrier for them and often need access to our Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund, the only fund of its type that exists in Canada.
This is why the donor supported Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund needs your help today. We must continue filling an important gap by helping cover the costs of travel and accommodation for women and trans folks who want an abortion and would otherwise not be able to have one. Last year our fund was drawn down to $0, as it has year over year.
One thing is clear, while decriminalizing abortion is an important step, real, tangible access to abortion services matter! Each person’s decision about abortion belongs to them and them alone. Any interference with their right to decide threatens a wide range of human rights.
Interference can look like many things. The financial and logistical barriers to abortion can sometimes be as harmful as the legal barriers. This is certainly true in Canada where no legal barriers to abortion remain, but many who need an abortion are hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest point of service. That leaves them with having to figure out how to pay for a plane ticket, accommodations, and child care costs, or taking time off work to travel so far away from home.
The process of administering the fund often requires us to work with other service providers and put our heads together to brainstorm complex plans to get clients where they need to be. If you have donated to the Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund, you have directly helped people pay for travel costs, for procedures when they are uninsured, and for any other cost that might otherwise put access to the abortion they need out of their reach.
Over the last year, the Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund has helped dozens of women and trans folk cover travel and multi-day accommodation costs. With your support, we can help even more people overcome these obstacles and barriers to access.
Every person who calls our Access Line has a story. In the past few months, we have helped international students without health coverage, many people from northern and rural areas who needed to travel hundreds of kilometers to urban centers, people who got delayed by gate keepers in their communities and found themselves needing to travel to other provinces because of gestational limits, and clients with criminal records who had to undergo the onerous process of getting a temporary waiver to travel to the United States to access abortion. Every call is different, and every caller’s needs and barriers are unique to them. This is why the Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund fills a crucial gap in meeting individuals where they are at and ensuring that all individuals can access their reproductive right to have an abortion.
Hearing the unique stories of callers we can support thanks to your generous financial contributions reinforces the need to continue to collectively fight for everyone to have equal access to this essential medical service.
The Norma Scarborough Emergency Fund and Access Line services rely on the generous support of our loyal donors. Please include a generous gift to ensure these services remain available as we continue to tackle system issues preventing access.
Thank you for your loyalty to this work and the generosity you have shown through the years!
Health Information Officer
P.S. If you can make a monthly gift please do, this sustainable revenue helps us plan services into the future and counts as a vote for access when pressing for systems change within leadership and bureaucracies.