Jacques Boissinot archives The Canadian Press Martine Biron announced, in April, her intention to legislate to “sacralize” the right to abortion in Quebec.
After the Quebec Bar and women's groups, 400 doctors warn the Legault government about the perils of a new law on the right to abortion.
“The women of Quebec do not do not need a law, but real access to reproductive health care,” wrote 402 doctors in a letter sent Monday to the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé. The communication, which Le Devoir consulted, was also sent to the Prime Minister, François Legault, and to the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Martine Biron.
The latter announced, in April, its intention to legislate to “sacralize” the right to abortion in Quebec. Ms. Biron subsequently organized meetings with lawyers, women's groups and health organizations.
In a series of public outings, representatives from these three groups attempted to discourage the minister from moving forward with her proposal. By legislating, Ms. Biron actually risks opening the door to a limitation of the right to abortion, the Bar argued in particular. “As long as the law is on the table, we will continue to send the message that it is a bad idea,” Dr. Geneviève Bois also told Devoir.
The family doctor is one of the signatories of the letter sent to Minister Dubé. “Rather than a law, criticized by stakeholders in the field, whose potential to harm the right to abortion is significant, we are calling for the implementation of measures to promote access to abortion and reproductive health services in general”, write the doctors in the missive.
Based on a recent report from the Fédération du Québec pour le planning of Births (FQPN), doctors are asking the Quebec government to “make prescription contraceptives free for everyone.”
“The right to have the abortion we want also means having the right not to get pregnant if we don’t want to,” argued Dr. Bois in an interview. In their letter, the doctors cite researchers who observed “that reducing the cost of contraceptives could increase their use and reduce unplanned pregnancies, particularly among less fortunate people.”
The right to have the abortion you want also means having the right not to get pregnant if you don't want to.
— Dr. Geneviève Bois
This type of measure can also lead to long-term savings, underlined Dr. Elio Dario Garcia, president of the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Quebec. His organization supports the demands made in the doctors' letter. “In medicine, the best thing to do is always prevention. When that doesn't work, we move on to treatment. Here, prevention is access to contraception,” he told Devoir.
Ms. Biron had a meeting with the vice-president of her association, he added. “The minister’s intention is good,” emphasized Dr. Garcia. “But the worry we have is that […] it could give a chance in the other direction: that there are people who want to start to regulate more and limit access”, a- he continued.
Asked on Monday, Minister Biron's office did not want to say whether the elected official was still moving forward with her legislative offensive. “Just like the doctors, we have read the FQPN report. We are in line with their recommendations,” wrote his press secretary, Catherine Boucher. The minister continues her analysis and her meetings. “Our intention is clear: to protect women’s right to choose abortion,” she stressed.
In addition to free contraceptives, the signatory doctors ask the government “to implement minimum standards to guarantee access to abortion services.” Clearly, they want Quebec to make a “real commitment” to “ensure access to abortion services throughout the province, within optimal time frames.”
Regions like Outaouais, Capitale-Nationale or Chaudière-Appalaches still only have one point of service for abortions, recalls Dr. Bois. And “even if there are many points of service in theory, there were exactly zero that offered service in the evenings and weekends until a few months ago,” recalled the doctor. The service with extended hours has just started at a Montreal service center.
Waiting times, limited time slots: women who need an abortion sometimes have to travel long distances to get the services they need. “In Montreal, I serve women from Quebec and, in Gatineau, I serve women from Abitibi,” said Dr. Bois.
With Florence Morin-Martel