Justin Trudeau may be in a whole load of trouble, but he’s still Canada’s fearless feminist leader. Ahead of his meeting with American Vice President Mike Pence, the PM told reporters that he would be addressing the series of strict abortion laws passed in several states over the past few months. Considering the fact that the hyper-conservative Pence has expressed his support for anti-abortion legislation on Twitter, that’s sure to be an awkward exchange.
“Obviously I’m very concerned with the situation around the backsliding of women’s rights that we’re seeing from conservative movements here in Canada, in the United States and around the world,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa Wednesday. “I will have a broad conversation with the Vice President in which of course that will come up.”
Pence’s Thursday trip to Ottawa was planned to solidify details of the CUSMA (the new NAFTA replacement) and Trudeau added that he would keep that the primary focus. After the meetings, Pence tweeted the trade deal will likely be ready for ratification by the summer.
Great to meet with Canadian PM @JustinTrudeau. The U.S. and Canada are working together to advance the USMCA – which is a win for all three nations. Congress should pass the USMCA this summer! pic.twitter.com/tORshmzvOK
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 30, 2019
The two leaders haven’t yet had an opportunity to publicly share what they discussed in private, but Trudeau has a good track record when it comes to speaking out on access to abortion. After all, it was his father Pierre Trudeau‘s Liberal government that initially decriminalized abortion in some circumstances in 1969. Canada’s anti-abortion law (originally in the 1892 Criminal Code) was struck down entirely in 1988 when the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional, leaving the procedure to be governed like any other medical procedure by provincial and medical regulations.
The days when old men get to decide what a woman does with her body are long gone. Times have changed for the better. #LPC defends rights.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 18, 2014
Over the past few months, various U.S. states including Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Missouri have signed legislation so restrictive that it essentially bans abortions in those states. In some cases, women and those who assist them may even face jail time for seeking an abortion in a state where it is legal. The new “heartbeat bills” and other restrictive laws are being challenged by pro-choice organizations with the expectation they will eventually reach the conservatively-weighted U.S. Supreme Court. Once there, it is possible the laws may chip away at the authority of the Roe vs. Wade ruling—the precedent that solidified abortion rights in the United States in 1973.
Since Georgia’s heartbeat bill was signed at the beginning of May, backlash to the laws has picked up mainstream momentum. Celebrities are speaking out passionately and businesses are using their power to put pressure on state governments. Most recently, Disney—which filmed portions of blockbusters like Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame in Georgia—has threatened to pull their productions from the state.