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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends an Eid celebration in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada May 2, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable/File Photo

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By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to defend abortion rights as the decades-old battle over the issue exploded anew this week in Canada’s southern neighbor, with the U.S. Supreme Court apparently set to overturn the decades-old ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide.

“A woman’s free choice is a choice to be made by her alone. Every woman in Canada has the right to a legal and safe abortion,” Trudeau told reporters before a meeting of Liberal lawmakers in Ottawa on Wednesday.

A draft U.S. Supreme Court decision, leaked late on Monday, showed a majority of justices prepared to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that protects abortion rights. The court on Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of the leaked document.

“We know that unfortunately, what we’re seeing with our neighbors in the south and even in debates within the Conservative Party of Canada, that we need to ensure that there are protections in place so that we never see people backtracking on that right,” Trudeau said.

He added that Canada will consider legal options if such rights are at risk of violation in the country.

“We have asked the ministers to take a look at this (review of the legal framework) very quickly and we’ll see what the timeline is for that,” Trudeau said.

Canada’s Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in a historic 1988 ruling. Ostensibly, since then, abortion has been a medical procedure like any other. But barriers to access persist, especially for people living outside urban areas.

Canada’s top court is unlikely to re-criminalize abortion any time soon. But if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, that could embolden anti-abortion movements and galvanize pro-choice activists, Canadian observers and advocates on both sides of the divisive issue noted.

U.S. President Joe Biden appealed to voters on Tuesday to protect abortion rights by backing candidates who support them in November’s mid-term elections.

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