Nov 16, 2016, by Nicole Knight, Rewire
"It’s very worrisome because it speaks to the level of anxiety in the United States," said Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. "If you’re listening to the right-wing movement, anti-abortion is their top priority."
The stunning victory of President-elect Donald Trump crashed the website of Canada’s largest source of abortion care information, reflecting fears that a Trump administration will sharply curtail abortion access.
The website of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada crashed for a few hours last Friday as news spread of Trump’s election upset, Joyce Arthur, executive director of the grassroots advocacy group, told Rewire.
Traffic on the abortion rights website increased by 7,200 percent two days after Trump’s election, reaching 181,780 hits on Thursday, compared to 2,486 hits the day before.
“It’s very worrisome because it speaks to the level of anxiety in the United States,” Arthur said. “If you’re listening to the right-wing movement, anti-abortion is their top priority.”
Trump, after waffling on abortion rights, staked an anti-choice position during the campaign. He went as far to say that people who ended their pregnancies should face “some form of punishment,” an assertion he later said meant that abortion providers should be punished.
When questioned Sunday during a CBS 60 Minutes interview about the consequences of overturning the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, Trump said abortion access would “go back to the states.”
“They’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state,” Trump said, implying that pregnant people could easily cross state lines for abortion care.
Abortion restrictions in states like Texas already force pregnant people to travel for abortion care, or to continue with an unplanned pregnancy because the cost of travel and lodging is beyond their means.
Arthur told Rewire that the top download on the website after the U.S. election was a list of Canadian abortion clinics. The website offers resources to locate abortion services at about 30 clinics and 70 or 80 hospitals across Canada, Arthur said.
Arthur said they also saw a surge in traffic after the election of President George W. Bush, but nothing like the sheer traffic volume following Trump’s victory.
With control of the White House and Congress, Republicans are expected to push a rash of new federal restrictions, such as bans on abortion procedures after 20 weeks’ gestation and legislation that would define a zygote as a person. These bills, if enacted, would face court challenges, as Rewire’s Jessica Mason Pieklo recently wrote, that could “put the issue of abortion rights squarely before the Roberts Court—one re-settled to a 5-4 conservative, anti-choice majority.”
The group’s Internet service provider warned her of the traffic surge around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, before the site crashed the following morning, Arthur said. November had already been an uncommonly busy month for the Abortion Rights Coalition.
“The average number of hits on the website is 60,000 per month,” Arthur said. “In November, so far, it’s 500,000.”
Trump acknowledged in campaign remarks that his plans to fill Supreme Court vacancies with abortion rights foes might usher in what amounts to a pre-Roe era in many states.
“Well, you go back to a position like they had where people will perhaps go to illegal places, but you have to ban it,” Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews in March.
U.S. citizens who can afford the cost of the service, plus travel and lodging, have a few options to access abortion care in Canada, Arthur said. Canadian abortion clinics will accept U.S. patients, with the price of a typical first-trimester procedure running between $450 and $600 American dollars.
Arthur said patients can also self-refer to Canadian hospitals, where the cost of abortion care is typically three times higher than at a clinic. Abortion care is generally unavailable in Canada after 20 weeks’ gestation unless there is a lethal fetal abnormality.
Non-Canadian residents accounted for just seven of 33,931 abortions reported by Canadian hospitals in 2014, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Data for the number of abortions performed on non-residents at Canadian clinics is not provided by CIHI.
Trump’s election also crashed the Canadian immigration website last week as people in the United States searched for information on immigrating to the nation’s northern neighbor.