A pro-choice blog companion to the play "The Abortion Monologues." The play is available in e-book format from Amazon. This blog is now archival. For information on the author or for the rights to produce the play, go to www.janecawthorne.com
Mark your calendars for the big event. The debate on Bill C-510 which was initially pushed back to February will continue on December 13, with a probable vote on December 15. The vote on December 15th will determine the bill’s fate. If it is passed, it will go for discussion before a parliamentary committee. Look around this blog for the myriad reasons why the bill is ridiculous and if my own experience communicating wtih the PM hasn't discouraged you too much, by all means, send another email reminding your elected officials of all of the problems with this proposed legislation.
Once again, my hometown is taking a leadership role in something, but this time in a positive way. Have a look at the Calgary Sexual Heath Centre's new "Sexpert" podcast series.
This is a fantastic resource with "real people" telling it like it is about all kinds of topics in sexual health. The word "authentic" comes to mind, and as their promo says, this is the kind of information you won't find in the classroom.
There are two podcasts online as of today on their website with more coming. They are also going to be available on Facebook and iTunes.
Congratulations to the CSHC. And remember, this is a non-profit organization going where others fear to travel and doing a great job getting there. Think about making a donation. At the very least, tell your friends.
As you know, I'm a big believer in writing letters to your elected officials. Why not? If you email, it's vitually free and you can really take a load off your mind. So, of course I have sent letters about Bill C-510 out. Here is a copy of the response to my letter to the PM. The PM sloughed it off on Rob Nicholson, who wrote:
"The Office of the Prime Minister has forwarded to me a copy of your correspondence concerning Bill C-510, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (coercion).
As you are likely aware, Bill C-510 was introduced into the House of Commons on April 14, 2010, by Conservative Member of Parliament Mr. Rod Bruinooge. Since it is a Private Member's Bill, it is being debated in accordance with the rules of the House of Commons for Private Members' Business.
I appreciate having had your comments brought to my attention."
Thanks a lot for that Mr. Nicholson. Your reply includes a) the fact that the PM passed me off to you, b) a restatement of the name of the bill, c) who it was introduced by and when, d) a tidbit of Parliamentary procedure and, e) a gross overstatement.
A gross overstatement? Yes. I don't think he really appreciates me bringing my concerns to his attention. If he did, he would probably have indicated some knowledge of what my concerns are, beyond the name of the bill.
So, thanks for nothing, Mr. Nicholson. And apologies to the Canadian taxpayers who just had some bureaucrat's time wasted in putting together this non-reply.
Ogilvie focuses on the issues doctors may have in deciding whether or not to be an abortion provider and in doing so, makes it sound as if the paucity of services in smaller centres or rural areas is one of provider shortage. Not so. There is lots of interest in attaining skills coming from both OBGYN and FP residents. But why bother training them if there is nowhere to practice?
There is another way to approach this and create more providers. If smaller centres and regional hospitals had the political will to set up an abortion care program or at least provide some weekly OR time, then perhaps a few more providers would come out of the woodwork.
Medical schools contribute to the problem by failing to provide adequate training in the entire field of sexual and reproductive health, particularly to family practice students. Abortion training, if there is any, may amount to as little as an optional one hour lecture. Contraception education is equally pathetic. One doctor told me that the only contraception training she got was a talk by an Ortho pharmaceutical rep. Lack of training and lack of programmed services mixed in with a few hostile anti-choice zealots in a community create an environment where it is dangerous for doctors to speak out for better care for women.
It is much easier for our hospitals and medical schools to ignore the reproductive health needs of women. When they require abortion care, quietly shuffle them off to the big city. And in the big cities, limit the number of procedures by establishing quotas or restricting clinic days or the number of facilities. Then, voila – you have a rate of abortion that appears to never change or even drops because women are accessing uninsured services or leaving the province and going to a neighbouring province and in both instances, don’t get counted because they are paying out of pocket.
By ghettoizing abortion services, we not only make it more difficult for women to obtain care, we make it more difficult for medical students and residents to incorporate it into their practices.
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has compiled a list of private member anti-choice bills introduced in the house since 1987, all of which failed to pass. The list excludes Bill C-43, which was a government bill introduced by the Mulroney government to recriminalize abortion after the Supreme Court's 1988 ruling which made abortion solely a medical matter. C-43 was defeated in the Senate by a tie vote. But the private member bills are quite interesting reading.
Of 36 private member bills attempted since 1987, 24 come from the Conservative-Reform-Alliance end of things and the remaining 12 from the Liberal end (and of course, none are from the New Democrats.) Noteworthy is that the same names come up again and again: Tom Wappel (a Conservative who, for reasons unknown, is in the Liberal party), Don Boudria, (Con) and Garry Breitkreuz (Ref/All). Mr. Breitkreuz is clearly obsessed and has put eight bills forward on abortion. Nothing like a one issue candidate in parliament to spice things up a bit. He is undoubtedly expecting some kind of reward in heaven. I wonder if he cares this much about his actual constituents, the ones who have made it beyond the uterus?
Many of the bills attempt to ban abortions altogether, sometimes excepting circumstances where the woman's life is in danger. Gee thanks. But then there's that pesky question of who gets to decide. Some try to ban "medically unnecesary" abortions. Of course, all abortions are medically necessary. Otherwise women use coat hangers and Javex and do themselves harm.
Other bills attempt to redefine the foetus as a person in some way or another which would mean abortion could be recriminalized as homicide. Some use a back door, "tough on crime," approach such as bills aimed at creating a new Criminal Code offence for "murder of an unborn child" when a third party murders a pregnant woman.
Many pregnant women are murdered. In fact, women are most vulnerable to violence during pregnancy. According to CRIAW, "Around the world, as many as one woman in every four is physically or sexually abused during pregnancy, usually by her partner. In Canada, 21% of women abused by a partner were assaulted during pregnancy, and 40% reported that the abuse began during pregnancy. Abuse often begins or worsens during pregnancy, when a woman is most vulnerable, and most dependent on her partner’s support." The statistics are quite alarming. No one has done much about this yet. Even the horrible Mr. Bruinooge's current bill C-510 simply uses the murder of a pregnant woman as an excuse to propose yet another anti-choice bill. Most sane people might note that these women are with horrid abusive partners who are beating them and that this might have some influence on their feelings about continuing a pregnancy.
One bill way back in 1987 wanted to include "unborn persons" in those listed as protected in the Charter. Now, this actually could be an interesting notion, if we could take it up in terms of thinking ahead seven generations, as First Nations people do. But I imagine this bill wasn't meant to protect my as yet non-existent grandchildren's access to clean water and air and a healthy environment. The idea of "protection" here is highly limited and specific. You may think me distracted here, but really, think about it. Where is the attention to the type of world waiting for these post uterine beings? Nowhere.
Keith Martin (who has crossed the floor so many times I don't know what party he really belongs in) proposed a bill that would charge pregnant women who "abuse" alcohol, drugs and so forth with criminal endangerment of the fetus. His plan was to send guilty women into treatment. How would he handle the woman so early in her pregnancy she is not yet aware of being pregnant, and goes ahead and has a few G&Ts at the office Christmas party? Does she need to go into treatment? What constitutes "abuse" here? Again, we seem pretty concerned about what women are doing here, but not so much about the men out there beating pregnant women.
What disturbs me is the understanding of women that is behind all of this nonsense. Here are prime examples of women understood simply as vessels, something (not someone) that merely holds the all important foetus and who is totally unimportant in her own right. These are throwbacks to a time when the only value that could be placed on a woman was in her role as mother, her role as the reproducer of the genetic material of a man.
So put the current bill into context, the context of all these other bills, and see the story that they tell. It's not a good one, not for women.
In the past couple of days, something has happened in my home town that puts a chill in the air for any activist. Jason Devine, an anti-racist activist associated with the group Anti-Racist Action Calgary, was beaten in a home invasion allegedly perpetrated by some white supremacists who object to his work. A friend, also present in the home, was also beaten and his arm was broken. Jason's wife, Bonnie, was asleep upstairs with their four children, heard the attack and called 911. The police seem to agree the attack was linked to his anti-racism work. Bonnie and the four children were unharmed, thankfully. There is no word on whether the perpetrators have been arrested. Here's the link to the story on CBC.
Since then, the children have been staying with Bonnie's mother, Lori.
The next day, Children's Aid showed up at the Devine house and threatened to take the kids if the Devines don't stop their anti-racist activism. Seriously. They were told that their "activism" was endangering the children. Jason and Bonnie insisted (and rightly so) that they were doing nothing wrong or illegal and that they were the victims here. They were told this isn't relevant.
According to the CBC story, "Alberta Children and Youth Services spokesman John Tuckwell defended the province's intervention. 'The point of criminal activity is irrelevant,' he said. 'The point is, simply, is a child at risk? And that can be from any number of factors.'"
Even Calgary police have said the Devines have broken no laws, and there is no clear reason why their children shouldn't live with them.
What to make of this? I have a long history with the word "activist." I attached it to myself a long time ago, and once even had cards made that said I was an educator, writer, and activist. I wear the label proudly. When I became a school trustee (a life time ago), the communications director for the school board (a red-faced, grey-haired, white guy in an ill-fitting suit) didn't like my description of myself much. In fact, he didn't like me much. So he inserted the phrase, "self-described," on my bio. So I was a "self-described activist." I gave him a major piece of my mind. The editorial comment was meant to be pejorative, and it was. It was meant to dull the impact of the word, and it does. It was, honestly, in my naivete, the first time I understood that some people saw being an activist as a negative thing and the school board was trying to distance itself from me, their democratically elected official. As if running for politics is, in and of itself, not "activist" by definition. Well, that was my first clue I was unsuited to the work. But that's another story.
What do we learn from this? Activists are scary. We don't sit on our asses and watch The Price Is Right. We DO things. This is the nature of the word. Activity can be unpredictable. We stand up for what we believe in. We put up signs and attend demonstrations against things we think should change and in favour of things we support. We make art. We write comic books. We write letters to our MPs, to the editor, to CEOs of big polluting companies, to local coffee shops urging them to use Fair Trade coffee. We participate. We speak up. We demand. We do these things in all kinds of ways. We are not silent, because we know silence is complicity. Jason makes the excellent point that his work is actually intended to make the world a better place for his kids and for all kids. That point seems to be lost.
The really strange thing about this story is that Jason Devine is an activist, and not even a dissenter. Dissent implies going against a majority. Certainly the majority of folks even in red-neck Calgary are against racism. I mention this because we are becoming accustomed to the criminilization of dissent. It would actually be the white supremacists who beat him up who are dissenters. But the criminalization of activism is a whole new frontier. Apparently social services wants us to be sheep, wants us to watch the Price is Right, and in the immortal words of Senator Ruth, to shut the fuck up. If you don't, the State will take your kids.
That's quite an effective threat, one used for generations on First Nations People here in Canada. These families had their children forcibly removed by the State and sent to residential schools simply because they were Aboriginal. Now, apparently, the State will take your kids, or threaten to, if you are an "activist."
Where will it stop? Are yoga teachers "activists"? Are organic food enthusiasts "activists?"
Reproductive Rights folks like us sure are. And again, we're not dissenters. We're in the majority. We're activists. Let's put the kibosh on this one and fast. Let's help the Devines, and in doing so, help ourselves.
Letters in support of the Devines can be sent to the provincial Ministry of Social Services and the media protesting this revictimization of the family, and to the media, the Mayor's office and the Police to call for more action against the white supremacist groups who were the most likely perpetrators of this crime, and better protection for the Devines.
Minister Yvonne Fritz
228 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Ave
Edmonton, AB T5K 0G5
Go. Write your letters. Be activists.
Addendum: Late today, the authorities decided the Devines could have their children back. How kind of them. See the story.
There's a great post on RHReality Check on why women in Africa need access to medical abortion AND all the other stuff we take for granted over here in the so-called west. This is the first in a series of articles fromKeeping Our Promise: Addressing Unsafe Abortion in Africa, a conference taking place this week in Accra, Ghana. Attendees include policymakers, providers, advocates, health system workers and NGOs who are focused on finding and sharing effective ways to reduce unsafe abortion.Check it out. Even though I said I'd never mention the maternal health initiative again, here I go, mentioning it again because it's more proof that the Harper Conservatives are just plain wrong on this. The title becomes ironic here in Canada, where we have made no such promises, and in fact have made the opposite promise, to specifically NOT address unsafe abortion in Africa. Shame on us. Follow the series. It promises to be a good one.
The second (and final) debate is scheduled to take place on December 15th. There is always the chance that it could be moved back. If debate collapses on the 15th the vote would take place the next Wednesday the House sits which is February 2, 2011. Yes, the wheels of government turn slowly.
Have a look at Hansard to see what your representatives said on C-510. Speakers include the dreaded Mr. Bruinooge, of course, which is a good read for sheer entertainment value. He missed his calling. He should write fantasy literature. Also speaking are: David Anderson, Con - in favour
Nicole Demers, Bloc - against
Irene Mathyssen, NDP - against
Daniel Petit, Con - against (focusing on how bill is redundant and would have constitutional problems)
Marlene Jennings, Lib - against
Jean Crowder, NDP - against
Kelly Block, Con - in favour
To get a handle on this Roxanne reference, have a look at the blog A creative Revolution. Pretty good summary. Of course, they all seem to have forgotten about Chantal Daigle and her odious abusive ex-boyfriend's attempt at coerced childbirth. Mr. Bruinooge doesn't seem to care about that, does he?
For those still unconvinced that we don't need a new law in the Criminal Code covering "coerced abortions," have a look at yesterday's awesome post at anti-choice is anti-awesome. (See the blog list.) Thanks, fellow blogger, for taking on the tedious Andrea Mrozek.
Still not convinced? How could that be? Then why not admit that Mr. Bruinooge's private member's bill is entirely redundant. It proposes measures that are already covered in existing sections of the Criminal Code. The laws below regarding uttering threats, assault and extortion apply in any case where a woman is being coerced to do anything, whether it be have an abortion or be forced into childbirth. Here is what the criminal code already says:
264.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat
(a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person;
(b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or
(c) to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.
265. (1) A person commits an assault when
(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
(b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
(c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.
346. (1) Every one commits extortion who, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain anything, by threats, accusations, menaces or violence induces or attempts to induce any person, whether or not he is the person threatened, accused or menaced or to whom violence is shown, to do anything or cause anything to be done.
Oddly, Mr. Bruinooge's bill suggested sentencing (5 years) is sometimes LESS than sentencing in the existing sections above. Interesting. Aggravated assault carries a sentence of up to 14 years.
There is action in New Brunswick. Read the news. Some brave soul has brought a complaint against the Human Rights Commission because the province's Medical Services Payment Act "discriminates on the basis of sex in relation to abortion." Some of you might already be aware that in the province of New Brunswick, women are still subject to the very same conditions that were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 when they seek an abortion. These conditions include having to have their abortion "approved." Without approval, the abortion is not covered by medicare and the cost is paid by the woman. They do not have the same rights as their sisters in Ontario or BC or Saskatchewan.
I thought it was interesting that the tribunal might meet behind closed doors for security reasons. Of course women seeking access to abortion don't have such a luxury. They run the gauntlet of abuse, derision, bullying and shaming, especially in New Brunswick where anti-choice activity is as common as eggs for breakfast.
I say again, abortion is medically necessary, like setting a broken bone or doing an angioplasty. The fact that it is not treated so is not just a violation of women's rights, but a violation of human rights.
Here's another article if you want a little more info. National Post.
And let's support this effort, shall we? Go, unidentified complainant, go. We are behind you here at The Abortion Monologues. Let's write our letters to New Brunswick. Here are some addresses:
For the Human Rights Commission:
Jill Peters, Director
Human Rights Commission
P. O. Box 6000
For the Minister of Health in New Brunswick
Hon. Madeleine Dubé HSBC Place P. O. Box 6000 Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1Or send her an email at: email@example.com
This is an interesting article, from the Daily Mail and worth having a look at. They note how American anti-choice groups are exporting their tactics to England now. It reminds me of how cults work. Of course, Canada's own contribution to the plague on sanity is also noted, and of course, they are also an American creation.