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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas or April Fool?

Stephen Harper has been named chair of the new maternal health panel. The joke is on us.

There's not much more to say about that, but definitely have a look at Dammit Janet's take on it.

Who will help those mother's who don't conform to Mr. Harper's odd ideas of what women are (babymakers) and what justifies giving health supports (babymaking)? What about the women who don't want to be mothers, at least not right now? Mr. Harper commits the logical flaw conflating women and mothers. And if you don't know why that's a problem, do some reading for goodness sakes. I recommend Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution.

Maybe I should do what Yann Martel does and give Mr. Harper a bi-weekly feminist reading. I'm sure that would elicit a similar response that Mr. Martel has received, which is stony silence.

What was Ban Ki-moon thinking?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear Annonymous Commenter:

Dear Annonymous Commenter:

You said, "I'm sure you won't have the courage to post this."  It takes no "courage" at all for me to post your comment in which you say I should be ashamed for being against bill C-510. I feel no shame at all, and in fact feel quite a bit of pride in playing my part to have this nonsensical bill defeated. It was (so happy to be using the past tense) a bill which was redundant in its alleged attempt to protect women and sly in many ways. Even Mr. Harper and much of his cabinet voted against it. You should, perhaps, read the existing criminal code and you would know that this bill would indeed have done nothing to help women at all. But thanks for your comment. I might add that it takes courage to SIGN YOUR NAME on your opinions, own them and be willing to take flak from strangers because of them.

And, besides, this is a place for pro-choice news and views. Or didn't you see that?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do you want to know how your MP voted on C-510?

Then check out this link. Everyone is listed. Interesting reading.

I don't know why Mr. Ignatieff did not vote, but I'll let you know if I find out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Wispy" Abortion Rights

Thanks to Heather Mallick for her wonderful article in the Toronto Star. I've got to say that the Toronto Star is my favourite paper in Canada right now and Ms. Mallick remains one of my favourite opinion makers. As always, she tells it like it is. We can't point out often enough that abortion rights are uneven across Canada and all of us have to realize it wouldn't take much (a Conservative majority) to put us all back to 1980. Bad enough that our sisters in the North, in rural Canada, in PEI and in NB are still there.

Also excellent reading is Hansard from the great C-510 debate. Look at it here, and read what your MPs had to say in your House of Commons. Reading this it's easy to see why Ms. Mallick calls our abortion rights "wispy." Great term. I'd call them constantly jeopardized, misunderstood, partial, and in need of our protection.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Case for the Bubble Zone

Recently, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada completed a survey about clinic harrassment with an eye to understanding what types of legal intervention may be helpful. Specifically, they wondered whether "bubble zone" legislation that exists in British Columbia could be a useful model for other provinces to adopt to protect their clinics. The bubble zone mandates a perimeter around facilities that provide abortion within which protesters cannot enter. It is a "safe zone" for patients and staff, and means that they will not have to face protester harrassment and violence. Protesters and sidewalk proselytizers can do whatever they want to do outside the zone.

Now magazine in Toronto recently published a great article by Nick Van Der Graaf that refers to this study and describes sidewalk harrassment from a clinic escort's point of view. The article is interesting because it suggests that bubble zone legislation may be the key to balancing the right of women to access medical services without harassment or violence against the right of anti-choice protesters for free speech. I think he makes a great case in favour of the bubble zone law - the protesters get to protest but women and clinic workers remain safe.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 6.

On this day in 1989, fourteen women were murdered and another nine women and four men were injured at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal. The singling out of women was no accident. The gunman entered a classroom, asked the men to leave and then murdered the women. The women were murdered because they were women in a male dominated field - women in an engineering school. In the mind of the murderer, they were feminists taking the “rightful place” of men. This is what their murderer said.

Many of us were unable to take any solace in the repetitious use of phrases like “armed madman” in the media. We knew this was not a solitary act perpetrated by a psychotic madman. We knew it was indicative of a sustained attack against women, an attack as old as patriarchy. The Montreal Massacre exists on a continuum with all other violence against women, violence like the enforced financial dependence of wives and mothers, domestic abuse, rape, and the denial of reproductive rights. It exists along side of the misogynist reality in which women can never be without blame, can never quite do “it” right, whatever “it” is. It exists along side of another reality in which women and others with less power are expected to change their behaviour so as not to bring violence on themselves. Historically, it exists on the same continuum as the gendercide of the witch-hunts. Globally, it exists on the same continuum of the death of thousands and thousands of peoples in Africa of HIV/Aids while drugs exist for treatment. It exists on the same continuum of war in which our limited social resources are dedicated to killing each other.

The Montreal Massacre has been analyzed as another example of the backlash against feminism. It certainly is, but this analysis takes it out of the historical and global context in which violence underwrites the lives of women in patriarchal society. We knew at the time, and still know now, that it is connected to the oppression of people by gender, race, ability, sexuality, and age. Our consciousness of this is also under attack, has become part of the backlash. We are told to continue to pretend we do not know what we know. For example, at the time of the Montreal Massacre, there seemed to be a greater sense of outrage in the media that men were being blamed for violence against women than for the fact that 14 women were dead. “They” (whoever they are) wanted to believe this was not an attack on women. They made note of the four injured men. In doing so, they left out the fact that the murderer only took aim at men who interfered and that the murderer’s suicide note specifically mentioned his intent to kill feminists. They ignored the fact that he systematically singled out the women in the classrooms and demanded the men leave.

And it is worth noting that the men left. Report after report indicated there was no resistance to the murderer’s separation of the students by gender. Perhaps leaving as they did really was the only sane response that the men could have. I don’t know what I would have done – I wasn’t there and I’m not a man. But the men left and this makes me sad because I do know that violence will not end without the solidarity of the peaceful.

Our consciousness that violence is the ultimate coercive tool used by enforcers of oppressive systems is the biggest threat of all to those oppressive systems. In fact, when we look at the overwhelming statistics about violence in our society, even just a small sampling of them, we know that violence must indeed be tacitly acceptable as a means of enforcing our oppressive systems if figures like this reflect even a small portion the day to day reality of peoples’ lives. And of course, focusing on the 14 women in Montreal distracts us from the genocide perpetrated against Aboriginal women, violence against prostitutes, the children (male and female) who are abused every day – it can look elitist and classist. I am the first to admit this. But whatever it takes to wake us up – to bring us to consciousness - whether it is the Montreal Massacre or September 11 – we must welcome our awareness and resist the temptation to let go of this consciousness. We must do whatever we can to free people from their prisons of violence and in doing so spread the hope that there is another way. We who are conscious of the violence share our hope that peace is possible, peace in our homes and in our own hearts, peace in our relationships, and peace with the earth.

The Abortion Monologues is now available as an e-book here at Smashwords.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bill C-510 debate scheduled

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.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Be a "Sexpert"

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. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Correspondence with the Prime Minister

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."

The end.

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.

I weep for the state of democracy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Abortion Provider's Dilemma?

There was an article on the weekend in the Toronto Star by Megan Ogilvie called "A Young Abortion Provider's Dilemma." The following comments are from SW.

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.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Legislation in New York regarding CPCs?

New York is considering legislation to reign in those lying Crisis Pregnancy Centres. Have a look at the news on Feministing. Well, if New York can do it, why can't we?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The full list of Anti-Choice private member bills since 1987

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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Criminalization of Activism

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
Phone: 780-415-4890
Fax: 780-415-4859

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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Keeping Our Promises: Addressing Unsafe Abortion in Africa

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 from Keeping 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.

Friday, November 5, 2010

More on C-510

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?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More reasons not to support C-510

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.

So what exactly is your point, Mr. Bruinooge?

Action in New Brunswick

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
Barry House
P. O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB
E3B 5H1

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: madeleine.dube@gnb.ca

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Anti Choice Activity at Marie Stopes in London

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.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Note to the Right Wing Doctor

Spoiler: The following is not about abortion, at least not directly.

I'm sitting in the specialist's office today, giving a ride to a friend (ah, the old "friend" story, but seriously, it was not for me) and rifling through old magazines while she is in seeing her doctor. I find something called "The Philadelphia Trumpet." The headlines are a little odd. I pick it up and begin perusing. I cannot begin to describe my surprise. Apparently, homosexual marriages in California are bringing the end times, China is a menace, (and there are reasons to be concerned about Germans too!) the earth is 6000 years old, evolution is a theory for crackpots (did you know that evolutionists claim dinosaurs and birds are related? How ridiculous! Anyone can see that dinosaurs are incapable of flight) and Proposition 8 is proof that the liberal, homosexual Supreme Court judges are in flagrant disregard of the Constitution and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

I flip to the back to see who this magazine subscription belongs to, and sure enough, it is my friend's doctor.

What to do? I write a letter, on the front of the magazine. This is what it says:

"Dear Doctor,

I am astonished to find this magazine in your waiting room, a magazine of right wing extremists and religious zealots, a magazine that espouses racism, claims evolution is a lie and that homosexuals do not deserve human rights. I expect my doctor to be both scientific and respect the human rights of all people, regardless of their differences. Because of this magazine, I feel both threatened and insecure about this visit."

Inside the magazine, I begin to scribble. On the article about China, I write, "Why is China a menace but America is benevolent?" On the article about Proposition 8, I write in huge block letters, "Lesbians and Gays raise families too." On the article about evolution, I can barely stop writing, and among other things write, "This is an object lesson in the perils of home schooling." On the subscription form, which advertises that this magazine will arrive free to anyone who subscribes, I write, "Who would pay for it?" My scribbling ends with the end of my friend's visit.

This raises the issue, can you trust a doctor that a) believes this, b) subscribes to this and c) hasn't got the sense to keep her extremist views away from her patients? Is her practice of medicine affected by her values?

I say, yes, it is. I advise my friend to seek another opinion. Can you imagine if this were an ob/gyn and you came for advice on an unintended pregnancy? Holy Fire and Brimstone.

Or, should we be happy that she's "out there" with her extreme views so we can choose to navigate away from her and find a medical practitioner who is not anti-science, not anti-homosexual, not anti-Chinese, ant-German etc.? I say, yes, to that too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Conservatives chip away at Women's Rights

Have a look at this great article in Walrus by Sylvia Bashevkin about how the tories have eroded women's rights during their reign. In part, it has been through overt measures such as the evisceration of Status of Women Canada disguised as fiscal necessity. More often, it is through private members bills like the upcoming C-510. Do what you can to nip this one in the bud. Write your letters. Remember, second reading is approaching fast.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Through a set of circumstances that I still don't quite understand, I was a reader at Wordfest this year in Calgary. I find myself in rooms with the likes of Yann Martel and Jane Urquhart and wonder how this happened. But here I am, or have been, for the past several days, talking and mostly not talking about my work.

Thanks Wordfest, and thanks to the many writers who were gracious and welcoming to me.

I was not reading from the Monologues. I read a short story recently published ini FreeFall magazine, a literary magazine from Alberta. It is a story about a woman who runs into a deer on the highway, a very Canadian story indeed. I think that I feel like the deer right now. I hope things turn out better for me than they did for the deer in my story.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Situation at Carleton University (no, not THAT "Situation")

If you're unfamiliar with the recent arrests of anti-choice protesters at Carleton University, read this from the dreaded National Post.

Now, of course, they quote Sommerville. Again, they don't mention she is an anti-choicer. But as I often do, I digress. Everyone here misses what I see as the central point, even the people I agree with. I will quote from a letter I just sent to Carleton, congratulating them on having these students arrested.

"The 'Genocide Awareness Project' creates fear. It succeeds in creating fear because the implied violence of the display is supported by the actual violence perpetrated by sympathizers of this position, specifically the people who murder doctors. Like school yard bullies who need only throw one punch to solidify their position as a credible threat, this group depends on this actual violence to create its climate of fear."

This letter, by the way, was accompanied by a cold hard cash donation, directed to Women's Studies and given in the memory of Dr. Tiller. Sometimes, it's important to back up words with cash.

These students are not engaged in a "peaceful protest." This is not an "educational campaign." It is a campaign that creates fear, is intended to intimidate and succeeds in intimidating because their sympathizers kill doctors.

Now, if the perpetrators of this display want to say this isn't hate speech and claim it is free speech, whatevs. That's a court battle I can't afford. But this is a university for goodness sakes. Although I personally have no problem with them being arrested, I would genuinely prefer that the universities go after these haters on the basis of science and fact. Their claims about post abortion trauma are completely discredited, as are their various other attempts to link abortion to everything from cancer to infertility. I certainly wouldn't be the first to suggest the images are not real, if I were to make that suggestion, but I'm not suggesting that here because these people sue anyone who dares question them. (Sort of puts the whole free speech gambit in the garbage bin, doesn't it?) So use your science, use your logic, use your incredible gift of education to expose them for what they are. I expect no less from a University.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Iowa City performance of The Abortion Monologues, November 6 & 7

Many thanks to The Emma Goldman Clinic, who is producing The Abortion Monologues.

For more information, contact The Emma Goldman Clinic
227 N. Dubuque Street, Iowa City, IA 52245

Bill C510 banning "coerced abortion" due for second reading November 1

Bill C510 was introduced on April 15 by anti-choice Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South), who chairs the secretive Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus. It seeks to amend the Criminal Code to prohibit coerced abortions. It's a patronizing, pathetic ruse, and another anti-choice end run around the facts.

Look at the link to a press release from Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada on the issue, which suggests, somewhat tongue in cheek, that what we really need is a law banning forced childbirth. I think we should take the tongues out of our cheeks though, because women are coerced every day into pregnancy and childbirth, by everyone from well meaning mothers who are anxious to be grandmas to governments offering baby bonus cheques. There is a lot of pressure to have babies. What is more enigmatic than the childless woman in our culture?

But seriously, the list of all the problems with the bill in this press release is a good one and can form the basis of any letter you may wish to send to your MP, the Prime Minister and the leaders of the opposition parties. That's what cut and paste is for. Save time, and support women's right to choose. And remember, after having used the resources of ARCC for your advocacy that membership is only $20 annually.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Forty Days of Lies - Advice for anti-choice protesters

Or, Forty Days of Harrassment. Whichever you prefer. I offer another little tidbit from SW, who found some advice for the anti-choice protesters. It is from the Bible, of all places. I know, you never thought you'd see a quotation from the Bible here in the heart of my blog.  But I think it's important to speak to people in a language they understand.

This goes out to all you protesters.  "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1-6)

The Myth of Post Abortion Syndrome - debunked AGAIN!

As all six of you who read this blog know, the attempt by anti-choicers to market some fabrication of theirs called post abortion syndrome is one of my pet peeves. Thanks to SW, I just read a fantastic article debunking it again. I'd like to say "once and for all," but we know those anti-choicers don't care much for science. But for those of you who need some ammunition, take a look at an article in Bioethics by E.M. Dadlez and William L. Andrews called, "Post-Abortion Syndrome: Creating An Affliction." (See Bioethics ISSN 0269-9702 (print); 1467-8519 (online) Volume 24 Number 9 2010 pp 445–452). I know. I'm almost a year late on this one, but it is as relevant today as it was last year. 

Here's a link to the abstract if you need help getting it or want to buy it or do whatever we have to do to access it.

"The contention that abortion harms women constitutes a new strategy employed by the pro-life movement to supplement arguments about fetal rights. David C. Reardon is a prominent promoter of this strategy. Postabortion syndrome purports to establish that abortion psychologically harms women and, indeed, can harm persons associated with women who have abortions. Thus, harms that abortion is alleged to produce are multiplied. Claims of repression are employed to complicate efforts to disprove the existence of psychological harm and causal antecedents of trauma are only selectively investigated. We argue that there is no such thing as post-abortion syndrome and that the psychological harms Reardon and others claim abortion inflicts on women can usually be ascribed to different causes. We question the evidence accumulated by Reardon and his analysis of data accumulated by others. Most importantly, we question whether the conclusions Reardon has drawn follow from the evidence he cites.

Excellent. The full article is well worth the read.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Forty Days of Lies

It looks like Fall is here and with it comes the Forty Days of Lies. Yes, the protesters are back, claiming to speak not only for you, but also for God. Pretty heady stuff. How do they handle the responsibility? Not too well. I've got to admit even the Pope might be doing better than them, and he's got a pedophile crisis on his hands. Their claim on the moral high ground is bizarre. Surely they lost that when they started to lie about the impact of abortion, made bogus claims that link abortion to cancer (like that could ever make any sense), invented "post abortion trauma" and, hmmm, what was the other thing? Oh yeah. When they started murdering doctors. But there they are, picketing my local abortion clinic for, yes, you guessed it, forty days. 

Charlotte Taft, Director of the Abortion Care Network in the States, sent me a few things she's been writing lately. One that I want to share about the so called "Right to Lifers" and their extreme hypocrisy is called The Anti-Choice Hoax of the Century. It's required reading.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. In our earnest belief that everyone is entitled to their opinion, (a belief that is the very foundation of being pro-choice) we've let them go unchallenged for too long. Bravo to Charlotte Taft who calls a spade a spade and a liar a liar. Her eight points that right to lifers would support if they REALLY wanted to prevent abortions are a beacon of truth in the murky swamp of public discourse. Thank you to Ms. Taft.

Now, let's think about how much money these people have behind them. Let's think about where it comes from. (Anyone know? If so, let's organize a picket in front of their homes or businesses. Eye for an eye. They believe in the old testament, don't they? But I digress.) Let's think about how much good could have been done if that money were given to the priorities set out by Ms. Taft. These people are the moral low-ground. So during the Forty Days of Lies, think about what you can do to support your local clinic and the women who are using their services.

I think I'd like to go join the Forty Days of Lies protesters, pretend to be one of them and hold a sign that says, "I'm unemployed with nothing better to do than harrass women." Oh, but that's the reactionary anger talking. But hey, no one is perfect. It might be better to take a more positive approach and hold a sign that says, "I SUPPORT YOU AND YOUR CHOICE." Maybe that's the way to go.

I'll work on it. Meanwhile I'll promote http://www.thinkprochoice.com/ one more time.

Friday, September 24, 2010


This is my new favourite thing. The Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition has created a comic book (brilliant!) to counter the offensive tactics of the foetus mobile and their ilk. It directs people to reputable, well informed and unbiased sources of information about reproductive rights and sexual health both in Calgary and nationally. It is a fantastic bit of radical comic book activism, and a measured and humourous response to those ridiculous anti-choice fanatics. Have a look at it at http://www.thinkprochoice.com/ and join their facebook page, Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Freedom of (hate) speech from Briarpatch

Briarpatch, always a favourite magazine of mine, has this fantastic article called "Freedom of (Hate) Speech" about the tactics of the anti-choice and their use of freedom of speech as a defence. It is definitely worth the read. Very thought provoking. Thanks to Jane Kirby for putting her time and talent towards this topic. I've never met a Jane I didn't like!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Help our sisters in Australia - A message from Radical Women in Melbourne

I'm passing the following letter along to help our sisters in Australia.

Dear friend,

Believe it or not, abortion is still illegal in most of Australia! And a young couple in Cairns, Queensland is being prosecuted for "procuring" an abortion through the use of RU-486, a drug that is commonly prescribed
in the U.S. For decades, Australian officials didn't take action against women who chose to terminate a pregnancy. But under pressure of the international "Right to Life" movement, including groups that originate in the U.S., the right of women to control their own bodies is under tremendous attack.

Radical Women in Melbourne, Australia is part of a nationwide organizing effort to get the charges dropped against the Cairns couple and to get anti-abortion laws off the books. You can help by signing the online petition at


Please forward this message to your friends and promote it on your Facebook and MySpace pages and Twitter account. The deadline for signatures is October 1.

To read more about this issue and the October 9 National Day of Action Rallies in Australia, please visit the Radical Women website at


There you can download a petition to circulate, endorse the nationwide Day of Action, and read more about the Cairns case. A recent article on the case is also on a recent Ms. Magazine blog at Ms. Magazine blog! See


To donate to the Melbourne organizing, please click here to contribute via PayPal.

Thank you for spreading the word and helping our sisters Down-Under win the fight for reproductive justice.

In struggle,

Anne Slater
National Organizer
U.S. Radical Women
National Radical Women
625 Larkin St. Ste 202, San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone 415-864-1278 * Fax 415-864-0778


Thursday, September 2, 2010

In the news this week....

First, there is a great study by NARAL California called "Unmasking Fake Clinics." Give it a read.

Next, have a look at Geoffrey York in today's Globe and Mail. His article "Ottawa Funds Help Illegal Abortion in Africa" is actually pretty good, in spite of a confusing headline that makes it sound like it will be an anti-choice diatribe. This is why the mantra on foreign aid and abortion must be, "provide aid money where abortion is legal and push for legalization where it is not." Women are dying.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Being Pro-Choice and Doing Pro-Choice

For years now in Canada, it's been easy to separate being pro-choice from any actual activism. Since 1988, women have been able to get an abortion without concern for legal consequences. The Supreme Court said that legal restrictions and therapeutic abortion boards and the like infringed on a woman's security of the person, delaying access to time sensitive and necessary medical help. Since then, abortion has been considered like any other medical necessity, is regulated by the medical profession and, according to their guidelines, available to any woman on request until 20 weeks. Imposing legal restrictions also hinders a woman from exercising another of her rights and freedoms guaranteed by our charter - freedom of conscience. A generation later, it is still easy to think that we are "done" with this issue. In fact, organizations like CARAL shut their doors believing they were no longer required.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Access continues to be a huge issue for rural women, northern women, women in PEI where there is no access at all to abortion, and women in New Brunswick who still have to have a doctor's referral and approval to obtain an abortion within medicare or who must pay out of pocket at a private clinic with no opportunity for reimbursement. There are very few doctors in New Brunswick who perform abortions. It is, arguably, the worst place in Canada for a woman seeking termination. In other parts of Canada, there is no reciprocal agreement between provinces for abortion care, meaning women who must seek abortion care outside of their home provice must pay for it themselves. However, if they were to have a broken bone set or their appendix out, other time sensitive and medically necessary procedures, they would be covered. On top of all this, the anti-choice are gearing up for another fight. We see it all around us.

Once again, it will no longer be enough to just "be" pro-choice. More and more of us will have to "do" pro-choice again. Obviously, it is difficult. I know. It is hard to be vocal about a divisive issue. We are concerned about backlash, we fear offending our friends. The other side has instilled fear. They've done it by trying to shame women who are pro-choice, by bullying and name-calling, by fostering myths of post-abortion trauma, by blaming cancer on abortion, by killing doctors. No wonder we are reluctant to "do" pro-choice.

Perhaps our greatest strength, our deep respect for the views of others, or belief in everyone's right to hold thier own opinion - this hallmark of the pro-choice movement - is also our greatest failing. It makes us unwilling to trample, even unintentionally, on someone else's views.
But we must remember, the vast majority of Canadians agree with us.

We must find in ourselves a new willingness to speak publicly. When we are willing to vocalize our strongly held beliefs that a woman must be able to control her own body, to make her own choices, our example will encourage others to speak out as well. Faced with anti-choice protesters demonstrating at clinics and prevention oriented organizations, faced with their signs and their propaganda, we must be willing to engage with other pro-choice people and say, "We will not be dragged back a generation, to a time when women were not trusted to make their own choices. We will not be forced into unsafe conditions. We will not be shamed." We must be willing to assert that "Reproductive rights are human rights." We must not allow the anti-choice to dictate the terms of the discussion. We must remind the anti-choice and ourselves that pro-choice IS NOT pro-abortion. To be pro-choice is to support a woman's choice to do whatever SHE feels is best for her and to make sure that the conditions exist in which she can carry out her intentions. It does not force or coerce any women into terminating. But anti-choice tactics of disseminating misinformation to delay care and instill fear do coerce women into continuing unwanted pregnancies .

We must be willing to speak the truth, to write letters to our legislators when we perceive infringements on our rights, no matter how minor they may seem. We must be willing to put our selves and our beliefs on the line to protect our rights, the rights of our daughters and sisters and friends, the rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for and won.

In the patriarchal world in which we live, abortion is a "nexus" issue. This means it is pivotal, linked to every other issue related to women's rights and, I would argue, human rights. It is all well and good to have the right to vote, to earn similar pay for work of equal value, to be included in traditionally "male dominated" professions, but it is not enough. What good is any of this if we do not have the right to control our own bodies? Without this, women are no better than slaves.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fake help: Crisis Pregnancy Centres

There have been some pretty interesting articles lately about various pregnancy crisis centres, the way they lure unsuspecting women into them and then misinform them and delay their attempts to access abortion services. I've already linked to that great article in the Toronto Star about the tactics used by these groups in a previous post. Now, check out this article (again in The Star) describing the Ontario Ministry of Health's reaction to suggestions these "clinics" should be regulated. 

We (that's the Royal We) want to be appalled at the shell game going on here. It's easy to find a reason not to do something, much more difficult to figure a way to take responsibility and protect women from quacks. We (the Royal We again) think that if these people are going to pretend to be clinics, and the Ministry can't stop the pretending, they should be regulated the same way. Of course, they'd never make it through the regulatory process because... they're fakes! So then, can the Ministry make these fakes put some clarity around their purpose? If not, I can set myself up as "Jane's House of Healing." What's to stop any of us from setting out with the medicine wagon and selling snake oil? All I'm saying is, these fake clinics can't have it both ways and right now they do.

But the real failing of the Ministry of Health is not that they won't regulate the fake clinics or put some limits on them, but that they have created the situation where they exist in the first place. It is the failure to adequately stress and fund sexual health as part of the overall continuum of health that the Ministry must be taken to task about. Because they have failed to adequately educate, inform and provide accessible services, there is a serious gap in health care. This leaves a space for quacks like the Pregnancy Care Centres of the world to enter. Without the gap, there would be no women searching the yellow pages for "pregnancy counselling." Information would be readily available in every doctor's office (real doctors that is), every walk in clinic, every hospital, on ads in buses and in schools and there would be no shame or fear surrounding it. When sexual health is fully integrated into overall health, when shame and fear are no longer associated with this vital part of health care, the pregnancy crisis centres will evaporate into thin air. This is where the Ministry of Health needs to strengthen its efforts.

And this goes for Health Ministries in all the provinces, not just Ontario.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Anti-Choice services spread misinformation

The Toronto Star recently ran a terrific article on the tactics used by anti-choice "clinics" such as the pregnancy care centre.

I am particularly grateful for the inclusion of a list of claims made by their "counsellors" with a reality check following each one.

What mystifies me is that this is still thought of as news, as in something new, as in a new discovery or journalistic coup. This has been going on for as long as this American based group of religious zealots set up camp in Canada and found a home with Stockwell Day in his old riding of Red Deer Alberta. Anyone remember the November 2000 W-5 program on CTV? It exposed some of the tactics used by anti-choice organizations to dissuade young women from seeking abortion services. A young woman shared the story of her visit to the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre which she went to after hearing an ad on the radio about an organization that would provide support for young women who were pregnant, alone and afraid. Same tactics, ten years ago. My point (and I do have one) is that this has been going on forever. I'm glad the Star is highlighting it again, but the question should be asked why are we still allowing this to happen?

The other thing that bugs me is that if you put "abortion services" into google, the first thing that pops up is the Pregnancy Care Centre. Yet, they don't provide abortion services. Hmmm. This is their first big lie, one that they pay for by the click. So if you want to cost them some money, click a few billion times on their link.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The New Abortion Providers

Check out this excellent article in the New York Times Magazine about "the new abortion providers," doctors providing women with abortions in their own offices and within their family practices. It is a really good analysis of how the provision of abortion care became narginalized in the first place and how the model that has us provide this care in the separate setting of a clinic has been partly responsible for this marginalization.

But change is on the way, and the future is looking better. Good to see an optimistic article for a change.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Mandatory Long Form Census and Question 33

I have been irked beyond belief at the conservative government's decision to end the mandatory long form census. I've written letters and op ed pieces. I've typed my little fingers to the bone trying to protect the quality of information Canadians use to determine public policy on health, safety, and education, to proect the quality of information used by businesses and non-profits and charities to determine products, programs and placement. As an educator, the move astonishes me. Why would anyone want to make Canadians dumber?

And now this. To bring an end to the census fiasco and help Mr. Harper’s government save face, the National Statistics Council (a government appointed board to advise the Chief Statistician) suggests eliminating question 33 which asks how much time is spent by household members on unpaid work, from house and yard work to caring for children and seniors. Apparently, this question raises the hackles of the three people who have lodged complaints with the privacy commissioner and the alleged others who used less official and conveniently anecdotal channels to do so.

Historically, the issue of unpaid work has been a critical measure in revealing gender inequity. Time use surveys consistently show that unpaid work is done mostly by women. When work is unpaid, it is unrecognized in GDP calculations. In the words of economist Marilyn Waring, women and their work literally end up counting for nothing. This leaves women without adequate resources for financial independence, without pensions and without power. We know that the status of women can be as significant a predictor of quality of life as GDP in the same way that we know that nothing is more effective in raising a community out of poverty than providing education for its girls and women. When women win, we all win.

Given this, improving the status of women has been an important goal in public policy. Until recently, Canada has dedicated increasing resources to improving women’s status. Eliminating question 33 means our success or failure in achieving gender equity becomes more difficult to assess.

In the census brouhaha, the government has been accused of preferring ignorance over knowledge so that it can implement ideologically driven policy. To be fair, Mr. Harper’s government has never let facts be a barrier to implementing ideologically based policy, even when those facts were readily available for any Canadian to see. The examples are many. In an era in which crime has been in steady decline, they fear monger and raise the spectre of notorious criminals to justify their “tough on crime” agenda and, most recently, legislation that will erode universal access to pension. In another example, funding and program cuts to Environment Canada took place just as our need to monitor the effects of climate change and increasingly severe storms became more critical than ever.

I suspect that the problem some people have with question 33 is not so much a concern for their privacy as a worry they may be exposed as slackers. No one wants to admit they’re not pulling their weight, let alone provide proof. But trends in unpaid work are changing. We are still far from achieving gender equity on this front, and women still do more than their fair share at home, but men are doing slightly more unpaid work these days while women’s participation in the paid labour force is rising. Statistics Canada identified this trend based on census data. A potential conclusion is that government efforts directed towards increasing gender equity are working, if slowly.

The only people who would want to suppress knowledge of this trend are those who don’t like it, don’t want to ensure that movement towards gender equity continues, don’t want to help find the remaining barriers or be asked to do something about the glacial pace of change.

Connecting the dots, we can add this to a long list of actions that Mr. Harper’s government has taken against women. He effectively shut down Status of Women Canada and removed funding from women’s groups dedicated to giving women a voice in Canada, groups like the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Alberta Network of Immigrant Women, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses and Womenspace Resource Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta, an organization that, among other things, taught women to manage their finances. If women continue doing unpaid work rather than paid work or if our trends revert because we fail to continue to implement public policy fostering equity because no data tells us it is necessary, women won’t have any finances to manage.

Eliminating question 33 is not about protecting privacy; it’s about protecting patriarchy. Once again, it is women’s interests that will be thrown under the bus if this compromise is accepted.

For more on this issue, check out Mark Saurette's wonderful (long) article on the philosophy that justifies this ludicrous change.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Fetus Mobile

I've spent some time studying the website for the Centre for Bioethical Reform. They are responsible for reprehensible and appalling anti choice "displays" that were posted most recently at the Calgary Stampede and have been seen in several other busy spots, such as the shopping and dining area on 17th Avenue. They are also responsible for what I like to call the fetus mobile, a truck with the same graphic pictures that drives around Calgary as a moveable feast of religious zealotry. They back the display that the University of Calgary's pro-life student group call the "genocide awareness project" to the dismay of the sane among us. Puh-leeze.

Let's clarify what "some time" means. I spent about six minutes on their site. I went straight to their "FAQ" section. I suggest you do the same to see the tortured mental gymnastics they use to justify their tactics. It is a study in absurdity and illogic. I felt dirty and had to go have a shower.

This group is so bad that even Bishop Henry has distanced himself from their work and said that, “In no way may these pictures be construed as healing, nor can the project be described as ‘tough love,’ and I am not in favour of this kind of pedagogy (teaching). In my opinion it does more harm than good to the pro-life cause.” Now, I'm no big fan of Bishop Henry, but you go guy.

Any ideas out there about how to park this propaganda mobile forever and shut the doors of this pathetic excuse for an organization? Nothing violent please. I'm a peace loving individual. Let's use the law and our senses of humour. I'm thinking about a film, a mockumentary, in which we follow the fetus-mobile and the thoughts of it's driver through a series of traffic situations....

Put your thinking caps on people.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Facebook Calgary Pro-Choice Group

A new facebook group, Calgary Pro-Choice, has sprouted up. Have a look - join up if you wish. They have some of the latest issues in Calgary highlighted, including a petition against the anti-choice truck that drives around offending everyone with its fetus porn. The fetus-mobile is branching out, heading to other towns around Southern Alberta to offend others. Watch for it at an intersection near you.

Anyway, good for you, Ashley Thompson, whoever you are, for starting this group. It's good to see young people picking up the baton.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The last word on the maternal health initiative.

The announcements are starting to emerge from this 1.2 billion dollar boondoggle called the G8/20. Here is the PM's press release on the maternal health initiative. It's no surprise that the amount of money dedicated to the cause will be much less than the amounts that were thrown around prior to the summit.  And, as with HIV/AIDS funding and aid to African countries, will the promised money materialize, or will it disappear as soon as something else attracts someone's attention? For the record, I never believed for a second that Stephen Harper cared one whit for maternal health. It was just politics, the ultimate motherhood issue. And I've got to say that I'm glad it backfired on him and that his politicking on the backs of women was exposed. But I'm saddened that women and their children across the world will continue to suffer. This is the real heartbreak.

Ottawa report

Just back from the show in Ottawa, and want to say thanks to all the volunteers who gave their time to bring life to these characters. You all did a fantastic job. I hope you are all feeling proud of yourselves. The show looked really good, and the audience enjoyed it. There was good discussion afterwards and even people who have been thinking about this issue forever said they were going home with something new to think about. So, mission accomplished, once again. I'm delighted to be associated with all of you. Thanks for the great experience in Ottawa everyone!

And thanks to the First Unitarian Congregation for allowing us to use their beautiful space. What a lovely worship hall you have!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Next Show: Sunday June 27, 2010

Don't forget the upcoming show at The First Unitarian Congregation in Ottawa. All proceeds from this staged reading are going to Planned Parenthood Ottawa.

See you there!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More on Women, Harper and the G8

Here is another great article on Women, Harper and the G8 by Chris Webb. It is an excellent summary of what's going on and puts it in the context of Harper's attacks on women. Of course, let's put the whole thing in the context of Harper's attacks on dissent, generally. Not only has he ignored the official opposition and made question period into a joke (to be fair, he's had plenty of help here), not only has he shut down Status of Women, the Court Challenges program, defunded Kairos, CRIAW, International Planned Parenthood and a host of others, now he's spent $1.2 BILLION dollars to make sure there's no dissent on the street. That's some pretty significant desire for silence. When you silence options for dissent, what happens? Dissent becomes more radicalized.

Also read Stephen Lewis' comments in today's Toronto Star. He always tells it like it is, calls the whole maternal health initiative political opportunism and says the money will never come through, as has been the case with previous commitments to fighting HIV/AIDS in African countries.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Can of Worms: The New Brunswick Situation and anti-choice doctors (actually two cans of worms)

A blog reader checked out the G&M article about access and was also struck by what it said about the New Brunswick Situation. (Let's call it NBS for short.) Because I know her, she knows how to get through the no-comment facade of this blog (which you may have noticed has been lifted in an experiment on internet civility that may be short lived). Here's the gist of what she said, in a "to-make-matters-worse" sort of way.

"Two doctors must okay an abortion in NB. Did you know that doctors are able to refuse provision of abortion? It's their right as a practitioner. All they do is inform their employer that they're opposed to it/uncomfortable with it. And their motto is 'do no harm.' Discuss."

This comment makes me want to start a new section on the blog called "Can of Worms." And if I knew how, I would. Consider this the first in the "Can of Worms" installments (as if talking about abortion in the first place isn't it's own giant can of worms.)

Is it ethical for a doctor to refuse to provide a medically necessary service? (Those of us in the reproductive justice movement know that all abortions are medically necessary. After all, women can't do it themselves or in non-medical environments without signifcant risk of harm.) It is ethical to force a doctor to do a procedure that goes against their conscience? Or is this part of what they sign up for when they take up the profession? Or is this just a side issue that pales in comparison to the NBS requiring two doctors' approval in the first place?

My own answer is that I find all of it alarming. Firstly, how can NB get away with imposing conditions that the Supreme Court has already decided infringe on a woman's charter rights? (To read everything the Supreme Court had to say on the matter, click here.) This is clearly unacceptable. My sisters in NB don't have the same rights as I do.

And it's not just my NB sisters. Without access, the right to an abortion is moot. Anyone with barriers to access (say women in PEI who have to leave their province for an abortion, rural women, northern women, Aboriginal women and so on) don't have the same rights as I do as a southern, urban Canadian.

Of course, those who don't want anyone to have an abortion know this, and that's why making access difficult is a tool of in the kit bag of the anti-choice. So it's important to pay careful attention to what's happening to access out there, and stand on guard against incremental changes that eat away at access, even if it eats away at access in a way that doesn't yet affect me personally, at least not yet. Because believe me, if "they" can do that to "her," "they" can do that to me. That's one reason why the Canadian stance on funding abortion in foreign aid is a big deal for all of us, not just "other" women who live "over there."

So, we have to be concerned about the NBS, even if we don't live there.

Now, to the second can of worms. To be clear, it's not just doctors in NB who can refuse to provide abortion services. Doctors anywhere in Canada can. The National Abortion Federation's position on this is that in allowing this, the Canadian Medical Association is in conflict with it's own code of ethics. To see more on this, click here.

I wonder how many of us, when we go to our doctors for the first time, ask them if they are pro-choice? Do we make sure that if we find ourselves in need of their help in a difficult time in our lives we will have it? I bet most of us don't. I know I didn't. We have a right to know the limits of our doctor's willingness to care for us. After all, it speaks to their ethics.

And not only that, there are fewer and fewer medical schools even teaching how to perform the procedure. Why would a medical school refuse to make learning a procedure that one third of Canadian women undergo mandatory? It's not a difficult procedure, and given its frequency, you would think a doctor might want to have some skills in this regard. Oh dear. I think I just opened a third can of worms.

As my commenter suggested, "Discuss."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thanks to Alumnae Theatre

Thanks to Alumnae Theatre for putting on such a great staged reading of the play, to all the actors and crew and everyone who contributed their talent to the night. Money was raised for Planned Parenthood Toronto and Choice in Health, and there were some terrific community connections made too. It was great to see young activists there.  I especially want to thank the actors who talked to me about their experience being involved in the play and what it had meant to them personally. Every time this show goes on, someone says something to me that makes me think, "Yes, this is why I wrote this," and it happened again tonight. Thanks for that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Access still a problem

There is an excellent article on access to abortion today in the Globe and Mail. It's good to see these themes being taken up and the voices of real women being heard in their struggles. This is exactly what I hoped to contribute to when I wrote the play, and it is good to see this on the front page of the G&M.

I have a question. Why is New Brunswick allowed to impose the same conditions on women seeking abortions that were struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada because they violated women's charter rights?

Toronto Show June 20 SOLD OUT

Good for Alumnae Theatre! They have sold out tomorrow night's staged reading. Here's hoping there is a lot of money raised for Planned Parenthood.

You know, of course, that the Harper government has simply not renewed International Planned Parenthood Federation's funding this year. No explanation. No reason. No money. Of course, we all know the reason. The fact that they can't say it plainly is evidence enough that the reason is unreasonable.

I saw in some Toronto media that they said the monologues were based on true stories. Not true! They are all 100% fiction, although I certainly hope they capture the spirit and themes of what I have heard from women over the years. 

Hope you enjoy the show tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

That which must not speak it's name

A fantastic, well researched, thought provoking, and insightful article in Mother Jones, by Julia Whitty called "The Last Taboo" is a must read on the urgent need for population control.

It poses some challenging questions to those of us in the reproductive justice movement, especially to the very many of us who find it impossible to separate social justice from ecological justice. Where will we find the balance of personal freedom and social and ecological responsibility? I don't know the answer, but I know it is urgent to do so.

While you're there, read Masters of the Uterus. Again, really thought provoking. I wish they had also included some of the big moments in Canon law and English Common Law, like:

1140:   First authoritative collection of canon law states that early abortion is not homicide and accepts the views of both St. Augustine and early Christian theologians (and Aristotle, for that matter) that "animation," or the coming alive of the fetus occurrs forty days after conception for a boy and eighty days after conception for a girl. (By the way, this is one of my most favourite historical sexist facts and a good one for any righteous patriarchy blamer to know.)

1327:   The "Twinslayer's Case" in England in which the Roman Catholic judge refused to make causing the death of a fetus a legal offence. The same happened again in the "Abortionists's Case" of 1348, with another Roman Catholic judge.

1591:   Pope Gregory XIV declared that early abortion was not grounds for excommuncation, a policy which continued in the Catholic Church until 1869.

1670:   The question of whether abortion was murder came again before an English judge, Sir Matthew Hale. Hale decided that if a woman died as a result of an abortion, the abortionist was guilty of murder. The concern was for the life of the woman, not the fetus.

The source for the above four fantastic facts is a great little booklet called "Abortion in Law, History & Religion" by Childbirth by Choice Trust.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How do women feel after an Abortion? Relieved.

What's the most common feeling reported by women after an abortion? Relief. Yes. Really. And you thought it was something negative. Just shows how you've bought into the anti-choice views of abortion. I don't blame you. That is the version seen most often in pop culture. But let's look a little deeper, shall we?

There's some great reading on this from the World Health Organization, in a report called "Mental Health Aspects of Women's Reproductive Health: A Global Review of the Literature." Published in 2009, this is a fantastic resource for anyone looking for the best current information on abortion and mental health.

One thing I really like about this report is its balance. Count on WHO for that. As I've mentioned before, sources are important. The report notes that the conditions under which women become pregnant and seek an abortion matter to their emotional health afterwards. This makes sense. A woman who conceives under conditions of violence will feel differently than one who did not. A woman seeking an abortion in an atmosphere where it is illegal and unsafe will feel differently than a woman who seeks an abortion where it is legal and safe. The report finds more is known about women's emotional health in developed countries and in countries where abortion is legal. This makes sense too because it's more difficult to do research in an environment where abortion is clandestine. And it finds that even where research exists, there are flaws such as "methodological problems [which] have included ideologically motivated research seeking to demonstrate that abortion is either harmful or benign, and a relative scarcity of rigorously designed studies." (p. 54) Also, research into mental health outcomes has been overshadowed by research into physical health outcomes which are seen as a priority particularly in areas where abortion is unsafe. Given all of the problems and lack of data, what do we know for sure? For sure, we know we need more research. But what else?

We know for sure that most women do not regret their choice. "In a study of 386 American women, Cozzarelli et al. (2000) found that depression scores were significantly lower, and self-esteem scores significantly higher, at two hours, one month and two years after abortion, compared with some hours before the abortion. One month after abortion, mean scores indicated that women felt more relief than positive or negative emotions, and overall more positive emotions than negative emotions." (pp. 54-55).  And regarding adolescents, specifically,  "Eisen & Zellman (1984) reported similar findings: 80% of 148 adolescents who had an abortion reported satisfaction with the decision six months later" (p. 55). From the summary, "Typically, women (including adolescents) experience heightened distress facing a problem pregnancy and prior to safe elective abortion, but show significant improvement on mental health indices afterwards" (p. 55).

Wow. Relief. Most women report feeling relieved. What a relief. Let the bells ring out. At least for these American women. Again, it could be really different for someone else in another study, who terminates under different conditions, perhaps facing poor care in a situation where the procedure is illegal.

But wait, there is more. And in my fairmindedness, I will share it with you because it deserves examination. "However, 10.8% reported that they felt dissatisfied and had made the wrong decision. At two-year follow-up, the number of women reporting dissatisfaction had increased to 16.3%, and 19% said that the abortion was the wrong decision." (p. 55) Some anti-choicers use this to validate something they call some version of "post abortion syndrome."

First, before I really take this up, I want to emphasize and take heart in the fact that the vast majority of women feel RELIEF. It's normal. And look at another website I really like called "I'm Not Sorry," where women share their stories of abortion and aren't sorry.

Let's play a little game. It's called "Invent a Bogus Syndrome." It's fun. Are you ready?

According to the same report by WHO, there is considerable evidence to suggest there is a negative psychological impact of bearing an unwated child. "A rigorous, longitudinal study in the Czech Republic to examine the effects of denied abortion (David et al., 1988; David, Dytrych & Matejcek, 2003; Kubicka et al., 2003) found that women go to great lengths to obtain an abortion when one is initially denied. A significant minority of women who were twice denied abortion in a pregnancy experienced difficulties with longterm adjustment and mother–infant attachment and their children had higher rates of long-term, adverse developmental and emotional consequences than those born to a matched cohort of mothers who desired the pregnancy... [Others have] made similar observations in a 50-year study of unwanted babies in Quebec, Canada." (p. 53). Given this, let's invent a syndrome, and call it "post abortion denial syndrome." We can say that there is evidence to support it. The syndrome makes it difficult for women denied the right to choose to bond with their children. Now, let's get more money to do more research to validate the findings further.

Of course, this is as bogus as claiming that there is a "post abortion syndrome" and women are traumatized by their decision to terminate. See what I'm getting at?

We can't take the statistical edges of a group and call them the statistical centre. There is simply no evidence in any longitudinal study done anywhere that this invented "post abortion syndrome" is real. It's as bogus as the "post abortion denial syndrome" I just invented.  But that doesn't mean that some women don't feel regret. And it doesn't mean that women who are forced to continue unwanted pregnancies don't face psychological problems afterwards.

Just because these two groups of women are statistically small, doesn't mean they should be completely ignored. I'm concerned about both of them. The way to help the second group, the group who are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, is to ensure all women have choice. But what about the statistically small number of women who exercise their choice and feel regret?

I say, let's do some more research and find out what happens to them in that time period. Any PhD students out there looking for a project? Meanwhile, I'm going to postulate a couple of theories, because it's my blog and I can do what I want.

Firstly, given the current judgemental, vitriolic and punitive narrative about abortion, it's not surprising that women start to feel bad sometimes. There's a lot of name calling going on, sign waving, a lot of people telling women to feel bad. It has to take a toll. I might suggest to those doing the name calling and sign waving that if you don't want women to feel bad and are concerned about their post abortion mental health, stop causing their trauma.

Secondly, it's hard to look at the road not taken and not wonder about it. It's human nature to think about what might have been if we'd taken that other job, married that other guy. Women are allowed to do this in only one direction though when it comes to motherhood. If we've terminated a pregnancy, we can think ruefully about what might have been if we hadn't. We can imagine some pastoral scene of a chubby healthy child running towards us in a field of wildflowers, (like in the opening credits to Little House on the Prairie). But we are not permitted outside of our heads to think ruefully about how great our lives might have been if we had not had that baby screaming in the nursery, that teenager in drug rehab, that adult child in prison who murdered eighteen people. That is unthinkable (outside our heads). So we see a kind of "survivor bias" being expressed.

There was an interesting take on this in Slate recently, kind of tucked into an article about Tim Tebow and the anti-choice superbowl abortion ad. Survivor bias is a skew in perspective, a wearing of rose coloured glasses. Just think, says the superbowl ad, a great football player may never have been born. Meanwhile, as William Saletan points out so well in the article, other women who failed to heed their doctor's advice and chose not to terminate a dangerous pregnancy may not have had such positive outcomes. They may be dead, as may the offspring. Our bias is towards the survivor.

Thirdly, there is another way in which we look at the world with rose coloured glasses. When our lives improve, we forget how bad the bad times were. Who wants to dwell on that? I wonder how many of these women had some significant improvement in their lives in the year(s) following a decision to terminate. We have a tendency to impose current life conditions, especially if they are better, on past life decisions. If really honest about the conditions under which they made their decision to terminate, could they still see it as the right decision at the time?

But this is what I really want to say. What would happen if we women lived in an evironment that was supportive of our choice, and our right to make it? Just as the research outcomes change based on the legal environment in which choices are made, it stands to reason that one's perspective also is affected by the emotional and social and cultural environment in which a decision to terminate is made. So let's do what we can to affirm women.

And remember, the most common feeling expressed after an abortion is... relief.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cultural Imperialism and Abortion

Recently, I was accused of being a cultural imperialist because of my insistence that abortion be included in the maternal health initiative. (See The Munk Debates). Again note my fairmindedness in posting critiques of me on my own blog. Hmmm. This was quite a gambit from my opponent, I thought. After getting over my shock at being accused of cultural imperialism, I decided to respond that actually, excluding safe abortion is cultural imperialism because it forces women to continue pregnancies that they might not want by making the alternative impossible or unsafe. It is limiting choice and defining possibilities for others that is cultural imperialism. Giving women the choice to follow their own consciences respects their human rights, their right to freedom of conscience, their right to control their own body, and to put it in terms of the struggle for abortion rights in Canada, to security of the person.

As Professor Fred Sai, former Senior Population Advisor at the World Bank and reproductive health advisor to the government of Ghana, has said, “Abortion laws inherited from colonial powers are the main reason so many women in developing countries die.” (Thanks to Joyce for pointing me to this.)
This is from this great website called global safe abortion. It's fantastic. Have a good read.

On the same topic, this is a great article on how recent Canadian politics harms Africans.

Facts, Propaganda and Somerville

It's easy to use facts and statistics to support your own view of the world. And fun too. I do it all the time. How can we tell when something is a bunch of hooey? Well, Dear Reader, part of what you have to do is educate yourself. Look to good sources. And then look at some more. Let's take Margaret Somerville, for example. She's an ethicist and director at the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill University. Wow, good source. Or is she? This is a smart person, someone with excellent credentials, and way more letters after her name than me and my little M.Ed.

But when it comes to abortion, even the best vision gets myopic. MS is anti-choice and doesn't seem to think too much of me. In response to my point made in the G&M that restrictions on abortion are a way of punishing women for failing to conform to the ideals of the "good woman," she says "Restricing abortion is not a ruse of the patriarchy." (And please notice my fairmindedness, my willingness to put a critique of me up on my own blog.) I also love how she puts quotation marks around my identifier, "reproductive rights advocate." It gives me the feeling she doesn't think too much of that. I also get the feeling she doesn't much like feminists either. Well, I'm certainly both, so there you go.

Moving on, even though this ethicist says otherwise, restricing abortion actually is a tactic of patriarchy. And yes, it is a tactic, not a ruse. (For a good primer on patriarchy, try "I Blame the Patriarchy," one of my favourite blogs.) Restricing abortion is the ultimate means of denying a woman control of her own body. It's says, "Guess what? You thought you were in charge of yourself, but you're not." And if you're not, what or who is? That's a good question. Well, patriarchy is one option in the list of possible answers.

Do I have to say why the right to abortion is important again? Why don't you read this instead. This was feminism in 1971. All I could add now is that if I don't have control of my own body, I'm simply not a free person.

In another article, MS goes at it again. She's very prolific. She says firstly that there is no consensus about abortion (using Margaret Wente (!) as a source). In fairness, in my experience, ask 100 different people what they think about abortion, and give them some space for nuance, and you will get a hundred different answers. But there are identifiable themes within the nuance, and in the over-riding themes, there is consensus. The majority of Canadians identify as pro choice and there has been no change in this over the past decade.

But then it gets worse. MS goes on to say that there is a dearth of information about what abortions are performed in Canada and that this is purposefully done to invigorate the pro-choice side of the debate.

First of all MS fails to mention that, as with all medical procedures, the medical professions themselves have guidelines their practitioners must follow in order to remain in good standing in the professions. Their practice is regulated, and I personally feel that this regulation is more appropriately situated within the medical profession than put together by some random MP. I don't want said random MP telling me when my heart transplant is okay. I'd rather have my doctor do it. MS makes it sound like, without legislation controlling them, doctors are out there, willy-nilly, performing abortions at eight months and three weeks. They're not. "The majority of abortions occur in the first trimester. According to Statistics Canada, 0.7% of all abortions performed in 2003 occurred after 20 weeks of gestation, with 90% occurring in the first 12 weeks. The small percentage of late-term abortions which do occur were found to be primarily the result of discovering fatal or severe birth defects in the foetus, or because the mother’s life or health was at risk, or both." Stats Canada keeps the numbers. I personally used to receive an annual report on maternal outcomes from Alberta Health when I used to do more research. It had all the abortion numbers too. It wasn't hard to find at all.

At any rate the quote above comes from some real myth busting about abortion, and I encourage you to read the whole thing. This article does a much better job of it than MS.

And don't get me started on the anecdotal evidence. I can match anyone anecdote for anecdote. But this is already too long a post.

Here's another critique of MS, which I enjoyed. This critic takes on MS's anti-choice perspective. And here is one more, supporting the secular perspective on public policy.

On one thing MS and I do agree. Everything is ideological. Or in other words, to use the famous feminist maxim, the personal is political. In the post-modern world, there is no such thing as objectivity. What's the point?  Check your sources, and do your research.  And know the biases of the sources you use. Hopefully, they'll be honest about them. Have I mentioned I'm pro-choice?

Addendum: June 15, 2010

The critiques continue. I'll add this one from Vicki Saporta that appeared in the Letters to the Editor after MS's article was published in the Montreal Gazette. I'm printing this particularly because it clarifies the difference between where stats are avialable and who collects them. Stats Can reports the numbers, but they are collected by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Good to know.

Facts are available

Re: "Busting the abortion myths" (Opinion, June 1). Margaret Somerville's article relies on anecdotal evidence that supports her personal ideology rather than speaking to the unbiased, statistical evidence concerning abortion.

The majority of abortions in Canada are provided in the first trimester and there is statistical data to support this fact. In 1995, the responsibility for collecting abortion data was transferred from Statistics Canada to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Perhaps if Somerville had contacted the correct agency when writing this article, she would have learned that, according to the CIHT, in 2005, the percentage of abortions provided after 20 weeks was less than one percent (0.56 per cent).

Abortions after 20 weeks are provided in a hospital and data show they usually have a corresponding diagnostic code, which indicates a fetal or maternal complication. These are often heartbreaking cases of women who discovered late in very wanted pregnancies that their fetuses were diagnosed with fatal anomalies or that their health or life would be put at risk if they continued their pregnancies.

It is misleading and inaccurate to suggest that the facts on later abortion are somehow hidden from the Canadian people.

Vicki Saporta
President, National Abortion Federation Canada
Victoria, B.C.