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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.

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