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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Resources for you

What a good time to remember to be grateful for all of the health care workers out there who keep us well. Many of them are working while the rest of us have our holidays, taking time away from their own families to be with ours in our time of need. Thank you to all of you.

Extra thanks to those health care workers who provide abortion care with such sensitivity and faith in women.

If you are stumped for a gift this season or just feeling the spirit of generosity move you, consider making a donation to one of the many pro-choice charities in Canada.

If you are experiencing an unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that has become unwanted, this is a particularly tough time of year. I send my love to you and my belief that you will do what is right for you.

There are so many women and men who have worked hard to make sure you have choices, that proper care is available to you and that you can access the resources you need. If you are having trouble finding help, check out the websites below. They will help you find what you need.

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada
and see all the links on their page for local clinics and other information. I feel grateful every time I check this list for all the people who dedicate themselves to protecting my rights and keeping us healthy. And once again, I will also direct you to my favourite local site for more general information on sexual health, at Calgary Sexual Health Clinic.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Inflamed Anti's and a new comment policy

My gosh, you'd think I'd taken a stick and poked them in the eye. I had no idea so many anti's were reading my little blog. Please, do me a favour and read the play. Maybe you'll see where I'm really coming from then.

But what was it that bugged you the most? The fact I said we'd won? Or that I said we didn't have to engage with bullies and abusers?

I'll give you all the abridged version of comments. One anti suggested we hadn't really won because the Supreme Court left open the possibility of a new law that will withstand a charter challenge. Hmmm. It's been nearly 25 years now. A generation. That feels pretty good to me. Maybe the reason there isn't a new law is because it's pretty hard to take away a person's control of their body and still say they have rights or security of the person. And there was one attempt, if you will recall, which didn't make it.

Others say things like "You just keep telling yourself that, sweetie," which was my absolute favourite. Thanks buddy, whoever you are. Of course, I don't know because you are anonymous. To be honest, I don't think I'm really his sweetie at all. He's definitely a man though. In fact, I think he'd like to use quite another word for me. Someone else is annoyed that I didn't post their link to anti choice business. Hello? This is a pro-choice blog. She wants me to engage in debate on the blog after saying I won't debate. Another blogger, an anti who lists the Bible as her favourite book, (which is really very sweet and I mean that genuinely), thinks that because on my first post I said I won't debate and on the second added nuance means I've contradicted myself. Read it again, dear heart. No I won't debate. But that doesn't mean I don't speak up. She thinks she could destroy me. I like the implied violence. That was my favourite part. To use the words of someone else, "You just keep telling yourself that, sweetie." Finally, I got a diatribe on why American women are useless (that's not really the word he used) and why American men should only marry foreign women, and really, I don't know how that fits into this at all. But if I could reply, Sir, good luck to you finding any woman at all, foreign or domestic.

This is what having a blog is like, for those of you who've thought about it and wonder if it's worth it. Of course, all these folks are anonymous. Just sayin'.

But really, the point I was making on day two of my post about debating was that it is a waste of my activist time, as is reading comments from people not brave enough to put their name down. So from now on, if you want to comment, you have to be a member.

Friday, December 9, 2011

More Debate about (Not) Debating

This is more on yesterday's post.

Not debating the anti's doesn't mean not speaking. As Audre Lorde said, our silence does not protect us. No one can accuse me of being silent, by the way. As we all know, nature abhors a vacuum. It's important that we speak, or the anti's fill the public space with their nonsense and it goes unchallenged. How many women have heard the lie that abortion is linked to breast cancer? We need to speak to counter the lies and misinformation they spread. The question is more where we start and who we speak to.

What the anti's are demanding of us in their recent tirades is different. They want us to"debate" with those whose minds will never change. As an activist, I know it's important to spend my energy where it counts. This is an important tactical issue. It's in their interests to have us all burn out spinning our wheels to them alone. My time is more important to me than that. I can spend 100 hours preparing debates for the nutties who picket the clinics and show the fetus porn and it will be a waste of 100 hours. They know that. And I end up using words like "nutties" and "fetus porn" because it's so frustrating. And why would it be otherwise? Likewise, they waste their activist time speaking to me.

Further, we are in no way obliged to engage with bullies, abusers, and people who hate monger. In fact, it is unwise to do so. 

Instead, if I put 100 hours into speaking to general audiences, writing a play, or even doing this blog, the outcome is much different. There are more openings, more opportunities for nuance and often, more truth. If anti's want to read my blog, that's fine. But it's not directed at them and I have no expectation of changing their minds.

When I speak to the public, I speak from a Canadian perspective in which abortion is safe and legal (actually a-legal, but we can do that another time) as it should be. As I said, we've won that point. The Supreme Court agreed. Check. Now we can talk about why we need to make it even more accesesible and present the evidence on how it has improved women's health. We can ensure it is included in health care and under reciprocal billing. We can talk about why it is so important that medical schools expand their training to ensure all future doctors are familiar with the procedure and can counsel their patients well. If we want to talk historically, we are coming up to the 25th Anniversary of the Morgentaler decision, a significant reason and opportunity to celebrate, to offer more education and information to the public, and to put this great win into a historical and political context. For younger women, this might be new and important information. But let's offer it in our true context, the context in which we have won.

Our work is by no means done. It will continue to take a tremendous amount of our energy. And it is important to do. I will always talk publicly about why I care so much about this (and always have) and will talk to any general public group that invites me to do so. Without the right to choose, I am not free. But I won't "debate" with the anti's. They want me to waste my time.

The Abortion Monologues is available for purchase at www.abortionmonologues.com

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Debate about (Not) Debating

The anti's have been kicking up a fuss because they want to debate. There have been several articles on this recently. They all boil down to a school yard taunt of clucking like a chicken. Our side, the pro-choice side, has offered reasons why we don't debate to the anti's. You can find these in any legitimate pro-choice forum. I don't need to repeat them here. But these reasons seem unreasonable to the anti's. The clucking like a chicken goes on. So I'll give another reason, the one we all know but don't say.

Are you ready? It's earth shattering.

We don't debate because we already won.

My friends in business tell me a big rule of sales is not to sell past the close. This deal is closed, people, and we won. For us, debate is a waste of our time. In the real world, the world in which abortion is legal and considered a human right, our time is better spent ensuring access is available to all women, that those in PEI and New Brunswick who continue to flagrantly defy the law stop, and that reproductive justice is available to everyone. We need to make sure our providers are safe from the crazy zealots who wish they were dead. We need to continue to take the shame and stigma out of sexuality. We don't need to run the part of the race we've already won over again. We need to concentrate on what's ahead, not on what's behind.

We won.

(Please see December 9 and 10 posts for more on this.)

The Abortion Monologues is available for purchase at www.abortionmonologues.com and available as an e-book here at Smashwords.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Globally, women need access

There have been a few articles recently about the need for women to have access to safe abortion globally to reduce unnecessary maternal deaths. Of course, I like these articles because they support a position I hold and have debated publicly.

Two of my favourites are at RH Reality Check, one by Elizabeth Maguire and another by Jodi Jacobson relaying information on the Declaration in Support of a Global Campaign for Safe Abortion Access, which was a focus of this year's International Conference on Family Planning. Both are important to read. The conclusions, of course, are that all women must have access to a full continuum of care: contraceptives, postabortion care and safe induced abortion in order to reduce and eliminate unnecessary deaths.

No big surprise here, but our own government fails to listen. It still fails to provide aid for a full continuum of care under its much ballyhooed Maternal Health Initiative. This is resulting in unnecessary deaths, right now. It is unacceptable.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review of "Life Choices" by Linda Weber

Linda Weber was one of the first abortion counsellors in the United States in the 1970s, a founder of an abortion and women’s health clinic in Boulder, Colorado and has been a psychotherapist and spiritual counsellor for women for almost forty years. Her new book, Life Choices, is the culmination of decades of her thinking about abortion, its relationship to the rest of life and what it has to teach us. In it, she asks her readers to “be open-minded,” and to try to look at abortion with “curiosity and compassion,” which is exactly what she has done here. 

Weber’s work is feminist to the core. It is also holistic, stressing the interconnectedness of all life. She is part sociologist, part historian, part anthropologist, part psychologist and part philosopher as she examines the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual impact of crisis pregnancy in women’s lives. She urges us to reproduce consciously. I appreciate the use of the word “conscious” when it comes to reproduction and everything it implies. While Weber always remembers that humans are part of nature, she also stresses that we are sentient and conscious beings, and able to make choices about the direction of our lives.  Without abortion, conscious reproduction is not possible. As Weber says, “We are not free if we do not have reproductive freedom.” (p. xvii)

In considering the barriers to free choice, Weber offers a combination of old school consciousness raising along with what feels like an introductory Women’s Studies course. She presents a primer on patriarchy. She describes mothering mythologies and how women have learned to subordinate our true desires within patriarchy, referring to feminist thinkers like Adrienne Rich and Carol Gilligan, among others. But she also refers to women she has come into contact with in her practice, giving them equal authority. She writes that choice is difficult. We sometimes fall back on our learned subordinate roles and allow others to make choices for us. As women, we sometimes do not know how to make our own decisions based on our own needs or are unaccustomed to making our own decisions. We have learned to be subservient, to place the needs of others before our own, to adopt the values of social institutions like churches and not to think for ourselves. She writes, “It is nothing short of revolutionary for a woman to define her own morality.” (p. 58)

Some women will balk at this description of themselves in patriarchy and refuse to believe they are subject to forces beyond their control. No one likes to be painted as powerless or under the control of forces they don’t consciously understand. I’ve seen women utterly reject this notion in Women’s Studies classes. But if this is your reaction, I urge you to keep reading. Often, we can’t see the box we are in until someone makes us feel the edges of it. Yet, there is no place in this work for seeing women as victims. There is only opportunity for growth. A crisis pregnancy can teach women about their own true desires and to act in their own best interests, to know themselves and to take conscious control of their lives. Whatever choices are made, there is no blame or judgement. Weber writes, “Women make choices within the context of a society that is hostile to our choice making. Pressures come from within and without. We make our choices within the limits of our awareness. We do the best we can.” (p. 39)

Weber speaks of women who have positive experiences with abortion and who feel empowered by this opportunity to make a choice that is best for them. She reminds us that taking care of oneself is not selfish, and I think at this point in women’s social history we cannot be reminded of this frequently enough. She also considers stories of women who struggle with the termination of their pregnancy. Yet, she never falls into the trap of blaming abortion itself for trauma, as many anti-choice people do. She writes, “Women need to be careful not to mimic the culture by using the abortion experience as a convenient dumping ground for feelings about other unresolved aspects of our lives.” (p. 55) Further, she writes, “To find causes for these feelings we must develop a broader, deeper perspective about life as a woman in patriarchal society.” (p. 55)
Weber explains all of this in a tone that mirrors the curiosity and compassion she asks of her readers. Crises involving sex and death bring us face to face with our place in creation. Death is a vital and necessary part of life, yet our culture does not encourage us to think about death. Weber asks us not to shy away from the fact that abortion is a kind of death and to understand that death serves life. She challenges pro-choice people to engage in discussions, even when words like death and killing are used and not to deny that abortion can include feelings of loss and grief.

To do better, we must know better. We must learn. Weber teaches by offering us the stories of women she has counselled and her own experiences. She extends her observations about these stories into an explanation of the social, political, historical and cultural context of our collective lives. In this way, she is able to illustrate how the personal is political. In this approach, you can see her roots in second wave feminism.  Her work is a reminder of how powerful consciousness-raising can be as a tool for change.

Sometimes I wish she delved a little further into the existing research and offered a few more footnotes. For example, she writes, “Scarcity of social support is the most significant contributor to psychological distress and confusion around abortion, especially in relation to morality and spirituality.” (p. 15) I agree, but feel she misses an opportunity here to cite studies and provide the reader with something beyond her (admittedly vast) personal experience that we could use to support this point of view.

The book isn’t linear; she loops back to ideas, repeats them, adds to them. You have to read to the end to see her whole point or you risk categorizing her ideas wrongly. I have to admit that Weber nudges up against places that bother me. But, I kept reading with curiosity, as she advised. She is a bit new-agey for me. I imagine that this part of her thinking, as unappealing as it is to me, will appeal to others. At one point, she questions the importance of championing individual rights. I understand that in her holistic world view, rights can only be understood in relationship, but in the world the way it is now, I think we have to remain vigilant about respecting the rights of individuals. Finally, she calls her perspective “pro-life.” I understand why she does this. Anti-choice people have taken up this moniker when they are really only pro-fetal-life. It is important to make this point. Re-branding is necessary, but I think it would be better to find a new term. Otherwise, as she admits, we risk blurring the lines between those who want to ensure women can make conscious choices about reproduction and those who would do anything to remove those choices.

In another case, she does find the new term we need. She dismisses “family planning” as a descriptor because people are not necessarily planning for families when they seek birth control methods and information. She says what they are doing is “sexual planning,” and she is right. We could all adjust our language here and better describe our work. This is one of many little gems scattered throughout the book and easily missed on too quick a read.
Weber’s final thoughts on how the dynamics of personal and political power will have to change in order for women to safely and peacefully determine what she calls “the flow of life” through pregnancy is inspired and hopeful. Life Choices is a thoughtful and provocative addition to the wider literature on abortion and has the potential to help many women (and men) come to a better understanding of the important place abortion has in our lives.  
This review is part of a blog tour I was asked to participate in by Linda Weber’s publisher, Sentient Publications, who provided me with a review copy. I have not been paid for this review and the views expressed are my own. In fact, I would have blogged about the book anyway (though probably a little less formally) because I think it’s an important addition to the very scant literature on abortion. The next blog on the tour is at Women's Glib on November 19 and the previous blog on the tour was at Anti-choice is Anti-Awesome. Linda Weber will be doing an actual physical tour of the west coast in February. Please consult her website for more details closer to that date.

The Abortion Monologues is available for purchase at www.abortionmonologues.com and available as an e-book on Smashwords. Check it out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

An open letter to Justin Trudeau

Dear Justin,

Forgive my informality; it's just that I feel like I know you. I was a big fan of your father. I watched you grow up, have watched your family's ups and downs, have been saddened by your losses and celebrated your successes from afar.

I am sorry to see you've been having a rough time lately. Jane Taber indicates you can't catch a break, whether it's on the long gun registry or Catholicism or that stickiest of issues, abortion. Although guns aren't really the topic of this particular blog, let me just say for the record that I applaud your stand on the long gun registry. You are absolutely right to take every opportunity available to point out that most women killed by their partners in Canada are killed with guns. Thank you for that.

Now on to matters more typical for this forum. Dean Del Mastro, a Conservative who has been unleashed upon you, says you are not Catholic enough to speak to children at Catholic school, and asks if there is any Catholic teaching you do observe. Who does he think he is? Apparently, he seems to think he speaks for the Church, that he's the Pope's man in Canada, and it's his job to be your Inquisitor. I think not. He's hiding his partisan bullying behind a pulpit, something I personally find intolerable. Call him on it.

Del Masto's comments seem to misunderstand one of the most central tenets of the Catholic faith. In the Church, the individual conscience of each person is recognized as the keystone of moral decision making. As a result, we have the existence of groups like Catholics for Choice. They have no problem with being pro-choice and Catholic, (although clearly Del Mastro wouldn't agree with them) and make compelling arguments in support of their position. If you are unaware of them, I think you should visit their website at www.catholicsforchoice.org. There is a Canadian branch too, but this main one has a more complete website. Have a look at their issues section on abortion, particularly the notes on Canon Law. You will find plenty to add to your arguments and prepare you for further debate.

Further, Del Mastro apparently not only thinks he can speak for the Church, he also thinks he can speak for the school. Can the Catholic school in question not invite anyone they want to speak to their students? Del Mastro implies only Catholics can speak to Catholics, and only certain Catholics at that, Catholics who follow a certain line of Catholic thinking. Would he object to a Presbyterian speaking to the student body or a Muslim? Just wondering. This is a side issue, for sure, but it demonstrates the problem with fracturing public school into various special interests. There is a danger that our children will only have exposure to other children who are like them. This makes it difficult for them to cope in a diverse society, to appreciate other points of views, to be open minded, and to recognize valid approaches to problems and solutions that come from other sources. It means that they reinforce their own ideas over and over creating an endless cycle of homogeneity. Let's not fall into that trap. The children at this school will be fortunate to have such a distinguished guest. You have a good deal to say and could well inspire these young people to go into public service.

I want to remind you too that the current core of Conservatives are a bit too fundamentalist for the liking of most Canadians. Don't get sucked into a contest of who can be more religious. The last thing Canadians need is the kind of pandering to the religious right that has gone on in the United States. We see the results of this all too clearly in the current race for Republican leadership; every issue is filtered through the lens of religion and candidates bend over backwards to prove they are more religious than their opponent. Put religious zealots like Mr. Del Mastro in their place. Remind them Canada is a secular society and you believe every Canadian is entitled to their beliefs, even him.

Finally, I have one small and gentle criticism to make of your remarks through this whole thing. You say you are personally against abortion but pro-choice. Most people understand what that means. But you can leave out the first half of that statement. It is implied in the second half and utterly redundant. In stating the point the way you do, you give a subtle nod to the misconception that being pro-choice is only about ensuring women are able to have abortions if they choose. We pro-choice folk want women to be able to make any reproductive choice they want including having babies. We think women can and should use their individual consciences to make informed and conscious choices about reproduction that are right for them and right for their families.

So keep up the good fight, Justin. Don't be discouraged. If anything, be bolder. Take those bullies on. Don't back down. I'm with you, and I know many others are too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

We are the 7 Billion

There are now, as of this week, 7 Billion humans on the planet.  
This is an incredible fact. I am one of them. So are you. And we're a bit of a problem. We're pushing other life to the edge of its capacity to survive, we are rapacious users of energy and resources, we pollute, cause climate change and seem unable or unwilling to plan for the long term survival of our own species let alone any other. And we're not even that good to each other. We do not distribute power equally, do not observe human rights equally, and this enables a very few of us to keep whatever we can for ourselves. We damn some of our number to live in poverty and misery as though it is not our problem, as though they are not just as human. 

I read somewhere this funny and profound answer to someone who was complaining about being stuck in traffic. The response was, "You are not in traffic. You are the traffic." We are the traffic, my fellow humans; we are the 7 Billion. We are the problem and we are the solution.

As the Occupy movment has pointed out so well, our leaders have let us down. Their obsessions are mere distractions from the real problems the human community and the earth face. They exist to maintain power among themselves. The United States continues its downward spiral with the attention of its leaders averted from showing leadership on the environment and on human rights in the global community, or dealing with its crushing debt, a debt with the potential to destabilize other countries, or even dealing with the growing gap between the rich and the poor within its own borders. Instead, they are obsessed with legislating control  of women and criminalizing non-reproductive behaviour.

But we have to remember. We are not just the 99%. We are the 7 Billion. If we let them get away with it, it's no one's fault but our own.

I like to believe we are in the death throes of patriarchy, that the kind of desperation being exhibited by fundamentalists the world over is the desperation of patriarchs clinging to power. I happened to see a segment of Oprah with Chris Rock, who talked a little bit about the Tea Party. He said something like he was heartened by them. He felt that they were like kids who were over-tired, acting out just before they finally succumbed to sleep. He said something like he figured this was a last tantrum, a  last explosive burst of racism and sexism and heterosexism, the fury of which was a sure sign it would end soon. Bed time is coming.

Of course, patriarchy has been with us for some 5000 years now, so this last burst might take a while. But I have faith.

In Canada, there are those who are just as obsessed with women's reproduction as our American friends, patriarchs one and all. They want to "reopen" the abortion debate instead of dealing with the real problems we face. Reopening the debate is just another way of saying they want to recriminalize abortion, delegitimize non-reproductive behaviour in women, attack women's human rights and re-assert that women's primary role is to bring babies into the world. Apparently they have such a huge interest in this happening that they are willing to legislate away women's freedom. ARCC (Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada) has a new piece on what reopening the debate means, and more importantly, what we could make it mean.

We could make this into a discussion about how to end problems with access and end the stigma associated with abortion. We could make this into a discussion about how women can further break from patriarchal controls. Conscious choice in reproduction has never been more vital. We are the 7 Billion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Laws Criminalizing Abortion are an Abuse of State Power

The United Nations is advising member nations that the criminalization of abortion is an abuse of state power. See this article from RH Reality Check. The first paragraph makes me so happy, I have to excerpt it.

"On Monday October 24, 2011 the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health will present a report to the UN that unequivocally tells governments they must remove laws that criminalize abortion. This is not the first time a branch of the UN has recommended reforming restrictive abortion laws to protect women’s human rights but it will be the first time that governments at the UN will be told loud and clear that these laws are an abuse of State power and there are no excuses for their continued existence."

What great news.

Ten Ways to Support Choice

Here are 10 ways to support choice. Although some specifically mention the Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition, (forgive me, but I live in Calgary) they pretty much apply everywhere in Canada, so I hope this gives you some ideas. Please feel free to add more ideas in the comments. All are welcome and this is, by no means, a comprehensive list.

1.      Get Informed. It’s pretty hard to speak about your beliefs at the best of times, but when your beliefs are understood by a few people to be controversial, it’s sometimes even harder. One thing that makes it easier is getting good information and knowing a few facts – like most Canadians are pro-choice, that about one third of all women have an abortion at some time in their reproductive lives, and that most women who have an abortion are already mothers. To get really well informed, look at sites like the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. They have short, easy to understand answers to most of the questions and arguments that are made about and against abortion. Check out their “On the Issues” section at http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/ontheissues.html. Check out some good pro-choice blogs and keep on top of the issues.

2.      Challenge anti-choice misinformation. In the newspaper, in the classroom, at dinner, at a party, everywhere. When you hear it, challenge it. Again, remember most people agree with you.

3.      Speak openly about it. Stigma around abortion keeps many pro-choice people quiet. Abortion, like anything to do with sexuality, is too often shamed. Speaking openly about it reduces the stigma. Lead by example and provide others with an opportunity to join the conversation. If you don’t like speaking in groups, you can express your ideas in lots of ways – write a story, a play, a comic book (see www.thinkprochoice.com) take some photographs (see www.arts4choice.com) or paint a picture. However you do it, speak up.

4.      When you see an anti-choice article or letter to the editor in the paper, write back. Don’t let it go unchallenged. Say your side. Some papers (especially in Calgary) seem to be a bit fixated on the abortion issue and tend to be anti-choice. Don’t be afraid to weigh in.

5.      Contact your provincial MLA and your federal MP to tell them that you are pro-choice, you expect them to protect a woman’s right to choose and that you believe abortion must remain fully funded.

6.      Demand improved accessibility. Contact your local hospital if they don’t perform abortions and request that they do. Contact your MP and demand that abortion be made available to all women no matter what their location is in Canada. The issue goes beyond Canada. Right now, Canada offers foreign aid through the Maternal Health Initiative that is intended to save women’s lives but the MHI does not include funding for abortion. Write to your MP and ask for this important life saving procedure to be funded.

7.      Donate funds to pro-choice organizations like the National Abortion Federation’s Patient Assistance Fund. This money goes to help women who incur costs they can’t afford in order to travel to a clinic and stay overnight at a motel.

8.      “Like” the Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition’s Facebook page and encourage your friends to “Like” it too. There’s power in numbers. Checking the page is a good way to know if there is an initiative underway that you might be able to participate in.

9.      Demand that your school provide unbiased, comprehensive sexuality education. If you are in University, demand that your medical school includes abortion training as a mandatory subject. Consider joining Medical Students for Choice or FIRE at the University of Calgary.

10.  Most importantly, don’t take your right to choose for granted. Right now, there are people in Canada who want to take that away from you. Don’t let them do it.

The Abortion Monologues is available for purchase at www.abortionmonologues.com

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ten questions for those who want to ban abortion

Ten questions for those who want to ban abortion are posed on a recent MS Magazine blog. The writer is thinking through the consequences of such a ban on the criminal justice system, and more. It is worth taking a look at.

I particularly like the questions about how much jail time they think a woman should serve for having an abortion and if a repeat "offense" deserves more time. There is a good deal of food for thought here. The last question is really the best, and makes an important point too often overlooked. I won't spoil the surprise for you.

Here is the article.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Abortion care must be fully funded.

Don't forget about the rally in Toronto on October 22 regarding abortion funding.

Joyce Arthur at ARCC has a great article up on why abortion care must be fully funded. Have a look at it here. There is a link to a longer piece with the details of the research. Thanks to Joyce for providing all the facts.

We have to be glad that Hudak didn't win the Ontario election. But complacency remains our biggest challenge. It is "the enemy within." If I were to rewrite the Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" for modern times, the three beings at thee feet of The Ghost of Christmas Present would be Complacency, Apathy and Pragmatism. If you are in the Toronto area, go to the rally. And west coasters can rock for choice this Saturday in Victoria.

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Most women who have abortions are already mothers

Sixty one percent of women who have abortions are already mothers. a recent article in Slate provides the details and links to research you may want to look at. Although I was certainly aware that many women making this choice were already mothers, even I didn't realize it was quite so high. What can we learn from this? Well, according to the Slate article, women want to be the best mothers they can be. Women choose abortion so that they can be a good mother to their existing children. Sometimes having another feels like too much, like they will be stretched too thin in too many ways to be able to cope. This is important. It's important because we are talking about a group of women who know - really know - the ups and downs, the benefits and costs, the wonderful and the terrible, about mothering. The anti's often suggest that these women don't understand what they are "giving up." They assume "if women only knew" what they were casting aside, they would change their minds. That's why the push is on to make every woman see her ultrasound. Believe me, she already knows all too well. These women are informed decision makers. Let's respect their choice.

The Abortion Monologues is available for purchase at www.abortionmonologues.com

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Support Choice Now

There are a couple of great opportunities to support a woman's right to choose coming up across the country. If you're wondering why anyone isn't sticking up for women, I would ask you first to look in the mirror. Are you? If not, it's time. The Regressive Conservatives are all tied up in knots about Planned Parenthood and have backbenchers itching to outlaw abortion. The next round of private members' bills is upon us. Ontario could be headed for an end to abortion funding by OHC if Hudak wins and all across Canada, the anti's are out with their placards and fetus porn. If you are in Toronto or Victoria or anywhere nearby, consider attending these events. If not, check out your local pro-choice organizations and see what's up in your neck of the woods. Be pro-active. Be pro-choice.

In Toronto
Saturday October 22, 1 pm, NE corner College and University, Rally for Abortion Rights
see http://ocac-choice.com/events/ for more information.
In Victoria
Saturday October 22 , 1-4 pm Rock for Reproductive Justice at Victoria's Spirit Square (in Centennial Square)
see http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=279463742078654 for more details
And don't forget the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada's Video For Choice contest. Deadline for submissions is December 31. Get going. For more details, see http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/video/contest.html

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MP Trost. So predictable.

How many ways can we say I told you so?
See the latest on CBC News.

I may have to start a "Trost Watch." Perhaps I'll add to this post every day.
Sept. 29: See this article in the Globe and Mail

Prime Time Abortion

Check out my guest post on Abortion Gang about Grey's Anatomy and Cristina Yang's character having an abortion. It's not the first prime time abortion (that was Maude) but it is one of very few.

Here are two things I didn't say in my Abortion Gang post.

First, I love being a guest on Abortion Gang. This is an inspiring group of young, fantastically well-informed reproductive rights activists and it's a pleasure to be part of this particular flock every once in a while. It's nice that they let me guest blog in spite of the fact I can in no way be considered a "young" activist. Thanks.

Second, the part I left out because it didn't really fit is about how this episode will be received by the public. I wonder if we will have to face endless debates about what Cristina's decision means? Will the anti's say she is selfish to put career over family, and that this decision will bring about the end times? Will we have to explain to them that Cristina is a fictional character, and the actions of individuals, fictional or not, are generally not responsible for end of world scenarios? Will others use it to suggest that it means that women cannot have it all, challenging that particular promise of feminism? Will we have to explain to them that whether or not women can have it all, they certainly will only have what they want and the whole point was Cristina did not want a baby? I wonder how it will spin, or if it will spin at all? Remember when Murphy Brown had a baby "out-of-wedlock" and then VP Dan Quayle got involved and said she was setting a bad example? Remember when the pundits had to point out that Murphy Brown was a TV character? That was good fun.

Only time will tell.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Limits of Free Speech

thoughtful article by Joyce Arthur of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has been posted on RH Reality Check about the limits of free speech in the context of abortion. This is a compelling argument that would, if adopted, enable the law to protect targeted individuals and groups such as abortion providers. Thanks for adding this perspective into the debate, Joyce.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another Pro-Choice Comic Book

I'm delighted to have found another pro-choice comic book to join "Think" (see www.thinkprochoice.com) in the fight against anti-choice crazy.

Have a look at this great comic book about CPCs and their underhanded tactics in San Francisco. In "What Every Woman Should Know", Susie Cagle reveals the ways in which CPCs use the pretense of a medical facade to trick women into hearing their religious, anti-abortion propaganda. Well done!

There are many CPCs in Canada, and we could easily switch a few words here and there are use this for our purposes here.

It is more than generous (and unfortunately accurate) to say at the end that they aren't completely useless. Yes, if you are pregnant and want help with having a baby or creating an adoption plan, these places could potentially help you. But, as Cagle wisely points out, they don't really exist for that. They exist to deter women from choosing abortion as an option.

Let's help this great work get some attention.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

We've Gone to Australia!

Every once in a while, I get really excited by an order that comes in for the play. I was super-excited to ship the play to Ireland, and now, today, I'm shipping to Australia! How wonderful to think of one's work going across the world like this.

Other writers often ask me why I self-published and have lots of other questions about self-publishing. I think why I self-published is pretty obvious. The title alone makes a publisher balk, and given the topic, not many would want to risk taking this on. Also, I wanted full editorial control. I didn't want a publisher telling me what to tell my women to say or telling me to add a monologue I didn't want to add.

In the old days, self publishing was also called "vanity publishing." It was often not very good. Works were marred by a lack of professionalism, spelling and editing mistakes. I would urge anyone interested in self publishing to get an editor and go through all the stages that a regular publisher would take you through. Your work will be better in the end.

And I have control of the work from end to end, including distribution. I've learned so much about the business of books. It's been a wholly good experience. Yet, I'm considering changing things up a bit. I'm considering still keeping a very small supply of hardcopy, but also selling digitally. Thoughts? I would welcome them.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Boycott Kelowna the week of September 24.

This just in, Kelowna joins Ottawa as another city in Canada to have proclaimed a pro-life week. See this article for more information.

Kelowna, renowned for its beauty and wine, is perhaps less well known as a conservative stronghold. But indeed this is a bastion of Christian fundamentalism, the heartland of domininists, submissive wives and alleged "family values." The Conservatives didn't drop Stockwell Day into this riding for no reason. They knew he couldn't lose there. If it's something in the water, you can bet I'm going to rethink my next purchase of Kelowna peaches, and wine too, for that matter. In fact, I think I'll start a personal boycott right now. Too bad for you, Quail's Gate, Mission Hill, Cedar Creek, Grey Monk Estates and St. Hubert. (For a full list of Kelowna wineries to boycott, see this link.) Let's all boycott all things Kelowna for the week of September 24, and maybe longer. Why not? There's plenty of good wine elsewhere. There's lots of sun in Osoyos and I think the beach might even be prettier. Take that, Kelowna.

Kelowna General Hospital performs abortions, as well it should. Abortion is a necessary medical procedure. But the folks at City Hall and their local anti-choice groups would like to see that change. (That is, until they need one themselves. That's always a game changer. Or one of their daughters needs one. Another game changer. Although in my experience they have the abortion, rationalize that God said this would be all right just this one time and just for them, and go right back to picketing.)

Once again, as we are seeing all over the US, Canada and now Great Britain, the hard right and people in search of a fraction of their votes is selling women out to win elections. They are trading women's rights to self-determination for the favour of a fringe minority who think the blob like bundle of cells she would currently rather be without is more important than the woman (without whom it would not exist). Taking control of a woman's body away from her, whether it is through violence, rape, or by regulating her reproduction, is to enslave a woman. It's misogyny.

What if they declared a "No rights for People From Saskatchewan Week" or "Anti-Toronto Week?" It wouldn't fly. I want to see the line in the proclamation that says, "In order to assert our hatred of women, Kelowna declares the week of September 24 a week where we work towards rolling back women's rights." At least be honest about it. And you women out there, and you men who get it, for goodness sakes, speak up. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and a lot to lose.

You may well ask, why didn't I call for a boycott of something in Ottawa. Like what? Politics? Most of us boycott that already, but if you want to, go ahead and boycott beaver tails.

Bring an end to the insanity while it still exists in small backwater pockets of this country. (Take that, Ottawa.) Let's not let it spread. It is a pox upon our nation. Boycott Kelowna. Send email to mayorandcouncil@kelowna.ca

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodbye Jack

Like so many of you, I am saddened by Jack Layton's death. Our movement lost a friend and allie. Jack was a great feminist, a great believer in women. He knew deep in his heart that the old saying, "When one is oppressed, all are oppressed" was true.

It was a pleasure to see that Dr. Morgentaler attended the funeral. It felt good to see him there.  It felt good to listen to the eulogy by Stephen Lewis. If felt good to have the things that I stand for affirmed so publicly and to have so many people seemingly in agreement.

As another old saying goes, it is the best of times and the worst of times. Worst because we have lost a great leader, best because we see such obvious evidence of the impact we are having.  That impact is surely in part, even in large part, the result of the charisma, energy, generosity and optimism of Jack himself. But it is more than that. The movement he represented so well has made progress. It has laid bare the flaws in capitalism, in corporatism, in hard right wing policies and given us another vision. It is the best of times because in the true spirit of social democracy, we know the movement is more than one man. He had help, and lots of it. We will search our grassroots, our youth, the new and energized MPs in Quebec and throughout all of Canada and find in them our next leaders.  And those of us who are merely voters are here too, offering our support, our input, and adding our dreams to the vision.

We've been told for too long that our beliefs are somehow pathetic, that to bleed for other hearts is weak, that to take less so others can have more is inexplicable, that social democracy is the stuff of childish dreamers. We have been told this by those who want to justify their own power and greed, justify the fact that they have taken more than they deserve, more than anyone deserves, justify their cold heartedness in the face of the suffering of others. We see through them. Everyone who felt the loss of Jack in some way sees through them.

Jack's letter to Canadians says it all, and says it much better than I can. If you haven't read it, read it. I am particularly moved by his encouragement to other cancer patients, his concern that his death might make them lose faith in their own capacity to recover. Having been a cancer patient myself in the past, I can imagine the selflessness, the generosity, that brought him to pen those words as he was dying. And I thank him for that. Because when anyone we know dies of cancer, we inevitably go to that place, that terrible dark place. He knew we would.

So he reminded us to be optimistic, that optimism is always better, not just when coping with illness, but in every situation, even in politics.

Thanks Jack. For everything.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ten things to counter anti-choice misinformation

Here is a great article by Amanda Marcotte on ten things to say in your next argument about abortion with some misinformed anti-choicer.

I particularly like the way Marcotte points out that anti-choice fanatics, with their anti-sex messages and policies, create conditions that increase the need for abortion and later term abortions in the first place. Nice work, Ms. Marcotte.

The Abortion Monologues is available for purchase at www.abortionmonologues.com

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What the Heck's with Hudak?

For those who are even slightly aware of ongoing abortion debates, the past few weeks in Ontario have been good fun. Conservative leader Hudak has been called upon to clarify his position on abortion. My congrats to DammitJanet for digging around and raising the issue. Her recent post says it all. For some of the other media on Hudak, see the following links.
Warren Kinsella
Tanya Talaga at The Toronto Star
Some have called it a public releations disaster. I think it is excellent news for the average voter. We are entitled to know the personal beliefs of politicians. Why? Because no one gets into politics to do not much of anything, to just go with the flow and try to not make any waves until it's time to collect the pension. People have ideas, dreams, visions. In the case of Provincial and Federal politics, political aspirants try to find a party that is a close enough match to their own views that they won't actually choke on the bile that inevitably rises in their throats while they are forced to live with towing the party line. For example, maybe in their heart of hearts, they think their party's policy on the environment is a disaster. That's okay. They can live with it. They can live with it because they know they will attempt to influence that policy from the inside so it is more in keeping with their personal views. That way, they can keep telling themselves they have not totally sold out (even though they probably really have and the likelihood that they will be influential is very slim, especially on the big stuff, the stuff that drives our culture and our economy). So it is with abortion politics too. Can someone anti-choice uphold the laws of the land when said laws are decidedly pro-choice without throwing themselves into existential crisis? Can you work to uphold beliefs that are antithetical to your own? I say, likely not, at least not without losing some vital piece of your soul. I know that if I  lived in an anti-choice country where abortion was illegal and clandestine and I went into politics, I would try hard to change that. I would expect Hudak to do everything he can to influence public policy in the general direction of his personal beliefs. It is naive to think otherwise.

So thanks to DammitJanet for this important piece of information. And as always, let the voter make informed choices.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Website Update

The Website update is done and I hope you enjoy the video clips that are posted from the great show we did last year in Calgary.

Also, it looks like delivery of the next print run of the play will be in just two or three weeks. Thanks for your patience.

Now, go outside and enjoy the summer.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Video Clips of The Abortion Monologues

A few changes are on the way on this teeny tiny website, this lonely internet outpost of reproductive rights. It's been a while since I updated the site. In fact, I haven't even written a blog post in a while. It's not for lack of desire. I'm pretty busy working on another project which I hope will see the light of day sometime. Anyway, you'll notice soon that there will be a button for video clips. We made a few clips from the Calgary show last year, and put them up on You Tube. This was a fabulous production that was Directed by the brilliant Tarra Lois Riley. The decision to keep the whole cast on stage through the show and present them as a Greek Chorus emphasized the sense of community among the women that is really at the heart of the play. Also it was just a darn good show with fabulous actors. I hope you like the clips. Until the new tab is in place, feel free to link from here.

Monologue 6
Monologue 7
Monologue 8
Monologue 12
Monologue 22

I hope this gives everyone a good taste of the play and that you enjoy and share the clips. As must be, comments on the You Tube channel are disabled for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, civil discourse is still not the norm on this topic. As always, it is my hope that this play will encourage thoughtful discussion. I just sold out of my last printing, and another one is in progress. If you want to order, go ahead and I'll give you an ETA.

If you're reading this, thanks for your interest, and thanks for your support of this work!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Pro-Life" put in context

Here is a great piece by Cliff Schecter in Al-Jazeera that puts the pro-life movement in context. He describes how incompatible the name "pro-life" is with the broad belief system shared by most of its adherents. He writes, "The sad reality is that, to be pro-life in the US today, which is to be conservative in almost all cases, is to love thy enemy by supporting illegal wars - or just plain stupid ones - that kill hundreds of thousands of innocents, cutting health-care benefits and nutrition programs for children and the poor, and turning the other cheek … of the person you're torturing. It is also to cut funding for bridges that are falling down to make room for slashing the tax on yacht shoes, make a best faith effort to ensure criminals, the mentally unbalanced and terrorists have access to assault weapons and C4 explosives, and to love thy neighbour - to love them so much as to give him or her a lethal injection if you think they killed someone." There's more, and it's worth the read.

The right don't care about their inconsistencies. They have their goals in mind, which seem to be gaining and maintaining money and power. They don't think about the process, only the product. The end justifies the means. Machiavellian in the extreme, how they get there is immaterial.

The left, on the other hand, think about process all the time. And it's hard work, because we have a diverse movement with all kinds of different goals. To see where those goals coalesce is sometimes difficult. If we were to put an umbrella over all the movements, and give it a name, would we call it "social justice" or "equality" or "social and environmental justice" or something else? What about animals? We can't leave out animals. Are animals understood to be included in a word like "environmental" or "ecological?" Is eliminating racism and sexism and all the other isms understood to be part of a phrase like "social justice." Does this phrase do us justice?

See how hard it is? We debate, quite publicly and openly, the flaws of our various positions, which has primacy and the inconsistencies which threaten to unhinge us. We debate tactics that are best used, and how they will affect the outcome. Is street level activism like a SlutWalk good for the overall cause (whatever that is) and does it have to be? Is violence ever justified? We know that the means are important to the ends, that how we get there is as important, maybe even more important, than where we get.

The right doesn't care about process, about consistency, about any of that. They'll murder doctors to save a fetus. They hate and call it love. They can live with being pro-life AND pro death penalty. The ends justify the means. And what is the end again? Money and Power? Preserving the patriarchal status quo?

These are the big questions, people. And although I curse the left sometimes for what I'll delicately call our "collective inefficiency," our failure to keep the eye on the prize (even if we can't agree on a name for that prize), the older I get, the more I know that how we get there is everything.

Monday, May 16, 2011

When is doing nothing doing something?

Will the Conservatives challenge abortion rights or won't they? The to-ing and fro-ing is getting to be too much to bother recounting on this blog. I could spend my life being a clipping service. Although I would like to plug Dammit Janet's recent post on the subject because it was particularly good, I'll leave the others for you to find yourself. Suffice it to say, opinion is divided. Generally, the pro-conservative bunch say they won't challenge abortion rights and the anti-conservative bunch say they will.

There are lots of ways to challenge reproductive rights. One is by doing NOTHING. For example, currently the federal government is doing NOTHING to resolve the situation in New Brunswick where the provincial government is violating the Charter and forcing women to pay out of pocket for their own abortion care. They are also doing NOTHING to prevent private members' bills coming forward that limit various aspects of abortion care. They are doing NOTHING to improve access to abortion care throughout Canada, particularly where it is scant or non-existent like in the North, rural areas, Prince Edward Island and so on. They are doing NOTHING to ensure that abortion care is available to women in other countries through the much debated Maternal Health Initiative.

Doing nothing is doing something. It will be a war won by attrition by the cons, if we don't do anything to challenge their nothing by demanding a positive action to support reproductive rights. In other words, they don't have to do anything. Just stay the course and in no time, we'll be set back a generation. But there is hope. I like the movement in BC to fully fund contraceptives for all women, as long as it is done in conjunction with full access to the whole range of sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion. I also find hope in Judith Timson's recent article about the SlutWalks. The walks are happening all over the place and are also much debated, but Timson makes the point that one thing the walks are doing is getting young women comfortable with street protest, and that is an important thing. I can only hope these same women and more will be willing to take to the streets again when their reproductive rights are threatened.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Thoughts

Mother's Day. It's a Hallmark Holiday, but nevertheless, a good day to think about mothering. Here at the Abortion Monologues, our motto is "Every Mother Willing, Every Child Wanted." This is still a dream, but it's good to dream and to work towards that dream.

Roadblocks to achieving that dream include some of the myths we have about mothering. Our mothering myths transmit values, norms and patterns that become part of culture. They determine how we feel about ourselves as mothers and as women, how we feel about our own mothers and the other mothers around us. And as always, the personal is political. Our feelings and beliefs inform the kind of social policy we make.

One of the first things I think about when I consider the current myths of motherhood is that whole crazy Super Mom thing and all it entails. Recently, Super Mom not only makes her own baby-food, has children with good grades and future professional careers, children who excel in gymnastics and piano and math, she is also Super Mom with a great body. She's the yummy mummy, still sexy with a nice tight vagina after the birth and rock hard abs. She's doing her kegels, rocking the workouts, all while rocking the cradle. We praise the woman who has "lost the baby weight" and deride the one who ends up with lumpy thighs, a bumpy tummy and no waist. She has "let herself go." I don't even need to say what's wrong with this. You already know. So stop participating in it.

It's worth taking the time to deconstruct what we think about mothering beyond the body, and to dig into the cultural belief systems that make mothering such an difficult job for so many of us.

One thing our culture likes to do is think about mothering as something we know by instinct, not something we learn. Unfortunately, the babies are never born with an instruction manual. I don't know about you, but I didn't know how to do anything, in spite of my diligent reading. Breastfeeding came about as naturally to me as sky-diving. Our feelings of self-worth plummet when we don't magically "know" what to do with these lovely pudgy needy crying pooping little people. This is kinda funny when at the same time mothering is lauded as THE MOST IMPORTANT THING A WOMAN CAN DO.

I got more training to be a cashier than I got for mothering. I had to get a license to drive. But mothers receive precious little, if anything, by way of training, and what we do receive is extremely prescriptive and simplistic, as though there is only one way to mother correctly. The fact that this one true path changes periodically (look at what has been said about breastfeeding over the last century as an example of this) shows there are many paths. There are trends in mothering, just as there are trends in anything. Family Bed. Cry it out. They can't both be right. Mothers need non-judgemental education that offers evidence-based best practices for things like nutrition and safety, lots of options, examples, case studies, discussions, and the freedom to apply this learning to their own unique situations as they see fit. But when we are in the thick of things, and our baby is crying, and we begin to wonder if we really should implement the family bed, or if our neighbour is right and we should let the baby cry it out, we feel pressure to perform our mothering tasks according to the latest trend. This often means conforming to the loudest, most judgemental voice closest to us. It's in all of our interests to remember mothering is not all instinct, that it is learned too, and that we must support mothers in their learning. Don't treat mothers like they are idiots when they don't know what to do. Offer help and support. Present your help as possibilities, not prescriptions. "He might be more comfortable if you change his position. I've seen some women hold their babies like footballs, and others put the snuggly on their backs." See what I mean?

Along with this, we tend to think of mothering as an act of love, not work. This has huge implications for us as women. I will say, Of Course We Love Our Children (even as I know some of us do not, but we're totally not allowed to talk about that, but someday we will) but this does not mean that raising them isn't also work. There is this false notion out there that if we love what we do, this is reward enough. No payment is required beyond that. Occasionally, a study comes out saying that if we paid mothers market value for all of the tasks that they do, they would earn (insert shockingly large amount of money here). We are always surprised by this. This recurring study makes us feel... what? Important? Because we know our importance in this society is measured by the money we earn? Sad? Because we are not making that much money? Used? Because we're doing all this for free and no one bothers to say thanks? How does it make us feel? You decide. But what I do know is that mothering for me is both love and work. Just because I love my child doesn't mean she hasn't been a heck of a lot of work to raise. And it makes me take a hard look at our culture and what is valued as work. Saying someone shouldn't get compensated with actual pay if they love their work is a ridiculous notion.

As the great feminist economist Marilyn Waring points out, we only value what we count. I just finished filling out the long form census (oh, sorry, we call it the National Household Survey now) and there was not one question about household unpaid work or unpaid work of any kind inside or outside the home. This is a problem and has implications for social policy which will continue to fail to recognize the work that mothers do and compensate them accordingly, to make sure they are not poor in their old age, to make sure they have adequate support to do their jobs well and raise healthy children in healthy families.

We also think of mothering as an individual task rather than as a social task. This is unique in history and an invention of modern western society, from what I can see. We are expected to do our work largely alone, or at most within the nuclear family, and maybe, if we're lucky with some nieghbours, some extended family, or with a Baby and Me group. Again, this has huge implications for social policy. If mothering is something we do ourselves, our mothering needs to have no attention paid to it in social policy, no collective support, no "village" to help us raise our children. Again, we know this is a lie. But this is the pervasive idea that guides the broader culture right now.

Finally, although I could say more, we think of mothering as essential, not optional. A woman's destiny is tied up with her role as mother. A woman who does not mother or does not want to mother is not only seen as unmotherly, she is unwomanly. Essentialism is alive and well in our culture. That's a fancy name for the idea that "biology is destiny." Our destiny, our purpose as women, is to have babies, and more specifically, have the babies of men. It is our job, through our mothering, to continue patriarchy. Whew. That's a lot of weight on me. Especially considering I wish an end to patriarchy. And if I don't have the baby, guess what? I'm a bad woman. So women who have abortions buck this myth in a profound way. No wonder they are shamed and blamed.

This Mother's Day, let's do something beyond buying a Hallmark Card. Let's do something substantial to change this matrix of ideas that diminishes all of us as mothers. Write a letter demanding government sponsored, subsidized and regulated day care. Stop blaming mothers for everything that goes wrong, and think about any mother-blaming you have done and try to find empathy in your heart, knowing that this mother worked, and worked hard, did her work largely alone, did it whether or not she wanted to, and did the best she could with what little education she had. Maybe make a donation to a mother in need through a woman's shelter or woman's centre. Maybe donate to Oxfam or a like-minded organization to help women raise their families and have healthy babies or not have babies at all. Let's help ensure all mothers are willing and all babies are wanted.

But most importantly, examine your own beliefs about mothering and see if they are really true or if they are just myths.

And Happy Mother's Day to you, if you are a mother, or just have a mother.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

After the Election, what now?

Canada is behaving like the annoying little sister of the United States, following in their footsteps, tagging along, even when the example it has set is dangerous and destabilizing. My country, the country that believed in peace, order and good government, the country that was moderate almost to a fault, the country that was happily mocked as boring, is now about to change.

My country will spend its collective money and energy integrating with the United States, working towards their visions. We will build prisons and criminalize more people, and hire their "experts" to help us. We will do this even as this policy is now questioned by the same people who have exported it to us. We will buy helicopters and more from the US military industrial complex. We will privatize our health care and dismantle a system that, although flawed, is still the envy of much of the world. We will cut taxes, even as we watch the US deficit spiral out of control. We will make corporations more profitable, even as we observe the growing gap between the rich and the poor and the disastrous impact this has on social cohesion. We will tear the fabric of our tolerant society with a war on abortion and join their culture war. We will bring religion and superstition into our secular society, deny science and create an echo chamber of misguided opinions presented as fact.

It is not going to be a good four years. But, what some are calling our Bush years will come to an end, just as theirs have and the tag-along sister will follow suit a few years later, I expect.

As for the movement I am most closely aligned with, the reproductive rights movement, I have had a recurring image over the last few days about my work. I am like a mother who wants the best for her child. I save money for an education, I shelter and feed and clothe her. I do my best to nurture and to guide. I want her life to be easier than mine was; I want her to have more than I had. But sometimes the child goes its own way. They get in with a bad crowd. They quit school, take the college money and blow it on crack, they live in a hovel. They imprison themselves with bad choices. They choose a path I recognize as impossibly hard and infinitely damaging. Yet, I have no control over that. As I weep for them, I realize I have no choice but to sit back, watch it happen, and be available and forgiving when and if that child returns.

When you return to us, we will be here. We will not say "I told you so," no matter how much we want to. We will invite you to rebuild y/our rights with us. We will tell you how we did it "back in the day," how we won the rights you tossed aside even while we know these methods won't work for you anymore. We will be there to give you a framework, a new/old vision. We will help you again when you are ready.

And while you are dismantling the rights we hold dear, we will look at you with deep sorrow and search our hearts for the seeds of forgiveness. We will keep talking to those who helped us create this world you are casting aside. We will seek solace in each other, in each other's visions and dreams of a better world, a world where we strive to build justice, a world in which we recognize our individual well-being depends on the collective well-being, a world in which we recognize equality is not sameness, but fairness. And we will send out occasional missives to you, reminding you there is another way. We will try and find allies among you. We will connect with our base, restock our shelves, realign our efforts. And we will be ready to rebuild.

Monday, May 2, 2011

VOTE for Reproductive Justice

It's election day in Canada. Voting for reproductive justice seems like a good idea from where I sit. But what exactly is reproductive justice?  I came across this great definition used by the Pro-Choice Coalition in Ottawa as a guideline for an upcoming public protest. They credit Sistersong.

What is reproductive justice?

As defined by Sistersong, Reproductive Justice is “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls, and will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities in all areas of our lives. For this to become reality, we need to make change on the individual, family, community, and institutional levels to end all forms of oppression, including forces that deprive us of self-determination and control over our bodies, and limit our reproductive choices. This oppression has been implemented through the controlling and exploiting of women and girls through our bodies, sexuality, and reproduction (both biological and social) by families, communities and institutions."

- http://www.sistersong.net/reproductive_justice.html

They add that "Reproductive Justice includes, and goes beyond abortion, contraception, choice and access. Reproductive justice means fighting for all people to create and sustain the kinds of families they want, how they want, when they want. This movement takes its leadership from the communities most affected by these issues. Indigenous communities and communities of colour founded this movement because of exclusion and continue to be at the forefront."

When we vote, we have an opportunity to influence and change this whole matrix. Think about it. Cast your vote.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

More spoken word, more reasons why Harper is not your friend

Please have a listen to the brilliant Canadian spoken word artist and poet Shane Koyczan about this election, and why voting Conservative is a wasted vote. Thanks Shane. You are fantastic.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hey Haters - Reproductive Rights advocates are pro-family

Sometimes I get "comments" sent to this site that are so off the wall, so vile, so hateful and so unreasoned that I save them in a special file called "scary people." I think that these are comments from the same kind of people who kill doctors.

Some time during the forty weeks of harassment, I wrote about a little incident at the local abortion clinic during which protesters exceeded the number of people allowed by the clinic's injunction. They claimed there were only four people there, not seven as there clearly was. They didn't feel their kids counted as people. I love irony, and apparently others do too because the post had quite a few hits and has been reposted many times as a ridiculous example of pro-life hypocrisy. Yay.

Anyway, someone must have reposted recently because it's getting a lot of hits again, and one comment that I just have to say something about. By the way, I don't post hate mail. This is a site for pro-choice people. Another great irony is how much hate mail comes out of the so called "pro-life" community. For people who are pro-life, they sure like to make death threats. Haters are gonna hate, and they can do that somewhere else. But this one particular sick person said I was just upset because those protesters hadn't aborted the three babies they had with them. Can you freaking believe anyone would say that? What kind of sick person would say that? How messed up is this person?

I bring it to your attention because sometimes I think it's important to make note of the great divide between us, the pro choice and anti choice. The haters think we are evil, that we are anti-family, anti-child. (I've written another sentence here six times addressed to the haters, deleted all six times and am trying desperately not to name-call. I'm just sayin' it's possible to show self-restraint and civility in this world, even to people who threaten your life.) To the haters: Try to think past the propaganda you've been spoon fed and hear what we say. Is it so threatening to hear another perspective? We believe every mother must be willing and every child wanted. We want every child in the world to be a chosen child, a loved child, a child who is supported not only by the core group of people who love them with their whole hearts, but also by society as a whole. We want our culture to be a place where health care is a right and easily accessible, where education is a right and people who look after children, mothers and fathers and day care workers and guardians and teachers and coaches are respected, valued and able to support themselves and their families in every way, including financially. We recognize that we don't live in that world right now. Teachers barely scrape by on their tiny salaries while lesser beings (that's almost everyone in my book because I love teachers) make too much money doing things that don't matter nearly as much. We want every child to be valued and loved for who they intrinsically are, not for who they become or for what they do. We love the straight children, the gay children the trans children. We love them all. Yes, we love all the little children, all the children of the world, and want them all to be taken care of. We recognize the limits of our capacity to do this sometimes and that we live in a world where our vision is not yet realized. We recognize that sometimes a child is not wanted, that a woman isn't willing. We believe it is her right to control her own body and plan her family as she sees fit, and that she is the best person to decide what is right for her.

We are pro-family. We are pro-child. We are pro-man. We are pro-woman. We are pro-choice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Harpergeddon. Is this really what you want?

Is this really what you want? Really? I'm not the first to say that people get the government they deserve. And maybe it's true. Maybe you deserve this. You haven't been paying attention. You haven't seen the evidence before your eyes, or you have pretended what you have seen isn't important. Or maybe you have willfully ignored it.

To start to grasp what Harper is doing to our economy, read Joseph Stiglitz in this month's Vanity Fair, (or read his book Freefall) explaining how in America, one percent that the inequality in America right now is on par with the inequality evident in Russia where oligarchs rule, and in Iran where unrest is at the boiling point. This is where Conservative economic policies are taking us in Canada. Among the biggest threats to democracy is the growing gap between the rich and the poor. The rich will do everything they can to widen that gap and set policy that is in their own interests. The top one percent don't need our social programs. The rich don't need to fund medicare; they can pay for the best medicine available themselves. And they don't want to increase taxes to fund it for the likes of us, the dwindling middle class, the working class and the poor.

Harpergeddon offers another threat to democracy: the erosion of human rights. The richest one percent don't need to care about human rights. They have enough wealth to mitigate any problems they may run into and they set policy so that nothing can threaten their power. But the rest of us aren't in that position. Rolling back reproductive rights is a big part of chipping away at human rights. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If I do not have the right to control my own body, I am no better than a slave. I am simply not free. If I don't have the right to my own body, what other right really matters? If I'm willing to let that go, those who try to exert power over me know I'll let anything go.

And although health care might not be officially a human right (maybe it should be), in Canada universal health care is certainly something we value. What will happen to health care? Read this. Without public health care, we are all one serious illness away from financial ruin. For source material, read Murray Dobbin on what will happen to health care. He's been studying Harper since the beginning, and Harper is not about to change his ways.

Do you really want the most intolerant, the most self-serving, the most entitled group of people in Canada to be the boss of you? Really?

Harpergeddon. I don't think you deserve this.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spoken word against Harper aka Harper is still not your friend (6)

The series continues. Watch this great spoken word piece by sLIGHT about voting for choice.

Also, have a look at this great video about the best pickup line ever, "I am not Stephen Harper" from shitharperdid. Great fun. I will be humming that little riff all day.

Also, in a sub-theme on this thread, how evangelicals have taken over your government, read this article about MP Trost in Saskatchewan and his speech to his pro-life supporters and how they defunded Planned Parenthood International.

This issue has really taken off. There are dozens of articles popping up everywhere about it now. Here's a list.

Tories defunding Planned Parenthood, MP says
Conservatives scramble to head off brewing controversy over abortion
Tory speech ignites abortion flap
Abortion and hidden agendas: Brad Trost set to be this year's Cheryl Gallant
Tories scramble to douse abortion fire

Tories leave Planned Parenthood in limbo over funding

Tories forced off message to address abortion funding

Planned Parenthood funding pulled: Trost

Sask MP Brad Trost claims he killed funding for Planned Parenthood

And here is Andrea Mrozek whining about it on her "ProWomanProLife" blog: http://www.prowomanprolife.org/2011/04/21/going-off-message/

I'll say it again, the agenda is not hidden people. It's right out there for anyone to see. The question is, are you voting for it or not?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Death of a Machiavellian vacuum salesman - Harper is no friend to women (5)

Thanks to Margaret Atwood for today's piece in the Toronto Star on Harper as a vacuum salesman. As she says, this is fiction, but all too painfully real, done in my favourite style, funny (with fact).

I was talking to a smart, successful (if money is the measure of succes, that is) thirty something guy last week who votes Conservative. He listed all the problems he saw with the other parties and said that he didn't trust the other leaders, said the usual crap about someone being too intellectual and someone else being too socialist (actually, he said "pie in the sky" but meant socialist.) He said there were no alternatives. He said this like he was reading a script from the National Post.

Living in Alberta, I often have to listen to this kind of diatribe, said out loud in public places as though everyone within ear shot agrees. I cleared my throat and disagreed with him in front of the assembled group. I took a chance on diatribing right back. You may be surprised to learn I don't usually do this, at least not outside of the blog. I was civil. I told him that I was concerned that the Conservatives shut down dissent. He said this was about "winning," and I felt myself being pulled into a Charlie Sheen world. I said that democracy is more complicated than winning and losing, that the winners, even though they won, have to represent the losers, the people they most disagree with. I explained how they pulled funding from people they saw as enemies and that this was a problem in a democracy. But in his view, it's okay to kill your opponent, like to do otherwise is weak. Nods of approval from the assembled. Politicians as gladiators.

But that is the way of war, the way of capitalism, not the way of democracy, I said.

I said I was concerned that they prorogued Parliament when things weren't going their way. He said that he felt this was an acceptable tactic. I said it was childish, picking up their toys and going home when friends didn't want to play their games. I said that they have repeatedly called this election is "unnecessary." He said it was, but I reminded him that they were in a minority government that had lost the confidence of the House. I reminded him that they had been found in contempt of Parliament. He said it was about the budget. I said, no, they were in contempt. He didn't understand. I said that they refused to give details about spending. He said that was an excuse. I said, "No. The government was brought down on it." Facts didn't seem to matter.
I said they claimed to be all about accountability, but wouldn't disclose their spending.

He said what about the Liberal scandals? He groused about them being a bunch of criminals. I said that although I will be the first to admit other parties have had scandals, the Conservatives currently have several members and high up mucky mucks embroiled in scandals, under suspicion, investigation or with criminal charges pending because of their scandals. They have cheated on election spending among other things. (I didn't even mention that we are about to learn they hid lots of perks for some MP's ridings in their G8 spending. We don't know the details yet because Sheila Fraser hasn't released the report yet. Let's hope she does it before the election.) Speaking of the G8, they basically suspended the Charter of Rights during the G8, the greatest affront to the rights of Canadians since the FLQ crisis. As far as women go, (not that he cares particularly about women) they have taken women back a generation, defunded status of women, killed the court challenges program (I had to explain what that was) and would end abortion. He said he thought that was fear mongering. I detailed their record. I said they would bring back capital punishment, end gun control, give tax breaks to the wealthiest and to corporations, extend the gap between the rich and the poor and make social welfare a thing of the past.

I said they have changed, are changing and will continue to change the Canada I was proud of, the peacekeeping, globally respected Canada of the past, the one that was so well respected that people from other countries pretended to be Canadian while travelling so that the local folks would be nice to them. Remember that Canada? Remeber when others used to want to wear our little Canadian flag pins? Now we have a country that goes too quickly to war and spends insane amounts of money on fighter jets while cutting back help to veterans. We have a country that does not pay its fair share in global aid, and has gone back to the most colonial of mentalities in the aid it does give (do what we think you should do, global aid recipients, not what you believe you need to do for yourselves). I even talked about how they have stopped collecting accurate data by ending the long form census so that they can fund what fits their ideology (like more prisons) instead of dealing with what is real (our crime rate is unchanging.)

The rich get richer and the poor get children.

He was unconvinced. I said that their base is Evangelical Christian. He said that was intolerant of me to bring that up. Actually, he said I was a bigot. I said it was not intolerant and that I was not a bigot, that I didn't feel Christians were in any way a jeopardized minority but instead that it spoke to the kind of society they were trying to build, their desire to link church and state. I said, "For goodness sakes. They don't believe in evolution." He said Harper does believe in evolution. I said "Yet, he put a guy in charge of science that refuses to say he believes in evolution." A look of concern briefly, ever so briefly, crossed his brow. "EVOLUTION," I said. "How can you vote for people who don't believe in evolution?"

I am frustrated. Our conversation ended with my voice rising and a friend pulling me away.