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Friday, November 16, 2012

What Happens When Women Can't Access Abortion?

When women can't access abortion, sometimes they die. It's that simple. The recent case of Salvita Halappanavar, the Irish woman who suffered and died while a hospital refused to complete a miscarriage in progress because there was still a fetal heartbeat tragically underlines this possibility. Her death highlights what happens when health policy is dictated by religion, not science.

There is no excuse for the death of this woman. Reputable, peer reviewed, scientific research has shown repeatedly that denying women access to abortion increases maternal mortality.* Now there is a new study, The Turnaway Study, that teaches us even more.**

The Turnaway Study looked at women who were "turned away" when seeking abortions versus women who received care. It both debunked myths and deepened our understanding of some of the social outcomes of denying abortion care. For example, they find that there is no proof that women who have abortions have poor mental health outcomes or a greater risk of drug use. What they did find was that women denied access to abortions are more likely to live below the poverty line one year later than their counterparts, they are more likely to be unemployed one year later, and more likely to be on public assistance one year later. Clearly, this places a cost burden on the state.

Some countries get it. France recently decided to make abortion a free service for all women, something that will inevitably save the country money. Although I would never argue the case for abortion simply because it saves the state money, the fact that it does is good. But we can't pick and choose which human rights to support by their cost. Denying human rights always has a social cost.  Steven D. Levitt makes the case in Freakonomics that Roe v. Wade resulted in a decrease in the crime rate. Again, a good outcome, but not one that would comprise the main part of any argument I made supporting access to abortion.

To me, the most troubling finding of the The Turnaway Study is that women denied access are more likely to live in violent and abusive relationships one year after being turned away. They did not enter these relationships in the intervening year; they were less likely to escape them. Getting an abortion allowed women to get out of violent relationships more easily.

As reported before in this blog, laws criminalizing abortion have such terrible results for women that UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health condemned them on October 24, 2011, calling them an abuse of state power. That's what the situation in Ireland looks like to me.

We are fortunate in Canada. We have no law on abortion. In spite of recent rallying cries by anti-abortion zealots such as MP Woodworth and his cohort, we don't need a law. Canada's experience with the decriminalization of abortion proves that we don't need a law. The twenty fifth anniversary of the Morgentaler decision is coming up this January. Canada has a generation of women who have never known anything but a society in which abortion is a medical matter, not a legal matter, and the sky has not fallen. A recent poll shows Canadians understand the benefits of this policy on our society and the majority of Canadians support unrestricted access. It's time we take the message of this success story to the world.


*(See any number of studies on the Guttmacher site, which has a whole section related to abortion, here.) 

**(The Facebook Site linked to above has a ton of information. To keep it a little more brief, see this article by Annallee Newitz. It also includes a link to the whole study.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Review from Vernon

They say never to read your reviews, and I obviously don't do it too often. This is a review from a production that happened months ago, in Vernon BC. I finally read it today. It's really pretty good, and I wanted to share it with you.

Of course, we always like our good reviews, and again I have to thank Jessika LaFramboise and the cast and crew of this production at the Hub Arts Collective for their hard work.

Here is the review by Graeme Higginson. If you're thinking about a production, this should help you decide and give you a good idea of how the play is taken up by the audience.


Another interesting note from the Vernon show. The producer provided me with quite a few stories after the fact. One was that a local anti-choice group was pretty stoked about protesting the play. They were contacting her, making sure the show would go on because they really wanted to protest. I found it interesting that the lines of communication were so open between the two. Good to know that civility reigns in Vernon. Two of the anti-choice group's members watched the play the first night and took copious notes. In the end, they decided not to protest. Interesting. This pleases me. When we listen to the voices of women (even if they are fictional) rather than the polarized talking heads that usually take up so much of the public space on this issue, understanding develops. It's harder to hate someone you know, or feel you know. This is how change happens.

Video Clips from Missoula, Montana

The fine people at the Blue Mountain Clinic in Missoula, Montana staged a production of The Abortion Monologues on November 1, 2012. These four video clips capture a little of the night. I want to thank everyone involved in the production for their hard work in bringing my words to life so beautifully. There was lots of money and awareness raised. It warms my heart. It really does. Enjoy the clips.





And to all of my friends in the United States, good luck today.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to Change Minds and Save Women

This morning, I read this remarkable blog post by a woman who used to be "pro-life" and has denounced the movement. It's very long, but so worth the read.

Libby Anne describes how she grew up in the pro-life movement, and in so many words, how her education was circumscribed by it. Out in the larger world during her sophmore year at college, she came across an article in the New York Times that explained how banning abortion and contraception does not end abortions, but in fact increases unwanted pregnancies and abortion and brings harm to women. She went to the studies cited by the NYT and read them. She realized she had been sold a bill of goods. Not only that, she realized the inconsistencies in the movement and how their stance against contraception is really about controlling and punishing women, not saving babies. The blog post is far reaching and a scathing indictment of the pro-life movement. Libby Anne is still no fan of abortion, but now looks at the issue from a pro-choice perspective and espouses pro-choice goals.

It is no big leap to realize that those chanting anti-contraception, anti-abortion and anti-women ideas also attack liberal arts education, the kind of education that demands we do the deep thinking and investigating that Libby Anne does in this blog post. This morning, Margaret Wente, the Globe and Mail columnist recently embroiled in a plagiarism scandal, made another slash at what she labels "faddish academics." Writing again about the ills of liberal arts, she attacks Queen's (one of my alma maters) as a place that is "obsessed with the politics of gender, race and speech." She writes, "Its liberal arts courses offer the usual faddish attention to race, class, gender, oppressed groups, colonialism and the sins of dead white males." Yes, it does, and with good reason. The sins of dead white males and inattention to gender, race, class, oppressed groups and colonialism result in poor thinking, thinking that fails to challenge and change so called knowledge that is really just prejudice and opinion masquerading as fact.

I've been busy with other things lately, and not attending much to this little blog, this abortion-specific forum. Libby Anne's post makes me realize that although I am bored with repeating the same old arguments, arguments that I have known and understood for decades, again and again, the effort is not wasted. It is an educational service.

Speaking of educational services, I want to thank the Blue Mountain Clinic, NARAL, and the Concord Feminist Health Center for productions they are doing of The Abortion Monologues this month. There have been a few productions leading into the US Presidential election, all attempts to get people thinking about supporting choice and supporting women. Thanks for your faith in the play as a vehicle for getting there. Yes, it's all about education. And thanks to Libby Anne for reminding me of that.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Thoughts on Sex Selection and Abortion

After their defeat with Motion 312, the back door attempt to criminalize abortion, the antis are apparently trying again. They are introducing a motion to condemn sex selection, and I would imagine, in doing so, they aim to ban abortion in cases of sex selection. Again, they are stepping way back in the process so the motion seems innocuous. But is it? They think they have found the feminist Achilles heal. They have not.
In my play, The Abortion Monologues, there is a monologue delivered by a character who is having an abortion because she is having a girl. She talks about being at a women’s centre and telling the worker there that she is having an abortion and they tell her she doesn’t have to do this, that in Canada, it is acceptable to have a girl and no one can force her to have an abortion. The character explains that her husband and his family are unhappy and that she is also unhappy about having a girl, about letting them down. The point is, her beliefs are their beliefs. She knows what she knows. She wants the abortion. She wants the support of the women at the women’s centre in this choice.
The character is sad this has to happen, but she knows it has to happen. She knows more than anyone what it will be like for this girl to be born into this family at this time. She knows how this girl will suffer in her life. The girl will suffer as she has suffered. Although it “should not” be this way, and girls “should” be as welcome as boys, in fact, they are not.
As women, when we decide whether or not to continue our pregnancies, we deal with what is, not with what should be or what is theoretically palatable. This woman knows she cannot provide for this child in some way that matters, in some way that matters to her.
Is it any different than knowing one cannot provide economically for a child and choosing an abortion for this reason? No. Will we tell the woman of no economic means that this is not a good reason to have an abortion? No. We all know we wish it weren’t so, that in a perfect world all women would be capable of supporting their families, but in our world, the imperfect world, they are not. Women still earn much less than men and have less steady work, work in lower paid part time jobs and without benefits. We lack affordable and decent child care. These are issues we all know about.
Is it any different than knowing one cannot provide for a child that will have significant and potentially devastating medical needs? Perhaps there will be serious challenges that will likely consume the family's time and income, leaving little left for the other children. Will we tell this woman that this is not an acceptable reason for having an abortion? No. Again, we all know that in a perfect world, the needs of every child, no matter how specific, how costly, how out of the ordinary they may be, would be met. But in our imperfect world, they are not. Again, we deal with what is, not with what should be. 
Meanwhile, we do not stop striving to make the world a place where these factors no longer matter, where every child’s needs are met, where something like economic constraints do not have to become part of the choice.
Ultimately, when we factor out all the “reasons” for abortion, whether they be economic or social, there will still be abortions. What happens when we only have women left who choose abortion because they simply don’t want to have a child? Do we tell these women that this is not a good reason? That this is selfish? No. We would not do this.
The whole line of thinking that some abortions are done for reasons that are more valid than others, because someone was raped, for example, is problematic. Any woman can choose an abortion for any reason, and she doesn’t have to tell us what it is. It's none of our business. 

Meanwhile, we do not stop striving to make the world a place where little girls are as wanted as little boys, where the systemic discrimination of women is a thing of the past. As we all know, taking away a woman’s right to control her own body, to be fully informed and make fully informed choices, is not a way to do this.
Demanding a woman give birth to an unwanted girl to make some sort of anti-sexist point is to sacrifice her will for ideology. It is as coercive as demanding she abort the girl, also a demand that sacrifices her will for ideology.
We assume, and I think we assume wrongly, that women who have an abortion for reasons of sex selection do so unwillingly. To impose our ideas on another woman’s life is patronizing. We can’t know. We don’t need to know. Again, it’s none of our business. As always, the pregnant woman is the best person to make this choice about her own body and her own family. No one can take this away from her. To do so would be truly sexist.  
The motion will undoubtedly allow racism into the argument. We will see the dreaded "White Man's Burden" argument rear its ugly head. Someone will suggest it is the place of "Canadians" to teach "Others" how to live. I have no problem asking "Canadians" to be exemplary. To do that, let's clean up our own backyard and make sure Canadian women have true equality and that we bring an end to the kind of systemic discrimination that leads to girls being worth less than boys. But let's not pretend we have this figured out already. We don't.  
Our bottom line has to be to let the woman decide. Always. There is no feminist dilemma here. Only sadness that our world is still so imperfect and that we are so far from achieving equality.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

M 312 and Jason Kenney: What Kind of Fuckery is This?

In the immortal words of Amy Winehouse, "What kind of fuckery is this?"

I don't think this blog has left any stone unturned in M312 Shenanigans, but since today is the vote, something must be said to mark the occasion.

We know that Stephen Harper uses the rights of women as a bargaining chip to speak to his base. This is clear. We know that the Conservatives say one thing and do another, and as my mother always told me, actions speak louder than words. Today, I'd like to concentrate on just one MP, the vitriolic Jason Kenney.

Jason Kenney will vote for Motion 312. This should come as no surprise given his history. He has been anti choice forever. He was involved in threats to sue his Catholic University in California for not being Catholic enough. That is actually one of my all time favourite things about Jason Kenney. He has an ego big enough that he thinks he can direct the Catholic Church. Un-fricking-believable. When I didn't like what the Church had to say, I left it. I didn't try to make it over in my own image.

But the Conservatives are all about makeovers. You will recall that Mr. Harper said we wouldn't recognize Canada when he was through with it. This has turned out to be true. My Canada was one where the government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation, and I liked it that way.

But in a democracy, the blame (or responsibility) for what government does lies as much with the voter as with the government because, at least for now, we are the government.

Anyway, to get back to my point, we all know that Mr. Harper has said that  a vote for this motion is a vote against the government. So Mr. Kenney will be voting against his government. Can we expect to see him demoted to the rank of back bencher? Highly unlikely. No, don't be fooled. Both he and Mr. Woodworth are doing Harper's dirty work for him. They are speaking to the base while Harper gets to pretend his hands are clean.

Meanwhile women get to be continually reminded that our rights are up for debate.

Tonight at 6:00 watch carefully for what your own MP does and remember this the next time you vote. See who shows up for women's rights and who stays away. See who represents you and who does not. Keep a list. Then check it twice when the next federal election comes up.

In my neck of the woods, a by-election in Calgary Centre will arrive soon. Remember the treachery. Remember who stood up for women.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Notable Canadian Women Oppose Motion 312

I'm one of a whack of "notable Canadian women" who have signed an open letter opposing Motion 312. You can see it here. I can't tell you how happy I am to be on the same list as women such as Maureen McTeer, Abby Lippman, Penny Kome, Judy Rebick, Heather Mallick and so many others who have inspired me for so many years. This made my day.

But we all know, any woman could sign that letter, and of course all women are encouraged to do so. Copy it, put your name on it. Send it to your MP. We are all notable Canadian women. Add your name to the list.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Misogynists: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

That's how I feel about a certain segment of Americans and their misogynist blathering these days. It's too loud and it's too close. It hurts my ears, my head and my heart.

Their woman hating ways are bound to have an impact on Canada. It is still too soon to say what that impact is going to be. The impact might be positive, affirming of women's rights and equality. I think that Canadians will see the hatred being spewed at women and decide they don't much care for it. I think it will show us how important it is to be vigilant and make sure our politics don't turn into religion.
Speaking of which, Motion 312 is around the corner. I was delighted to see the Radical Handmaids come out with a drinking game for the debate. Good to treat it like the joke that it is. I think if I were to use this game watching the RNC, I would have had alcohol poisoning by the end of the night.

I'd also like to point you to a new and informative article by our friend Nick van der Graaf about how Canadian women won our exemplary right to abortion on demand, how Canada became the only country in the world where there are no legal restrictions on abortion at all, or in other words, how abortion came to be understood not as a legal matter, but as a medical matter, a matter between a woman and her doctor. Written for an American audience, I think this article could teach Canadians quite a bit as well.

And in the run up to the American election, many groups are doing what they can to educate and inform. Some are using The Abortion Monologues to get the word out and I couldn't be happier about that. Performances are being organized in Montana and New Hampshire. If you want details, stay tuned. I will post ticket information as it is made available to me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Consequences of Unsafe Abortion

There is a special supplement out of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics dealing with the consequences of unsafe abortion that we can all add to our reading lists.

Unfortunately, before long, we'll be able to do a study of the impact of unsafe abortion in the United States, I suspect, as abortion becomes increasingly difficult to access with new draconian and ill-informed laws. It is as though the members of the right are trying to out do each other in their frenzy against women.

News stories are coming forward though, one off examples of terrible repercussions of ridiculous laws. One that is haunting me is about a teenage pregnant girl who died after her chemotherapy was delayed because it might cause her to abort. This is what happens when legislation is passed against abortion under all circumstances. Women die. Another story that is haunting me is one from Arizona, where state legislators have determined that pregnancy starts from the first day of your last menstrual period, effectively two weeks before conception. Pregnancy starts two weeks before conception. Hmmm. So a woman is always pregnant, or potentially pregnant except while menstruating, or at least on that first day. Which means, if we follow the illogical logic of the misogynist Republicans to the end, that women can NEVER have control of their own health.

It hasn't come to that yet, but I can see how it might. The fact that I just wrote that sentence scares me.

But the remarks of imbeciles like Akin help us in a way. They bring forward stories that indicate how bad things really are, already, even before Akin opened his mouth. This is a story of an American woman whose rapist attempted to get custody of the child that resulted from the rape. And beyond the borders of the United States, the remarks remind us that although they may be (for a while at least) considered outrageous in the US, they are pretty typical in other parts of the world where women face this kind of misogyny all the time. See this great op ed by Gail Collins for more about that.

And they remind us not to let the fetus fetishists like Woodworth, Trost, Kenney and the like get control of the agenda in Canadian Parliament. Remember to speak out against Motion 312. Apparently, Conservative anti-choice MP Colin Carrie (Oshawa) has come out in favour of the motion. Write him a letter if you get a chance. He can be found at colin.carrie@parl.gc.ca. And if you don't know what to say, here is a good sample. Write again to all the anti-choice MPs. Or just speak from your heart. Tell them that it is your right to control your own body, to determine your own health care. Tell them that their actions are misogynist. Define the word for them. Chances are, they won't know  what it means.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The good and the bad - Vernon show and Motion 312

This should probably be two blog posts, but here goes. 

Here's a little press from the upcoming Vernon show from the Vernon Morning Star. Nice to see, in spite of the fact they got my name wrong. Maybe I'll be June for the rest of the month and see what that's like. 

It might not be a bad idea. Being someone else is sometimes appealing, especially when the going gets rough. I won't get into the grimy details, but the going is a little rough right now. I try to take time every day to remember the positive, remember all the things for which I am grateful. 

That's true on the repro rights front too. In spite of the ridiculous motion 312, good things are happening. Maybe good things are happening because of the motion. And wouldn't that be grand? A big ironic pie in the face to Woodworth and his ilk. For example, the Canadian Medical Association came out in strong support of women's rights and against the misogyny of Motion 312. (Hey, new name: The Misogyny Motion). Read about that here in the Globe and Mail.  By the way, the next hour of debate is scheduled for September 21 with the vote being held on September 26. As DammitJanet says, another six weeks of fetus fetishists and prayer ahead. Ug. But again, on the bright side, we'll have another six weeks for others to support the rights of women. 

What else is happening for which we can be grateful? Planning is in the works for a magnificent reproductive justice day in October. I'll give more details in the future. Would this have happened without the challenge to our rights posed by M-312? Who knows? Maybe. The anniversary of the Morgentaler decision is sparking some actions and this may have come about anyway, although the timing is maybe a little different. It's good to see so many young activists getting involved. 

In spite of the current life difficulties, I've written an essay for an upcoming book edited by Shannon Stettner on choice. I am really looking forward to seeing this one in print.

And then there is the lovely Jessika LaFramboise, bringing my show to the heartland, Vernon, BC. Jessika contacted me after seeing the show in Calgary in 2010. She had just had a baby, and had, in the process, become an even stronger advocate for choice. The same thing happened to me. Although I had always been pro-choice, after I had my daughter twenty years ago, my belief that women must be able to choose this path of their own free will became even stronger. To look at the beautiful child I had and try to imagine raising her without knowing that every fibre of my being wanted her, chose her, would do anything for her... well that was unthinkable. Parenting is not a job to be done by half measures and without total conviction. And it's not something that's easy to run away from. We can't just change our names and pretend that baby isn't ours. No, we are in it for the long haul. We must choose it - not be thrown into it by an accident or a failure of birth control. We must know when the going gets tough (and it always does in parenting) that this was our choice. 

So sending lots of love to my little girl, now a grown up, and doing so well. Another thing for which to be grateful. Like me, she has the right to choose. Like me, she is in charge of what happens to her own body. There is a lot to be grateful for in that. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

This Is My Body

There is a great new campaign, This Is My Body, originating in the US with this fantastic video.  Now it has a Canadian counterpart. This is one to watch. 

I'd like to dedicate a monologue to the infamous members of the secretive pro-life caucus. Yes, that means you, MPs Woodworth, Trost, Kenney, et al. This is MY BODY, NOT YOURS. When will they get it?

This is a great time to submit, what with the fetus-centric Motion 312 coming back to haunt us very soon.

I am delighted to see these projects calling out the misogyny in the myriad ways some try to bully and blame women and control our bodies. And I'm delighted by the last lines of the American video. It's almost a manifesto, and there's nothing I love more than a good manifesto. (Maybe a good rant. Maybe I love them both the same.) Go think about it. And then submit.

Monday, July 30, 2012

M312 Update

Same old, same old. The fetus fetishists are still at it and cluttering up Twitter with their attempt to criminalize abortion and the women who have abortions.  There is a good post from the unrepentant old hippy which is worth a read. The hippie makes some excellent points, especially around what the "real goals" of "reopening the debate" are. Don't be fooled for a minute: the only people with anything to gain from this are those who find fetal rights are more important than the rights of the woman carrying the fetus, the people who want to bring an end to abortion and a woman's right to control her fertility, to reproduce consciously, and to take care of her reproductive health safely.

As the date for the return of this issue to the House approaches, don't forget to contact your MP and have your say.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Abortion Monologues in Vernon BC

Great to see that theatre86presents is putting on The Abortion Monologues in Vernon, BC. Look for it August 23-25th at The Hub Arts Collective.

Why not add a little reproductive rights theatre to your summer?

Monday, July 9, 2012

M 312 news

I'm on vacation and took a moment with some rare Internet access to check in on M 312 and the state of abortion politics. It looks as though the big anti choice crapavan ended with a whimper and not a bang in Ottawa on July 1. From what I understand, the fetus mobile was no where to be seen.

I checked in with Dammitjanet's blog http://scathinglywrongrightwingnutz.blogspot.com/ (sorry, can't seem to do links here in the wilderness) and got some interesting news. She and the unrepentant old hippy have been in a twitter war with the Woodworth Wanks, challenging them to name the "experts" they would use to consider when the sperm/egg combo is human. Apparently, they have no idea.

Further, the pro M 312 faction is becoming a laughingstock for blocking prochoice commenters from their twitter feeds while at the same time calling for debate. If you want to follow the fun, check out the #m312 and #nodebate hashtags or start following Dammitjanet.

Now, for me, I have no hesitation blocking anyone who annoys me. Life is too short to deal with professional fetus fetishists, at least one of whom seems to have made my conversion his personal mission. (Note to Mr. Crazy, you get further with kindness than threats. At least that's how it works in my world.) But it is ironic that those demanding debate are blocking pro choice folk. The M 312 faction are using their summer extension though, and are out there drumming up business. Take a second to write your MP again.

Apparently, while I have been away, Chantal Hebert suggested that the loss of Lee Richardson and the odious Bev Oda from cabinet leaves two less pro-choice members, and this is worth noting. Sorry, I don't have the link handy for that, but you can find it if you need it. Back to the wilderness now.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Climenhaga exposes more Wildrose Anti-Choice shenanigans

In a great post on his blog, Alberta Diary, David Climenhaga exposes more Wildrose shenanigans about abortion. Kevin Kinahan, former candidate in Lethbridge-West has been explicitly anti-choice in the past, calling for an end to funding abortion. Have a look at Climenhaga's excellent post here. My thanks to David for continuing to dig, even after the election is over.

Both Wildrose and the Federal Conservatives try to have it both ways on abortion, remaining anti-choice to thier base while pretending to be neutral or pro-choice to the rest of us. Here is yet another example. Like David, I wonder how long this page will stay on the internet? Any bets?

Friday, June 22, 2012

The delay of M-312: What does it mean?

In my ongoing series on what to expect while we’re expecting Motion 312, here is some more information, specifically about the delay in the second hour of debate and the vote. 

You will recall that the second hour of debate had been scheduled for June 7 with a vote for June 13. All indicators were that this motion was an embarrassment to the government and Mr. Woodworth’s attempt to re-open the abortion debate would fail miserably. In fact, a June 6, 2012 article in the Globe and Mail reported that a vote in favour of the motion would be considered a vote against the Prime Minister and Tory MPs were being urged to quash it.

That article had likely already gone to print on the night of June 5 when word came out very late that night that the vote was going to be delayed. The word was Mr. Woodworth was having a family medical emergency. In an email to supporters he explained that his mother was ill and added, “The new arrangement has personal benefit for me.”

The “personal benefit” he receives from the delay is that he gets the summer to lobby. According to Miriam Rycroft, Policy and Stakeholder Relations Officer with the NDP, Mr. Woodworth’s office is trying to book meetings with some of the male MP’s about M-312. The request for meetings states that he wants “to better educate his colleagues on the real issues within the bill.” He goes on to say that, “some issues have been distorted by the media and are not well understood.”

I think Canadians understand what’s going on with your motion just fine, Mr. Woodworth. Do I have to excerpt Gordon O’Connor’s speech against the motion in the House again?

Woodworth may be hoping to gain momentum from anti-choice activities happening over the summer. The fetus-mobile blood and guts road show isn’t winning any friends from what we can see, so I think this effort will fail.

The note that he is specifically approaching male MPs is telling. Apparently, as with his GOP brethren to the south, Mr. Woodworth thinks men are better able to think straight about women’s bodies.

But having said all that, the process undertaken to delay the motion seems a bit convoluted and needs a second look. Normal protocol would be that the House Leader’s office would deal with scheduling private member’s business. But this is not how it worked in this case. Mr. Woodworth swapped his motion with a Liberal to get the timing changed, which seems to indicate his request to delay the motion was turned down by the House Leader’s office already.

I have always found it mystifying that in spite of the Prime Minister’s insistence that he wants this issue buried, it lives on. I have wondered before on this blog if this means Mr. Harper slipping a bit in his control-fest. Did Woodworth do an end run around him by going to the Liberals for the switch? Possibly. But it is also entirely possible that the Conservatives are putting on another show and doing an end run around us, using another private member’s bill to appease their base on an issue that is not supported by the majority of Canadians. With the delay, they make the Christian right wing anti-choice base of the party happy, while at the same time being able to deny responsibility for the delay and the continued presence of this issue in the public. Good Game. Looked at from their side, this delay has a bright side both for the MP and the PM. But looked at from the pro-choice side and the side of the vast majority of Canadians who are pro-choice, every day this motion hangs around is another day for us to remind ourselves that this government is perfectly willing to put women's rights up for debate, to play politics with our health and our security, and raise the spectre of recriminalization.

The important thing to know is that the anti's haven’t given up on this. For the pro-choice side, this means we can’t get complacent. Continue to email your MPs and get petitions signed, knit wombs, and plan your actions. It’s not over.

Meanwhile, I'm still reeling from the Omnibus Budget Bill. Talk about shenanigans. I wouldn't put anything past this government. If you aren't already, follow ShitHarperDid on Facebook and search the hashtags #denounceharper and #blackoutspeakout on Twitter for more about the C-38, F-35s and other letter number combinations that will get your head spinning and make you wonder what kind of tin-pot dictatorship Canada is becoming thanks to Mr. Harper. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Misrepresenting Amy Tan and Misrepresenting Choice

I'm doing some research for an essay that is taking me to some strange places, like Andrea Mrozek's ProWomanProLife blog. I couldn't help noticing that Mrozek listed a quote from the wonderful writer Amy Tan on mothering. This is the content of the post for May 29:

"Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club among other books. I found this quote by her and rather liked it:
I love my daughter. She and I have shared my body. There is a part of her mind that is part of mine. But when she was born, she sprang from me like a slippery fish, and has been swimming away ever since.
'She and I have shared my body' is a lovely sentiment and a far cry from 'my body, my choice.'"

What Mrozek doesn't seem to know is Tan is pro-choice. Vehemently. I looked a round a little more and found this content from Tan's facebook page that couldn't be a much clearer pro-choice post. Tan wrote this after she was criticized for name calling some GOP candidates (and who among us hasn't done that?):

"To those who criticize my perversion of the GOP candidates' names, please know that name-calling is not my usual standard of response. Nor do I normally use expletives. But I make exceptions. Never in my lifetime have I seen such a line-up of candidates who want to pervert the lives of women, who want to f**k them over every which way they can think of. These perverts are men, and variously they are telling us that single women should not have sex, should not use contraceptives, should consider a baby conceived from a rape to be a blessing, and to leave all matters concerning their uterus to them. They say that contraceptives for women make it too easy for them to "do things." They do not offer the same opinions on men and their tendencies to "do things." Their rhetoric makes it sound like women are wanton spirits who must be controlled. I am a writer because I have strong opinions. Those opinions on women's rights come from my grandmother, who was raped, and my mother, who was raped at gunpoint by her husband, and who was jailed when she ran away from him. My mother told me as a child and a grownup, that no one should ever tell me whether I should have a baby. How could I be any other kind of writer, any other kind of person? How could I not protest the perversion of women's rights espouses by these candidates? The twisted names I give them may sound "hurtful" --as name-calling is. But the hurt they would give us would not be temporary slights, but permanent scars. This country is not divided because of Obama. It has been divided for a long time by the Republican Right who vote down the line on personal moral beliefs. They are out of touch with the the actual governance of this country and its relation to the larger world. Would these candidates cut off relations with China until China abolishes the one-child policy? I was born the daughter of a Baptist minister. I know how intractable religious beliefs are supposed to be, how by faith, you must carry those beliefs into the world, into all walks of life, without compromise, without listening to any other opinions. By that faith, you save who you can and smite who you can't. To these GOP candidates who want to rule government by the divine guidance of their cocks, study the pages of history on the Inquisition and the Holocaust, and keep your hands off me, my nieces, my sisters, my women friends, their daughters and their daughters to come."

Holy tirade. Go Ms. Tan.

In this case, Mrozek demonstrates one of the fundamental misunderstandings that anti-choicers have of the pro-choice movement. We in the pro-choice movement support a woman's right to control her own fertility AND we love our children, think poetically and beautifully about them, and still say, "My body, My choice." In fact, I mean it even more (if that is possible) when I think about my daughter's body and how important it is for me that her body be her choice. I can be pro-choice, and love my family all at once.

The word "shared" in the Tan quote used by Mrozek is an important one. Share, as a verb, means to allow someone to use or enjoy something that one possesses. Sharing is done willingly. If not, it's not sharing. If I'm forced to give something of mine to someone else, it means someone who has power over me has oppressed me. If by body is not given willingly and voluntarily, it is appropriated, conquered, seized or stolen. You can only share your body if you do it by choice.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Democracy is as Dead as Monty Python's Parrot

Today, I wish to register a complaint. Democracy is dead. I know a dead democracy when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now. It's not stunned. It's not pining for the Fjords, it's not just tired and shagged out after a long squawk. It's dead. It has been nailed to it's perch since Harper got away with proroguing Parliament. Twice. But now there is no denying it really is dead, like the Norwegian Blue Parrot of Monty Python fame. It has ceased to be. Gone to meet its maker. Joined the choir invisible. 

Apparently, in Harper's world, democracy takes too long. He warned us we wouldn't recognize Canada when he was finished with it, and he was right.  As the Hamilton Spectator said, he treats Parliament as an inconvenience. It is more efficient to attach 400 pages to a five page budget bill that don't have anything to do with a budget because everything can be done at once. Amend or kill 70 Acts. End Fair Wages. End environmental assessment. Let the minister approve Gateway without it. Or with it. Why bother even doing an environmental assessment since the Minister now has the power to approve projects like Gateway no matter what the studies say?

The smarmy Andrew Scheer couldn't push back. As Speaker, he agreed to limit the time for votes on amendments and group the amendments. And Canadians could not find 13 brave CON MPs to stand for Canada and stand against this sham. Afraid to be made an example of like the hapless David Wilks, they towed the line for Steve, but not for us. They pulled a fast one on us. They got C-38 over with quick before Canadians woke up and smelled the stench of democracy rotting.

I've been concerned about what is happening to dissent and democracy in Canada for years. Recently, we've seen the Harper government muzzle scientists who want to talk about climate change. Even when they had a minority government, their efforts to control the message were clear. They have made the collection of data needed to write and refine public policy difficult by ending the long form census. Munir Sheikh, former head of Statistics Canada, resigned his post over Harper's decision to do this. He would have had to put up or shut up, and he couldn't do either. To me, he is a hero. Another high profile dissenter against the Harper agenda was Linda Keen. Remember her? She was dismissed as head honcho at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. when she refused to authorize the restarting of the aging Chalk River reactor because of safety concerns. The Harper government both kills the message and the messenger.  

Yesterday, while the Ominousbus Bill was being considered, news broke that Parks Canada employees had been sent emails warning them not to criticize the government. C-38 included massive cuts to Parks Canada, including cuts to ecological researchers and cultural and historical experts. One Parks employee had referred to the cuts as a lobotomy of the Parks system. I wonder if the fellow who said this still has a job. It has been made clear that criticism of the government would be considered disloyal to the government. Disloyal. Words like that scare the heck out of me. This is a word used in dictatorship. In a Democracy, we would call criticism free speech, or maybe even just "criticism."

Maybe next we'll have American style attempts to ban climate change action and limit information about the negative impacts of climate change offered to us on the already cow-towing CBC. I've been shocked by the lack of critical coverage of C-38 from CBC. With their knees knocked out from under them by Harper's funding cuts, I guess they've learned the lesson. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

But the thing is, it isn't Harper's hand who feeds them. My hands feed them, and yours. And I want CBC fed. I want the scientists fed and I want their dinner conversation too. I want reports from the parks from ecological researchers that can help me understand my world, not faded, dumbed down interpretive sign posts. I want real experts willing to share detailed knowledge. I want to know. But in C-38, any chance I have of knowing what's going on and influencing what's going on gets hit again. We might as well just turn the whole kit and kaboodle over the the Koch brothers now. That would really save time.

A local progressive paper, FFWD, has just completed a survey naming Stephen Harper as Calgary's best villain and most embarrassing citizen. The same survey ranked him third in the "claim to shame" category, but that was done before C-38. I'm sure he'd make the top of the list now.

Democracy, like the Norwegian blue parrot, has ceased to be. It is nailed to its perch, and the salesman, Harper, pretends it is alive. But we know a dead parrot when we see one.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Responding to the Crapavan

Our friend Joyce Arthur at Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and I just wrote a piece about responding to the newest crazy tactic of the anti-choicers. They've taken the fetus mobile onto the TransCanada, away from its usual home in Calgary and maybe to a city near you.

Have a look at the article here, and consider it today's blog post.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

M-312 showdown on the Hill

According to the Globe and Mail today, a vote for Motion 312 is a vote against the PM. Harsh words. What will the simpering fetus fetishists do? Will they risk the ire of the PM and a permanent place in the backbenches? Or will they fight for the fetuses? It will be a while until we know since despite the PM's assurances that he wants this issue gone, the next hour of debate and the vote are delayed, likely until the fall. This would seem to me to be quite a contradictory message. Maybe the all-controlling Harper is slipping a bit?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Motion M 312 debate and vote delayed

I'm not too sure what the story is yet, but it looks like the second hour of debate and the vote for M-312 are going to be delayed until the fall. ARCC and the Radical Handmaids seem to have the word on this. Check their websites for more.

We can only hope it's because the CONs decided to use the time to debate the Omnibus Bill. Ha! Good one. I crack myself up sometimes.  Honestly, why do I not have my own television show?

Seriously, it will give us time to focus on the dreaded budget Omnibus Bill, so go to BlackoutSpeakout and make some noise.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembering Dr. Tiller

Today we remember Dr. Tiller who was murdered three years ago for saving women's lives. One of the few doctors in America performing late-term abortions, his life had been threatened many times. He was the constant target of anti-choice zealots.

It is appropriate to point out this murder was committed by those who espouse the so-called pro-life position, a misnomer if there ever was one.

There are plenty of blogs remembering Dr. Tiller today, including Abortion Gang. To get a good look at Dr. Tiller's life and work, there is a wonderful collection of articles here, on RH Reality Check.

Salon has done some good writing on Dr. Tiller. Check out some of their articles here and here, this latter one including video of Dr. Tiller and his thoughts about his career choice. Rolling Stone has also had excellent coverage of Dr. Tiller, including a 2004 article about the anti-choice crusade against him that seems to have vanished from the internet. It is referred to here, so you can get it's essence and if you are really interested, could probably track it down with some hard copy sleuthing. 

Dr. Tiller trusted women. He was a true feminist. We remember.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crazy, Part 2 - M-312 about to be revisited

Only one week until we have to hear women's rights being debated in the House of Commons again, because apparently, women's rights are NOT secure in Canada. They can be pulled out from under us at any time by our government. I hope you've all got that particular message loud and clear, because that is the message. Any Time. Our rights could disappear. On the whim of a back-bencher. Yes, the fetus fetishists are at it again, and we will have to sit through another hour of "debate" on something that pretends not to be about abortion, but that everyone knows is about abortion. This is, apparently, a fine thing for the House to spend time on. Debating my rights. Because they are debatable. Women's rights are up for debate. In Canada. In 2012.

If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention. Let me explain it further. Yes, we can spend the time of the House on debating whether women will continue to have rights in Canada after June 13,  but apparently we can't spend this same time on the F-35 fiasco. We can't spend this time on any number of elements of the Omnibus Budget Bill, C-38. No, we won't break apart the "everything but the kitchen sink bill" to debate changes in Canada Pension, or numerous aspects of environmental protection, or the end of the Fair Wages Act, or even the demise of the lowly penny. None of this will have full debate in the House. No. But this shitty private member's bill that threatens the rights of women gets even more time. Canadians across this fine country should be out in the streets. In The Streets. Quebec students, show us the way.

In honour of this low point in our history, I will do the only thing I can think of that will not send me into a tailspin of a crazy-lady rant. I will include, at full length, the words of Gordon O'Connor, Conservative Whip, on M-312 from Hansard.  Why not Hedy or one of the other more typical quotables on such a topic? Because O'Connor's decimation of the bill was breathtaking, and has to irk the anti-choice followers of this blog more than the typical lefty complaints. So I throw Mr. O'Connor's words back at you while at the same time I ask with all sincerity, why, why are you following me on Twitter, you BSC anti-choicers? Why? Could you spend just a little of your zealotry on doing something about the Omnibus Budget Bill? I suspect this is too much to ask. I know, you have fetuses to save. Everything else has to wait. Even women's rights. But if you've come this far, read Mr. O'Connor's words again, and again, and again until they finally seep into your fetus-obsessed brains. He is, after all, on your side, at least in general terms. And thank you Mr. O'Connor for reminding us that there are moments of sanity in the Conservative Party, brief, (very brief) shining moments that give me hope, tiny glimpses of hope. Perhaps you can knock some sense into your colleagues over the Omnibus Budget Bill. Someone has to.

And now, without further delay, I bring you, Gordon O'Connor.
Madam Speaker, I offer my response to Motion No. 312. The issue before us, in essence, is on what it is to be human. This has been debated as long as man has existed. Scientists, theologians, philosophers and doctors have all offered opinions.

The House of Commons, however, is not a laboratory. It is not a house of faith, an academic setting or a hospital. It is a legislature, and a legislature deals with law, specifically, in this case, subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code.

The purpose of Motion No. 312, which we are considering today, is to open to question the validity of subsection 223(1), which asserts that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth. If the legal definition of when one becomes a human being were to be adjusted so that a fetus is declared to be a legal person at some earlier stage of gestation, then the homicide laws would apply. As a necessary consequence, aborting fetal development anywhere in the potentially new adjusted period would be considered homicide. Thus the ultimate intention of this motion is to restrict abortions in Canada at some fetal development stage.

It should be noted that subsection 223(1) currently states that a child becomes a human being when it has completely proceeded in a living state from the body of its mother, irrespective of whether it has breathed, whether it has circulation separate from its mother, or whether the umbilical cord has been severed.

The effect of subsection 223(1) is to indicate the point in time at which homicide laws would apply. If someone intentionally injures a child before or during its birth such that it dies after becoming a human being, then the criminal law treats that as a homicide. This is set out in subsection 223(2).

According to section 238 of the Criminal Code, when an injury is inflicted on a child in the act of birth and that injury prevents the child from becoming a human being, it is an indictable offence and is punishable by a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

I would note as well that this offence, killing an unborn child in the act of birth, section 238, does not apply if a person acts in good faith to preserve the life of the mother and in so doing causes the death of the unborn child. That is set out in subsection 238(2).

For clarity, I wish to point out that section 223(1) provides a legal test as to when Canada's criminal homicide laws apply to the death of a child. I say again, it is not a medical test, as Motion No. 312 suggests. It has always been part of Canada's criminal law, and it reflects the well-established legal principle that the law does not recognize a fetus or unborn child as a legal person, possessing rights separate from its mother, until it is born alive.

The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed this interpretation for the purposes of the Criminal Code. The Supreme Court has also declared that the right to liberty guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting private life. The decision of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision, and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount and take precedence over that of the state.

This does not mean, however, that abortion is unregulated in Canada. Abortion is regulated through provincial governments' responsibility for the delivery of health care services in conjunction with the medical profession. All provincial and territorial colleges of physicians and surgeons have declared that abortion is a medically necessary procedure, and delivery of this medical service is regulated accordingly.

Abortion is a very serious and long-lasting decision for women, and I want all women to continue to live in a society in which decisions on abortion can be made, one way or the other, with advice from family and a medical doctor and without the threat of legal consequences. I do not want women to go back to the previous era where some were forced to obtain abortions from illegal and medically dangerous sources. This should never happen in a civilized society.

Whether one accepts it or not, abortion is and always will be part of society. There will always be dire situations in which some women may have to choose the option of abortion. No matter how many laws some people may want government to institute against abortion, abortion cannot be eliminated. It is part of the human condition.

I cannot understand why those who are adamantly opposed to abortion want to impose their beliefs on others by way of the Criminal Code. There is no law that says that a woman must have an abortion. No one is forcing those who oppose abortion to have one.

Within the free and democratic society of Canada, if one has a world view based on a personal moral code that is somewhat different from others, then live according to those views as long as they are within the current laws. On the other hand, citizens who are also living within the reasonable limits of our culture and who may not agree with another's particular moral principles should not be compelled to follow them by the force of a new law.

As we know, Motion No. 312 is sponsored by a private member, not the government. I can confirm that as a member of the Conservative caucus for nearly eight years, the Prime Minister has been consistent with his position on abortion. As early as 2005 at the Montreal convention and in every federal election platform since, he has stated that the Conservative government will not support any legislation to regulate abortion. While the issue may continue to be debated by some, as in the private member's motion here tonight, I state again that the government's position is clear: it will not reopen this debate.

I am sure we all recognize that the issue of abortion raises strongly held and divergent views within and outside Parliament. However, I firmly believe that each of us should be able to pursue our lifestyle as long as it is within the boundaries of law and does not interfere with the actions of others. Trying to amend the legal rules governing abortion, as is intended by this motion, will not improve the situation. It will only lead to increased conflict as the attempt is made to turn back the clock.

Society has moved on and I do not believe this proposal should proceed. As well, it is in opposition to our government's position. Accordingly I will not support Motion No. 312. I will vote against it and I recommend that others oppose it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What Winning Looks Like in Reproductive Rights

This is what winning looks like when it comes to reproductive rights. Here is a lovely article describing how teen pregnancy and abortion rates in Canada dropped 36.9% between 1996 and 2006. 36.9%! Wow. If anything deserves my most seldom used punctuation mark, the exclamation mark, this does.

The study is from the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada and Alexander McKay, one of the reports' authors, credits this incredible decline to Canada's "balanced, sensible approach to adolescent sexual health." McKay says that, "Generally speaking what you find is that the more a society has an accepting attitude toward the reality of adolescent sexuality, the lower the teen pregnancy rate is. Canadians tend to have a more relaxed attitude towards adolescent sexuality than people in the United States.” Canada has a teen birth and abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, of 27.9% while the United States' rate is 61.2%. The United States' emphasis on abstinence only education has clearly not worked. This coupled with a lack of universal health care and poverty have meant higher teen birth rates. McKay says, "The United States has large, well-entrenched pockets of inner city poverty and that clearly is linked to higher teen pregnancy rates." Further, he notes “In those communities where young women feel optimistic about their educational and employment opportunities, the [teen pregnancy rates] tends to be lower.”

There is a lot of good news in this story. This is what winning looks like. This is what success in the pro-choice movement looks like.

Here is another success story. Teens in Toronto can now simply text for accurate information on sexuality, thanks to a new program by Planned Parenthood. Their new text messaging service lets teens connect directly with trained peer volunteers for personalized answers to their sexual health questions via text message. Fantastic! (Another exclamation mark!)

Access to accurate and timely information on sexuality and unrestricted access to the full range of reproductive health services from contraception to abortion allows women to reproduce consciously and willingly. This is a good thing.

All of us who are involved in the reproductive rights movement in Canada need to take a few minutes of joy from this study. Good work.

Winning goes far beyond the necessary defeat of ridiculous motions like 312 and the short term battles we are sometimes forced to fight with those who wish to take us backwards. This summer, once again we will have to witness what the anti-choice are all about. They have announced something they are calling the "new" abortion caravan. Co-opting and perverting the message of the original Abortion Caravan of the 1970s, the very same Abortion Caravan that contributed to de-criminalizing abortion in Canada, they are going to send a fleet of  fetus-mobiles across our great country, offending as they go, and try to take us backwards. It's going to be an ugly summer of bloody fetus porn and misinformation. I have no doubt that the insanity of this particular tactic will send people running from them. Sometimes they make it so easy.

In their fights against access to health services and their spreading of misinformation, the anti-choice show us what losing looks like. Their despicable and offensive tactics, their insistence on limiting access to information, their preference for abstinence only education, their desire to bring an end to all abortion, will only increase teen pregnancies and the abortion rate. They want to drag us into American style culture wars, those endless and embarrassing assaults on human rights. It's hard for me to understand how they can't comprehend the evidence that is in front of them.

Winning comes from sustained work to improve access, work that has taken place over decades, work that included the real Abortion Caravan, work that is done in doctors' offices and clinic offices and in Planned Parenthoods and affiliated sexual health organizations, in the Bay Centre for Birth Control and in the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, in advocacy organizations like Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and in research by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. This is the long term work that we have done, work that is demonstrating long term, positive, results including a decline in abortion rates.

This is the work that helps all of us win.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is M-312 nothing but a Distraction from the Omnibus Budget Bill?

Sometimes it's hard to tell if Art is imitating Life or Life is imitating Art.

Canadian Playwright Michael Healey wrote a satirical play called "Proud" which is about a fictional Prime Minister who bears a remarkable resemblance to Stephen Harper. The Globe and Mail published an excerpt of "Proud" in which the PM asks a backbencher to put forward a pro-life bill to distract Canadians from his real agenda. Oh dear. As soon as I read it, I felt the truth of it. That's the great thing about fiction, how it can sometimes get at truth that, ironically, non-fiction can't reach. 

Meanwhile, in real life, here we are waiting for the second hour of debate on an anti-choice motion being floated by a backbencher, Motion M-312, while Stephen Harper pushes through Bill C-38, a bill that changes so much in Canada it boggles the mind. This bill has everything but the kitchen sink in it. Besides a budget which apparently is buried in it somewhere, here is a partial list of what
Bill C-38 includes: 

  • massive changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. According to Davis LLP, this is "one of the most fundamental shifts in Canada’s regulatory and environmental policy in its history." This is the part of the bill that seems to have attracted the most attention. A close reading of this bill indicates the Harper government really has a hate on for anything "environmental."
  • amendments to 60 different acts, including changes that weaken and undermine the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act,  the Energy Board Act, the Species at Risk Act, and the Nuclear Safety Control Act (the latter two described in earlier links)
  • cuts to water programs and the monitoring of effluent. See the Green Party for more on this.
  • the end of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy
  • severe cuts to ecological oversight and research at Parks Canada and many cultural and heritage programs. As one Parks employee put it in an article by Anne McIlroy, this is a "lobotomy" of the parks system.
  • the end of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy
  • the end of several acts including the Fair Wages and Hours of Work Act
  • cuts to workers' eligibility for Employment Insurance. If this passes, if a worker on EI won't take a job, any job, that the Minister of Human Resources deems suitable for them, they will no longer receive benefits. In the past, workers have been able to look for work in their field and work at a comparable salary to what they had. Laid off from a high tech firm as a software developer? Get used to the phrase, "Would you like fries with that?"
  • the removal of independent oversight from 12 key government agencies—including the Northern Pipeline Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canada Revenue Agency
  • changes that give final say over pipeline project approvals to Conservative cabinet ministers regardless of environmental impacts
  • changes that exclude concerned citizens from assessments of major projects like the Enbridge pipeline
  • the end of access to primary health care for refugee claimants
  • the implementation of controversial changes to pension eligibility, meaning Canadians will not retire until age 67
  • implementation of yet another round of cuts into the CBC, this after the CBC has already undergone one round of cuts, and ironically, at a time when the organization seems to be doing quite well with the public according to former president, Richard Stursberg
  • the end of audits of internal government departments while $8M is added to audit capacity to harass charities suspected of political advocacy
  • changes the regulations in agriculture, including how downer cows are assessed and whether they can be put back into the food system. In the past dead cows were excluded from the food chain. Now, apparently, someone will glance at them and decide it they are fit to eat, throw them in the back of a truck and add them to the live cows that go into the slaughterhouses. The bill paves the way for private contractors to perform food safety inspections. This change particularly grossed me out. I might become a vegetarian after all.

As Andrew Coyne recently wrote in the National Post, "Omnibus bills are not unknown.... But lately the practice has been to throw together all manner of bills involving wholly different responsibilities of government in one all-purpose “budget implementation” bill, and force MPs to vote up or down on the lot. While the 2012 budget implementation bill is hardly the first in this tradition, the scale and scope is on a level not previously seen, or tolerated." He goes on to say, "There is no common thread that runs between [items in the bill], no overarching principle; they represent not a single act of policy, but a sort of compulsory buffet."

There has been critique, of course. Elizabeth May calls it "The Environmental Destruction Act." Many are noting how the bill is bad for democracy because it rolls so much into one bill, limits the time for debate, obfuscates the individual issues by slipping them into a bill too long to really comprehend, that it guts environmental protection and so on. The NDP tried to get the bill split up so some of these radical changes could be considered individually, but the CONs have a majority, so this will not happen.

But Canadians are all sleeping through this.

In a recent column, Richard Poplak writes that with Omnibus Bill C-38, we are at the cusp of a moment in history. Canadians have to decide if they will protest this bill, a bill that is sure to pass with a majority CON government. As Poplak says, "Good policies? Bad policies? Doesn't matter. Properly, each of those items should be sent to committees and considered individually. That's how our system is designed to work. What the Conservatives have engineered isn't illegal, merely rotten - another in a long line of tricks defiling the democratic process." Proroguing Parliament comes to mind. While I personally agree with ending the production of the penny (another item in this bill), even this should see some debate. That's what Parliament is for. But in Harper's government, a government allergic to transparency according to Poplak, our Parliamentary tradition of debating key public issues is dead.

Meanwhile, what is being debated? Motion 312. A distraction, for sure. And we are protesting it with all of our strength and capacity. And protest it we must, because if I don't have control of my body, little else matters. But, if the CONs really wanted a personhood bill, they would have thrown it in with C-38. Just sayin'. That is why I am convinced that M-312 is exactly what Healey describes in "Proud," an attempt to distract us from the real agenda.

So much to protest, so little time.

And here's another meanwhile. Meanwhile, in Quebec, the students protest tuition increases. As Poplak notes, this is one of the biggest protests we've ever seen in Canada, in a province with a history of protest. Now going far beyond the original issue, the protest has become a more broad scale renunciation of the Charest's government attempts to infringe on personal freedoms and the right to express dissent. Quebec students are showing us the way.

We need to Occupy this.

Go petitions has a sad little petition with about a hundred signatures on it right now. Avaaz has one that is attempting to reach 500. Sad. Change.org has one that hasn't met 200 names yet. Honestly, what is wrong with us?   Here's a link to the Green Party's petition, one that you print, sign and send in. Maybe they are doing better. And anyway, hard copy petitions mean more in Parliament, so Go Green. But for heaven's sake, protest this bill. If you have time to protest M-312, take an extra minute to do something about Bill C-38. Please. It matters.

Now, to finish the story of Healey and "Proud." When Tarragon theatre in Toronto, a theatre to which Healey had been playwright-in-residence for eleven years, refused to produce the play on the grounds that it may be libellous and defamatory to the real Prime Minister, Healey resigned from Tarragon. As a recent article in the Globe and Mail described the situation, "A playwright writes a play about a famously controlling prime minister with a reputation for punishing people who cross him, only to have the play refused by producers who fear being punished by the famously controlling prime minister."

I hope  Michael Healey finds the cash to produce "Proud." May I be so bold to suggest that like me, when you can't find a producer, DIY. Sometimes, it's the only way to get your work out there. I think this is a play Canadians need to see and I hope I get the opportunity to see it.

While Healey works on that, the rest of us can put together some DIY activism. Get busy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Next debate on M 312 scheduled

ARCC has confirmed that the second hour of debate on M 312 is now scheduled for June 8, with a vote scheduled for June 13.

Okey dokey.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Danielle Smith and the politics of division

Just for fun, and because there is nothing as satisfying as saying "I told you so," let's have a look at Danielle Smith in the media. The way she is spinning her problems now is enacting not just one but two of the things I've talked about in this blog before. One, she says "urban elites" are against her. We can assume the addition of "elite" to urban makes it derogatory, because in the right wing world, there can be nothing worse than being elite, reading Harper's in an independent coffee shop while drinking a non-fat chai latte, or having the kind of social and cultural analysis that can be gained through a Liberal Arts education. Here she goes again with the narratives of persecution. I can't help thinking it's not that smart to point out that smart people don't like you much. The second problem she is once again enacting is her tendency to blame the media. As I've said before, bad policy results in negative media attention; it's not a liberal plot. And in this case, bad policy also resulted in a poor election performance. It's not the urban elites or a liberal bias in media that brought down Danielle Smith. In fact, if we were to go back and study the election coverage, there is a case to be made that if there was media bias, it was favourable to Smith. I also had a good laugh when, the day after the election, Smith admitted she and her party might have to take a second look at their policies. Not their fundamental beliefs mind you, just their policies. I'd suggest you all take a few Liberal Arts courses and look at your beliefs too.

Of course, there is one other I told you so to be had, and that is never mess with abortion in Canadian politics. After the Wildrose loss and the decimation of Stephen Woodworth in Federal Parliament over M312, maybe we will finally be able to move on from this divisive strategy. It is never appropriate to threaten the rights of a whole group of people. All of us in Canada should be secure in our rights whether we are women or gay or immigrants or Liberal Arts students. On that, here is my recap of what abortion meant in the Alberta Election in an April 30 guest blog of mine on Abortion Gang. Of course the media is concentrating on the "bozo eruptions" of the homophobic Hunsperger and the Caucasian Ron Leech as well as Smith's own bizarro decision to out herself as a climate change denier when they tell the story of the fall of the Wildrose. But we all know where it started - abortion, conscience rights and the promise to shut down the Alberta Human Rights Commission. It was this trifecta of issues that created the first chink in the Wildrose armour.

I'm hoping we're past playing the politics of division. Perhaps as long as we have a first past the post system the politics of divide and conquer will win out. But a girl can dream.