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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fetus vs Woman - the battle is on

Well, first off, I apologize for the post title. But that is how I feel here in Alberta. Maybe it's because in my home province, people are busy debating whether MMA and UFC should be as welcome here as it seems to be. Apparently, some Albertans are thrilled with the fact that grown men will soon be beating the crap out of each other and others are concerned that it means the end of civilization. Endless hours of media time are spent on this issue.

Not too many people are talking about the battle between the fetus and the woman that MP Stephen Woodworth has initiated. That's not getting much media time. Maybe it's because we haven't framed it as a battle, put some UFC lingo to it like, "April 26, House of Commons, the Fetus vs. Women, watch it live on CPAC. We'll give you the whole seat, but you'll only need the edge." By the way, I don't know if it will be on CPAC, I'm just making stuff up. Anyway, without that kind of mainstream media appeal, we bloggers and reproductive rights advocates are making time and space to discuss it. Hopefully you readers of our work are spreading the word.

Here is a great report on the whole issue from the Centre for Reproductive Rights. It looks at attempts to give the fetus personhood rights through a human rights and comparative law lens. It answers every question Motion 312 poses and finds, "Across the board, these strategies [to assert fetal rights] attempt to deny women the ability to make autonomous decisions regarding their fertility with complete disregard for women's basic human rights." Of course this answer is not the one that the anti's and Mr. Woodworth want to hear. So they'll do it all again and again until someone tells them they're twisted version of the world is right and they can finally get us women-folk under control again.

Hey, by the way, my play, The Abortion Monologues is available now through Smashwords as an ebook. Find it here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Abortion Monologues now an eBook

We're an e-book now, available on Smashwords, and very soon to be available in any format you may desire (Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and so on.) It should show up on these formats pretty soon. Now, for a mere $2.99, you too can own a copy of this play through Smashwords.

Technology is really wonderful, isn't it?

I'm particularly excited because lately, with orders in places like Ireland, Australia and Hong Kong, this provides a much easier option.

Support for Justine Davidson - letter to UBC

Addendum to blog post below. I have recieved a response from UBC to my letter. I'm not particularly happy with it.

Here is a slightly abridged version of my letter to UBC in support of Jusine Davidson. Again, I offer it to you to use as a basis for your own. What I have edited out is personal information that could not apply to any other writers. Send letters to stephen.toope@ubc.ca and chad.hyson@ubc.ca

Dear President Toope and the UBC Board of Governors,

I am writing in support of Justine Davidson and her creative and peaceful protest of the anti-choice GAP “display” at UBC on March 8, 2012. Ms. Davidson’s  negative reaction to the images presented by this group is understandable and shared by many people including many UBC students who protested the event.

I am dismayed by many aspects of the events of this day. Firstly, I am dismayed that UBC continues to allow the GAP to present their twisted and offensive misinformation. I understand the arguments for free speech, and I understand that the GAP is well funded and happily sues anyone who gets in their way. But I feel strongly that what they present is hate speech. By calling those who have abortions perpetrators of genocide, the GAP display incites hatred towards women exercising their legal and medical right to abortion in Canada and hatred against the providers of abortion services. No one calls another a perpetrator of genocide without implicitly demanding action against them. Meanwhile, the GAP protesters exploit the victims of true genocides. Their images are often described as pornographic and their tactics are widely understood as offensive. They have even been denounced by religious leaders such as Bishop Henry of Calgary.

Secondly, assuming you allow this charade of an event to go on because you believe in free speech, one can assume you would protect Ms. Davidson’s right to free speech as well. Ms. Davidson reports that she did not interfere in any way with the “display,” stayed outside the area set aside for them and merely sat down naked. She did not even block the view of their images. Further, I understand that the GAP protesters did not complain to the University. One must assume then that you acted on your own to punish Ms. Davidson for her demonstration of free speech.

I hope that you do not intend to suggest that the use of her naked body as a tool to respond to the misogynist display she was witnessing is somehow inappropriate. I consider her act one of extreme courage. Like a soldier, she put her body on the line to defend her rights. Apparently, this is what it is going to take for women to assert their rights in Canada now, and it is a sad day when University administrators decide that their role is to support those who want to infringe on the rights of women.

Thirdly, I wonder if this group were to bring their arguments to a class at UBC, would it receive a passing grade? At the very least, the GAP protesters misunderstand the definition of genocide and the status of the fetus in law. As a University, I would expect you to challenge the GAP display on the basis of fact, philosophy, ethics and medicine. Instead, having allowed it, you abandon your responsibility to put it into any kind of socio political context and leave that work to your students. Even if this is a free speech issue, truth is not relative. Some positions have more validity than others. Medical doctors at UBC should challenge the validity of the so-called fetal images, ethicists and philosophers should challenge the logic of their arguments and sociologists and lawyers should put their ridiculous claims into a legal and cultural perspective. To allow this group to go unchallenged is unacceptable in a setting that is supposed to be about higher learning.

Ms. Davidson did not allow these highly questionable views to go unchallenged and she should be commended. Her own writing on the topic is a cogent feminist analysis that would receive a high grade in any Women’s Studies class that I was teaching. Ms. Davidson’s capacity to express her dissent at this horrible display, her ability to apply theory to her action and action to her theory, is something to be celebrated.

As a woman in Canada, I look for allies in attempts to secure my human rights. I fear right now that I cannot count on UBC for this.  I look forward to hearing back from your office on this issue and hope that any measures against Ms. Davidson have been dropped and that the University will apologize to her and examine its own role and responsibility in permitting these GAP protests in the future.

Sincerely, your name here.

The Abortion Monologues is now available as an e-book on Smashwords. Check it out.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Inspiring pro choice action: Naked at UBC

It's been a while since I was this inspired. UBC student Justine Davidson sat naked in front of an anti-choice fetus porn protest held on campus on March 8, which happens to be International Women's Day. Read about it in her own words at http://nakedubc.blogspot.ca/2012/03/why-hell-did-that-woman-take-her.html

She starts her post with the following quotation from Helene Cixous, "Censor your body and you censor breath and speech at the same time.”

As a former Women's Studies teacher, I can't express how happy this makes me. The way this young woman wove theory and practice together in this action blows my mind. And UBC is punishing her. This is unacceptable. Please read her blog, help her out. Every woman who cares about choice in Canada, and every man too, owes her this right now.
The Abortion Monologues is now an e-book. Look for it here on Smashwords.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calls to Action on Woodworth Motion

Besides writing letters, there are some pretty interesting calls to action on the now nicknamed "Women Can't Be Trusted Motion" in which MP Woodworth proposes to make fetuses into persons. A Twitter feed asks that you tell anti-choice MPs everything about your reproductive health. It makes over-sharing useful. Find it at https://www.facebook.com/TellAntiChoicemPsEverything

Also knitters and textile artists are getting to the point creating nifty uteri, vulvas, and other lady parts and sending them to anti-choice MPs. Have a look at the group called "Womb Swarm Parliament" on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/354104927964655/

I'm getting my craft supplies out now, and I think I feel the need to share something about my last mammogram.

Monday, March 19, 2012

More arguments against Woodworth Motion

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has posted its list of arguments against the Woodworth motion, (and it is even more extensive than my letter to the PM that I included in my last post). In the ARCC article, you will find all the footnotes and references your heart desires to the source material. I was particularly happy to see the list of Supreme Court Challenges and the summary of why the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld a woman's right to choose.

By the way, I want to argue against using the language "reopen the debate." Let's get to the heart of the matter. They want to criminalize abortion. So let's all call it what it is. Don't say they want to reopen the debate; say they want to criminalize abortion. And don't forget that other word; misogyny. It's important not to pretend these things are something else, something less terrible, than what they actually are.

Now, go write your letters, go talk to people about this, and go have an impact on the world.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A letter against Woodworth's anti-choice motion

As you've heard by now, MP Stephen Woodworth's anti-choice motion is going forward in the house. If you don't know anything about it yet, keep reading.

For a pretty good overview, check out this article by Mercedes Allen in Rabble, which also includes the text of the motion.

I am sharing my own letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for you to use as a template for your own, to cut and paste and change as you see fit. The letter I have sent is below. Underneath that, you will find email addresses to the PM, Bob Rae, Nycole Turmel, and Elizabeth May and I also urge you to write to your own MP. Remember, the leader of the ND is about to change, so keep that in mind if you write after next week. It is important to get these letters in now. The motion will be considered in the House at the end of April. Here it is:

Dear Prime Minister,

Your fellow MP and Conservative member, the Honourable Mr. Woodworth, is asking Parliament to decide when a fetus becomes a human in Motion M 312. I urge you to reject this motion and to stop this attempt to infringe on the rights of women. You have promised Canadians repeatedly that you will not reopen the abortion debate. Unfortunately, that is what the passage of this motion will do. 

Mr. Woodworth argues that the Criminal Code bestows legal “human being” status on infants born alive and finds this problematic because if the “little toe” is still in the birth canal, the infant has no protection. His characterization misrepresents existing laws. The motion proposed by Mr. Woodworth can have only purpose, and that is to bring legal restriction to abortion services in Canada.

The Criminal Code section 223(1) states that “a child becomes a human being within the meaning of the Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not a) it has breathed; b) it has an independent circulation; or c) the navel string is severed.” To be clear, Section 223(1) conveys that a live born child, even if it hasn’t breathed, even if it hasn’t established independent circulation, and even if it is still attached to the mother by the umbilical cord, is a human being. Further, Mr. Woodworth is simply wrong to imply there is no legal protection to the infant during birth. The very next point in the Criminal Code, Section 223 (2) says that “a person commits homicide when he causes injury to a child before or during its birth as a result of which the child dies after becoming a human being.”

His “little toe” argument is a red herring. Even if what he says were true, which it is not, Mr. Woodworth is describing a situation which may exist for a split second in real life. Once the head and shoulders are delivered, the rest of the body is delivered very quickly. The toe does not linger in the birth canal. His musings are intended to make the public think that abortions are being performed on fetuses up to the due date of the pregnancy, and to provoke in Canadians an image of a fetus being terminated during delivery. No such thing happens.

The vast majority of abortions in Canada are performed during the first trimester. The practice, although not regulated by law, is regulated within the medical profession, where all medical procedures are best regulated. Second trimester abortions are rare, and most often performed in the presence of a severe fetal anomaly or when a threat to the life of the mother exists. Fewer than one percent of Canadian abortions are undertaken after 20 weeks, and none are performed on an elective basis after 24 weeks. To imply otherwise is disingenuous and even alarmist. 

The anti-choice movement’s concern for fetuses is one that can only be acted upon at the expense of the rights of women. Two persons cannot exist in one body and both have rights within that single body. This impossible situation threatens to take personhood away from the woman in order to give it to the fetus.  

If women do not have the right to exercise control over our own reproduction and our own bodies, we simply are not free. Control of our bodies would reside outside ourselves, in the hands of others whose ideas and beliefs we may not share and who cannot know our consciences or the circumstances of our own lives as we do.  

There are precedents that help us understand what happens when personhood is given to the fetus. In the United States, where personhood rights have been given to fetuses in 38 States, laws are used primarily to prosecute pregnant women who use drugs and alcohol, pregnant women who refuse a caesarean or who have a stillbirth or miscarriage. These cruel prosecutions scare pregnant women in need of prenatal care away from authority figures. A better option is to ensure women have access to all the health supports they need. 

Ironically, according to the Guttmacher Institute, limiting access to abortion does nothing to reduce abortion in the end. As the Guttmacher Institute notes, “Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates.”  (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html). Every country in the world in which abortion is illegal still has abortion. When abortion is illegal and clandestine, it is dangerous to the health of women and maternal deaths rise. Alternately, when abortion is legal and women have all the health supports they need, including unfettered access to contraception, abortion rates inevitably go down. 

Finally, if this motion were to pass, it cannot resolve any resulting conflict in rights between the pregnant woman and the fetus. It will muddy waters that have been relatively calm in Canada for over a generation. This is what it is meant to do. Our system, a system in which abortion is a private matter between a woman and her doctor and in which abortion is a regulated medical practice within the medical profession like all other medical practices, works. It works, except in the eyes of those who will not rest until abortion is illegal.

The people who wish to make abortion illegal would be happy to force their moral and religious agenda on all Canadians. Since the Morgentaler decision, a woman’s right to choose has been challenged in Parliament nearly forty times. These attempts to infringe on abortion rights are often couched in other terms, as is Mr. Woodworth’s motion. Even if any of them were to succeed, it is highly unlikely any attempt to take a woman’s right to control her body away from her will pass a constitutional challenge. But women would suffer in the meantime, and the fabric of Canadian society would be strained  as we currently see happening in the United States in which the debate over women’s health has reached absurd heights. The Supreme Court of Canada has already rightly determined that impeding a woman’s access to abortion violates her right to life, liberty, conscience, equality and security. Women are no less human now than we were when this ruling was made, no less in need of our rights, and no less in need of our rights when pregnant. Nothing has changed.

I urge you not to accept this attempt to re-open the abortion debate in Canada and not to allow this threat to women’s rights to go any further. We can trust women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Our current system has worked for over a generation. There is no reason to change it. I look forward to your reply.


Your name here (and don't forget your address)

To find your own MP, look here
To email the Prime Minister stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca
To email Bob Rae bob.rae@parl.gc.ca
To email Nycole Turmel Nycole.Turmel@parl.gc.ca
To email Elizabeth May


Added March 21: Here is another sample letter from ARCC that you might also consider using as your template.

The Abortion Monologues is now an e-book. Look for it here on Smashwords.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

National Day of Appreciation of Abortion Providers

March 10 is the day we pay tribute to abortion providers, remember those who have been killed, and thank those who continue to heroically provide this vital medical service to women. There is a wonderful piece in RH Reality Check today by Dr. Linda Prine of Physicians for Reproductive Choice, focussing on Dr. Tiller and talking about conditions today. 

Although the so-called "pro-life" movement continues to denouce violence and the killing of doctors, they also continue to provide a milieu in which this violence is tolerated if not actively encouraged. For example, see the article posted the other day about Dr. Mila Means and what she has gone through in attempting to fill Dr. Tiller's shoes. The article notes that when her plans to reopen an abortion clinic in Kansas leaked, "Posters circulated with her picture on one side scrawled with the words 'child abuser'; the other side urged protesters to 'reach out' to her at her home and office." That phrase "reach out" is utterly terrifying, particularly in an environment where the faces, names and home addresses of abortion doctors are posted online. We all know what the purpose of this is. It can only be to incite harassment and violence.

I look forward to the day when abortion providers, women's health providers, no longer have to work behind bullet proof glass to take care of us. And today I thank every provider, everyone who works in clinics and hospitals that respect women's reproductive rights and everyone who waves the pro-choice banner. You are all heroes to me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hate in America

I just read two articles back to back that need to be read back to back. The first is about Dr. Mila Means and how she has struggled to fill the void left in the provision of abortion services in Wichita Kansas after the murder of Dr. Tiller in his church by a bat-shit crazy anti-abortion zealot, of which there are many in Kansas. Dr. Means' life has been made a living hell by these people.

The second is about all the people who hate in America and how they are anti-American. I can't tell you how relieved I was to read this. It actually brought tears to my eyes. These are the people who have targetted Dr. Means and who are turning the United States into an inexplicable place, a place I thought could only exist in fiction. They are racist, classist, misogynist, homophobic haters. They hate science, they hate logic, they hate brown people, they hate gay people, they hate disobedient wives and sexually active daughters, they hate sex, they probably hate vegetarians. They hate. That's what they do. Why does anyone listen to them?

Call them what they are. Haters. It is my most sincere hope that America can be brought back from the brink, a brink that these haters keep trying to push it over. It is my most sincere hope that this hate stops spreading to Canada like the virus that it is. We see their tactics being used flagrantly here now. Rob "McCarthy" Anders calls veterans seeking homes for their unfortunate brethren Communists. Robo calls try to suppress the liberal vote. Parliament is prorogued. Dissent is squashed in hundreds of ways. It must stop.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The current state of abortion and access in Canada

Here is a very comprehensive article about abortion in Canada today by Sara Vitet at Capilano University and found on Canadian University Press Newswire. I have nothing else to say about it except please read it and keep yourself informed and up to date. And, thanks to Ms. Vitet for such a thorough article.