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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Alberta Wildrose party on Abortion

Well, as I always do, I contacted each of the major political parties in the upcoming Alberta election to do a little check up on choice. These are the questions I asked:

Does your party support a woman's right to choose? What will your party do to expand access to abortion services in Alberta, especially in rural areas and the north? Does your party believe in fully funding all medically necessary health services, including abortion?

Here is the response from the Wildrose, deleting the salutations:

"Wildrose is committed to Alberta values of free enterprise, less government, increased personal freedom and democracy.  We also recognize that views about social and moral issues are diverse, and we believe that individuals ought to be able to hold, and express, their opinions.

The legalities of abortion fall under federal jurisdiction.  We respect that Albertans view social issues differently, which is why Wildrose would immediately introduce legislation allowing citizens to put issues like abortion to a citizen initiated referendum. This open and democratic process allows Albertans to tell government what they believe is important.

Thank you again for your email.  We look forward to your support on April 23rd."

Well, thanks for that, but NO, you will not have my support on April 23rd. For the purposes of this forum, I'm going to state my objections to the Wildrose only in terms of the questions I asked here.

First off, none of the questions were answered. Instead, they say they'll put social issues to a referendum. Remember when the good old boys of the Reform/Alliance party decided that a referendum was the best way to settle everything? Remember how Rick Mercer mercilessly mocked the idea in the famous "Doris Day" skit? He got a bunch of Canadians to sign a petition to have Stockwell Day  change his name to Doris. That's the kind of ridiculousness that government by referendum enables. Referendum is for those who can't be bothered with policy.

Government by referendum is government by special interest. Whoever can mount the most effective campaign on any issue, abortion or otherwise, and has the funds to make a dent in the fickle public psyche wins. That means the good citizens of Alberta could decide, if they see fit, to defund abortions, to keep abortions from being performed in Alberta, to prevent women from accessing medically necessary care, to decide some people aren't deserving of human rights. Or, the good citizens of Alberta, the majority of whom are pro-choice, could go the other way. They could say, "Hey, it's pretty crazy a woman can't get an abortion if she lives in Fort Mac." We could all decide that this is a situation that has to be resolved, insist more doctors and clinics are available and that no woman be forced to travel or wait for an abortion. But the point is, neither of these things should be decided by referendum. Why? Because it's about human rights, as the Supreme Court has said over and over and over again.

If a citizen wants to put the human rights of any particular group at issue, say GLBTI, green people, or in this case WOMEN, to see if the preservation of their rights wins the popularity contest of the referendum, that's unacceptable. Human rights, my friends, can't be decided by referendum. That's why political parties need policies, specific policies, not this kind of baloney. But that's what libertarians do - they abandon the responsibility of policy making and call that policy instead.

The Wildrose isn't conservative. It is libertarian. Their beliefs can be summed up in the phrase, "I'm all right Jack, and if you're not, that's not my fucking problem." They care about private interest, not public interest. On the surface, libertarianism seems like the ultimate kind of government for the pro-choice person. Anyone can do what they want. But our choices are always socially constructed. If government decides not to, say, support midwifery, guess what? Most of us can't afford it privately, and  midwifery gets this sense about it that it's not "legitimate." Sure, no one is stopping us from using midwives, but when there aren't any available and no one can afford them anyways except rich folks and midwives can't make a living and leave the province in droves, the choice has still been made for us. That was the status of midwifery in Alberta for decades. This is the side of libertarianism that matters here. If we're all just looking out for number one, who builds the roads? If we're all just looking out for number one, who protects human rights?

Further, abortion is and isn't a federal issue.  Yes, legally it is under federal jurisdiction, but that's not what I asked, is it? That's just an excuse not to deal with the questions. The Canada Health Act outlines broad parameters. There is a lot of room within them for interpretation by the provinces. How health care is delivered, what gets delivered, how much, in what space of time, and all that, is a provincial issue. Provinces can make a host of decisions on their own that can affect care for many people. That's one reason  why some provinces have long wait lists for hip replacements and others don't. That's one reason why some provinces cover podiatry and others don't.  And the federal conservatives have shown no interest in protecting women's rights to access medically necessary services including abortion in PEI, where no abortions are available at all, or in New Brunswick, which is currently violating women's rights as well. For more on this, see earlier posts about New Brunswick and PEI.

So if you care about protecting existing access to abortion in Alberta or even making it better, the Wildrose is not your party, unless of course you want to save your $300 Danielle bucks for a quick trip to BC or SK.

I'll post responses from the other parties too, if and when I get them.
See also More on Wildrose and Abortion

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

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