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Thursday, April 26, 2012

An American Perspective on Pro-Choice Strategy for M-312

A couple of days ago, I was doing an interview with Julie Lalonde and she asked me how I would respond to people who say our activism over M-312 is over the top considering most people think it will never pass. I replied that I wondered what our American sisters would say about their early activism on personhood bills and early incursions on what has turned out to be a full scale war on women. I wondered what advice they would give us. After the interview, I decided to actually ask this question of an American ally, Charlotte Taft. Charlotte Taft is the Director of the Abortion Care Network, an organization for independent providers and abortion care allies. In her long history with reproductive justice she has been a consultant and counselor with Imagine, and was the director of Routh St. Clinic in Dallas TX.  This is what she said.

On What's Happening in the United States now:

Taft wonders why those creating all the anti-choice legislation in the US are "so intent on robbing women of any semblance of adult authority." She goes on to say, "My observation is that if the Republican Taliban has its way only corporations and fertilized eggs will be recognized as people with any rights!"

On "Relax, it will never pass":

Taft says, "'It will never pass' is a dangerous conversation. In this country all that had to happen was that a radical group (I won't call them conservatives because they are not) got elected in enough numbers in enough different states that they were able to dominate the legislative agendas. Absolutely unbelievable things have passed! I can't even keep the states straight--but we now have legislation on the books that protects from lawsuits doctors who lie to their patients about potential fetal abnormalities if the doctor thinks the woman might choose abortion. We have legislation in more than one state that currently requires clinic staffs and physicians to lie to patients about issues such as connection between abortion and breast cancer. We have had legislation passed that required any woman seeking an abortion to first be 'counseled' in an anti-abortion fake clinic. The list goes on. All of these are pieces of legislation that could never possibly have passed in the 21st century. And they did."

I read this as a clear validation of throwing everything we have at every single incursion, no matter how small, into our rights. We all have to understand that the US is a cautionary tale for us.

On Personhood Legislation:

With personhood bills passing all over the US, many of us felt that Mississipi's rejection of a personhood bill was a great win. However, Taft says, "In Mississippi the so-called 'personhood' legislation was defeated largely because a few women who were able to have children because of in vitro fertilization got very active and publicly told their stories. There was other opposition to the legislation, but I really think it was those stories that defeated the bill. In a few other states they are now putting forward similar legislation that somehow has a waiver of humanity for in vitro fertilization. That makes no sense, but it doesn't mean they might not get away with it. Apparently in this country there is no requirement for legislation to be either Constitutional or even to make a shred of sense. We have legislators arguing for anti choice legislation on the grounds that they raise livestock and this is how they deal with pregnant cows or pigs. I KID YOU NOT! I can't even choose a century that it seems we have slid into."

Again, this is good information because it indicates the lack of logic that goes into their perspective. They are doing this to end abortion, not because they are concerned about fetal personhood. If they were concerned about fetal personhood, they would be consistent. The fact that they are now trying to make exceptions to personhood so the IVF industry doesn't end reveals personhood bills for what they really are - an attack on women's rights, not a protection of the embryo/fetus.

On Nature and Biology:

Taft is always excellent on reminding us how these personhood bills fly in the face of nature itself and how personhood arguments appear ridiculous when looked at in terms of how bodies actually work. She says, "Since I've always been told that only about 40% of fertilized eggs ever implant in the wall of the uterus, it is clear that god, or nature, or biology is the greatest abortionist of them all. The personhood people have not explained whether women would have to hold monthly funerals for their sanitary products in case a corpse is residing among the cotton. Will the 17 1/2 year olds be able to vote and drink because their personhood started at conception and not birth?  You can only imagine a million more ridiculous issues that would be created. But sadly, I think in the right state it could pass."

This is said with humour, but the dark side of her comments is clear. I wonder, if Woodworth gets his way and the fetus is a person, does it get to vote? If so, does the woman incubator (because that is all she will be) get to be the vessel through which the embryo vote is expressed? Will she use her arm to mark an x on behalf of the fully personed embryo? Or will Woodworth steal the embryo vote, and count all unborn persons as votes for himself because women can't be trusted? Can embryos only vote "OfStephen"?

On the Radical Handmaids:

Taft says, "I love the Radical Handmaids!!!  We MUST have humor along with our outrage. This is a war on women--not a war with women. After all, we are unarmed!"

I always say what the anti-choice don't have is a sense of humour and they can't handle it when faced with it. Humour brings life to our activism and keeps us energized. And the hats are fabulous. 

My sincere thanks to Charlotte Taft for her words of wisdom. We can all benefit from them and feel energized to keep up this fight.

I also want to put a plug in here for Niki Ashton, whose words in the House literally brought tears to my eyes. You can see it here. (If you do not speak French, keep listening. Ashton is bilingual and her second remarks are in English.) Niki, you are a rockstar, and that CONman who responded to you was too smug for words. Clearly, Parliament is a game to him and he doesn't give a crap about the issue. As Justice Minister, you'd expect him to understand that women's rights are at stake here, but I see nothing to indicate he cares. We've all gotta know that Harper and the Harperettes approve of this motion. My fingers are crossed for today.

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