Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

Hello bloggers,

I thought I’d reproduce for you here the note I sent out to my friends and family to mark International Women’s Day this year.

Things with me are alright. thanks to those of you who have emailed to day hello — it’s always good to hear from you.



Dear friends and family,

today marks International Women’s Day!  It’s a day of worldwide celebration for the achievements women have made, recognition of the difficulties and challenges women still face daily, and recommitment to fighting gender-based discrimination through the promotion of women’s substantive equality.

I encourage you today to reflect on the sacrifices women have made over the years in order to further women’s political and social equality in the face of much resistance from society at large that believes women should know their place, that women are naturally inferior to men, that women already have enough equality.

Here in Canada, there is still much to be done to further women’s equality.

  • Aboriginal women still don’t have equality in their communities in terms of property rights and representation in the governance of their communities, and are at a highly disproportionate risk of becoming victims of domestic and sexual assault. Before European colonizers arrived in Canada, Aboriginal societies were gender-egalitarian — meaning that our Canadian government has created this gendered hierarchy in Aboriginal communities with such measures as Indian Residential Schools and the Indian Act, which prevented Aboriginal women from holding land, voting in their band’s elections, taking away their status if they married a non-Aboriginal man, and preventing both Aboriginal women and men from learning their cultural traditions and languages to pass on to their children.
  • Access to abortion services in Canada are measly and inadequate. Women often incur travel costs to get from their small rural/isolated Northern communities to larger urban centres to access abortion services, taking time off work and often necessitating child-care services; most often, these expenses are not reimbursed by our health care system (there is a small travel budget for Northern women). Women in Prince Edward Island have to travel outside their province to access abortion services in Halifax; there are 0 abortion providers in PEI. Women in New Brunswick have to obtain letters of referral from 2 separate doctors stating that an abortion is “medically necessary” in order to access abortion services at the 1 hospital in the province that provides them. Women who need timely access to abortion services (which is in their best health interests) often have to pay out of pocket for abortion services at private clinics because the wait time to access services in a hospital setting is too long. Despite that abortion is not illegal in Canada, and that our government’s health care policy holds as one of its 5 pillars “accessibility,” Canadian women still face challenges in accessing abortion services – including vilification by many conservative and religious groups.
  • Women are still being sold into slavery in this country in the form of trafficked persons. 80% of all trafficked persons are women, who are forced into domestic and/or sexual exploitation once they arrive in their destination country. Here in Canada, statistics estimate that about 800 women are trafficked to Canada every year. Canada only took a legislative stand against human trafficking in 2006, after the release of a highly embarrassing report exposing our government’s complete negligence on the issue. Since then, 10 cases of human trafficking have been opened. These women are going largely unnoticed through our borders and in our communities, and they need help.
  • in Canada, the gap is widening between the rich and the poor, despite that Canada’s economy is soaring – our economy is the fastest growing in the G-8. A quarter million people in Canada are homeless, 1.7 million households live on less than $16,400 USD a year, and the majority of these are households run by single women. 5.5 million live on less than $8200 a year (24% of all tax filers), and again, the majority of these are women. As our Employment Insurance program is sitting on a billion dollar surplus, only 3 out of 10 unemployed women are eligible for benefits according to current criteria, which disadvantage workers with part-time or irregular hours, which, again, are mostly women, thanks to society’s expectation that women are the primary care-givers for children and the elderly. Social programs are increasingly out of reach for the poor due to reduced spending in the service of increasing Canada’s GDP – in fact, it appears as though one of the primary reasons for Canada’s economic success (GDP has increased 55% in the last 10 years) is BECAUSE of social program funding cuts, meaning the economic success of this country is dependent on the poverty of women.
  • Lesbian women are still suffering widespread discrimination in Canadian society, and face legal barriers to being able to care for their partners during end-of-life situations and inheriting property from their partners – even homes that they have been living in for decades. these situations are deeply painful, as the families of these women’s life-partners swoop in and take away every evidence that their daughters were gay and had partnerships with other women.
  • Transsexual and transgendered women face unique barriers to equality. Sex reassignment surgery is under or non-funded by the Canadian health care system, and ancillary services to allow for greater integration into their physical gender are completely outside funding. Pre-surgery transsexual women often turn to prostitution in order to fund their surgical and aesthetic interventions, and when in prison are placed in male detention facilities and have difficulty obtaining the hormonal therapy needed to maintain the process of transformation.  In order to have any government funded access to sex reassignment surgery, which costs tens of thousands of dollars, they must go through psychological counselling and live for a year as a woman, despite being considered legally and physically a man.These women face deep misunderstanding by society and are highly vulnerable to homophobic and transphobic male violence.

These are only some of the problems affecting women in Canada. Immigrant and refugee women, sex workers, (dis)abled women, and women of colour all face significant and specific kinds of barriers to equality. Federally, the slashed funding to Status of Women Canada means awareness about women’s issues in Canada is waning, and the cancellation of the Court Challenges Program and the courts’ aversion to allowing equality groups to intervene in cases involving women’s issues means women’s equality is not being adequately advocated in our justice system. Our beloved Charter of Rights and Freedoms is being interpreted and applied by our courts in such a way as to limit rather than protect and enhance women’s equality.

There are different problems affecting women in other parts of the world. Women are raped en masse as part of genocidal wars in Congo. Girl children as young as 8 are married off in India. Girls as young as 4 are subject to female genital cutting in northern Africa. Women are displaced in the Sudan. Women and girls are not permitted to go to school in Afghanistan. Women aren’t even allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Girl children are abandoned in China. Women are forcibly sterilized in Tibet. Women are being denied access to contraception worldwide through USAID and PEPFAR, and have no way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, even when they know they risk transmitting HIV to their fetuses.

It’s pretty obvious that there is still much work to be done, both at home and abroad, to gain full equality for women. this International Women’s Day, I’m thinking about what I can do to help. I believe women are not second-class citizens. I believe women do not deserve 15, 25, 50, or 65% equality. I believe women deserve 100% equality, no matter where they live or what barriers they face.  Today, I recognize the courage and dedication of women who have been fighting this struggle since before I was born, since before my mother was born, and I am deeply honoured and grateful for the important progress they have made on my behalf. Today, I rededicate myself to continuing this struggle, for myself, for my sisters, for my mother, for my aunts, for my cousins, for my friends, and for all of our daughters.

to the women in my life — I celebrate you today! You are, quite literally, the reason I do what I do. Thank you for your inspiration and courage.

to the men in my life — I look for you to be partners in the fight for women’s equality. This takes some strength, but I know you’re up for the challenge.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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Did you read this week that so-called “partial birth abortions” have been banned by the US Supreme Court?

Let’s talk about this a bit. “Partial birth abortion” – sounds grotesque, right? Sounds like pulling a baby half out of the birth canal and slitting its throat or something, right? Or perhaps one might picture a baby in the womb being punctured with a sharp object until it is mutilated into a pulpy mass of half-formed flesh?

Notice the difference in how pro-life/anti-choice folks talk about pregnancy vs. how pro-choicers do. For pro-lifers, pregnant woman are carrying babies, little innocent children, people, persons. For pro-choicers, pregnant women carry fetuses – babies only exist outside the womb. This is, of course, the “medically correct” way to talk about pregnancy. Not that that matters one lick to the pro-lifers. Same goes for the actual terminology used to talk about abortion.

See, the truth is, “partial birth abortions” don’t technically exist. It’s a politically, emotionally charged term for a medically necessary procedure that quite often saves women’s lives. Who do you think came up with the term? Not the doctors who perform it, and not the women who have it done.

So, as per usual, power comes into play in the naming of things, in this case, a medical procedure typically performed on women whose lives are at risk. The religious right strikes again in its ongoing efforts to control women’s bodies and women’s rights, force women to carry fetuses that for one reason or another they do not wish to carry, to punish women for getting pregnant and being such sluts to begin with. Let me tell you, late-term abortions are typically only performed when the woman’s life is in jeopardy, and quite often these women are not aborting fetuses that they don’t want, but fetuses that they very much wish they could continue to carry and give birth to and nurture and raise. Other times, late-term abortions are performed for women who did not discover they were pregnant until very late in their pregnancies, and would have terminated earlier if they had only known.

But this is ultimately irrelevant. Women must be able to decide what to do with and what happens to their own bodies. It doesn’t really matter whether they would have aborted sooner if they could have. It doesn’t really matter if they would really rather give birth to their fetus. What matters is, women have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies, and now the options are more limited. Oh but right, “their bodies aren’t just theirs anymore, once they’re pregnant.” Um, yeah, they are. Women’s bodies are still and are always their own bodies, no matter if they are pregnant or not. Do recall, fetuses are parasites who derive all their nutrients from the bodies of their hosts, and quite often pose to their hosts serious health complications and risks. Any woman carrying a fetus is being generous.

so what we’re talking about with this ban is valuing fetal life over women’s lives. Why? Because “fetuses are innocent” and “women have to live with their decisions and be responsible.” Which translates, contra-positively, to “women are guilty and irresponsible.” Which sounds about right, from the righties. So it’s better to ignore the wishes of the women who don’t want to carry fetuses to term for whatever reason (and whatever reason is a good enough reason for me), and the professional opinions of their treating physicians. Because fetuses are innocent. Never mind the complication of original sin, that’s not important in the context of abortion. Because what we’re talking about is how guilty and sinful women are. Right, righties?

So is this all what abortion law will come down to? Who has the power to name, to define, the terms? It seems that way to me. And it comes as no surprise.

For other perspectives on this decision:


and again

and again

Reclusive Leftist

The American Prospect Online

If you read any other posts or articles on this, please leave a comment and I will add the link to this list.

UPDATE:  Just found this post this morning over at Huffington. By Jill of Feministe.

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blog for choice day 2007

Today is Blog for Choice Day. The purpose of this movement is to protest the removal of abortion services from hospitals and medical clinics, and to reaffirm women’s right to access an abortion should she so choose. Bloggers are asked to write a post telling readers why they are pro-choice.

So, why am I pro-choice?

First, let’s get some terms straight. “Pro-choice” does not mean “pro-abortion”; it means supporting women’s rights to self-determination over their bodies. “Fetuses” are not “babies”; fetuses exist in the womb, babies exist outside of the womb. “Human” does not equal “person”; human is the biological name of our species, personhood involves moral agency. There; now let’s move on.

I believe that women’s reproductive freedom is an essential piece of the puzzle for women’s full and uninhibited autonomy. In our society, women’s value comes from their usefulness within a male-dominated system, created by men, for men’s benefit. The ultimate value of women lies in their ability to produce a healthy baby, to continue the male bloodline. In this regard, women are increasingly treated as vessels through the medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve written about this before, here and here. In order for women to gain true equality and equity in society, we must be valued intrinsically, and not in terms of how we can be of use to men – or to our children. Part of this involves the freedom to determine if and when we choose to have children.

There is a deep connection between issues of reproductive freedom and issues of sexual freedom. I wrote about that here. Women’s sexuality has been and continues to be defined in terms of its relation to male sexuality and male sexual pleasure. This andro- and phallocentrism has caused a great deal of harm to women by denying us the recognition of full sexual expression in hetero sexual relationships, of oppressing lesbian women on the basis of their rejection of male-centred sexuality, and by assuming the importance of male sexual pleasure and dominion over women’s bodies, which leads to all sorts of physical and sexual abuses. It is this attitude towards women’s bodies as sexual objects for male possession that has prevented women’s autonomy as sexual beings and in terms of reproduction.

There is a lot of debate around the issue of abortion involving the question of when life begins. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it doesn’t matter when life begins. Personally, I take the view that life begins at conception. The point isn’t about when life begins, it’s about when rights attach. This is the difference between “human” and “person”, as I outlined earlier – and make no mistake, this is the most important distinction as we can make on this issue. For me, the most important right to protect is that of the woman. This is her body we’re talking about. Fetuses are completely dependent on women’s bodies for nourishment, development, and survival. They offer nothing in return, biologically speaking. That means that this is a one-sided benefit, to the fetus – not a symbiotic relatinoship whereby both parties benefit by the presence of the other. As much as people hate it when I say this, it’s true: fetuses are parasites. They depend on the continued goodwill of the host, the pregnant woman. Actually, considering the defenselessness of newborn babies, some philosophers consider them to also be parasites, but this is where I draw the line.

Do living things deserve moral consideration? Yes, of course I believe this to be true. Obviously, I think so – I am a vegetarian. I believe all sentient beings (beings that can sense pain and pleasure) are deserving of moral consideration. However, what makes no sense to me is the special privilege we afford humans over other living beings. Why should we give more rights of moral consideration to human fetuses than we do to fully formed, born, non-parasitic animals like cows and pigs, whom we as a society kill readily and unnecessarily for our food supply? And certainly, it makes no sense to give more moral consideration to fetuses than we do to the fully formed, born, non-parasitic, rational moral agents with full rights and freedoms (at least theoretically, entrenched in human rights legislation around the world) that are pregnant women. Unless, of course, your goal is to control and subvert women.

My official position is that abortion must be legal at all stages of pregnancy, in order to protect women fully. Otherwise, we could have a situation where the woman’s life is endangered by continuing the pregnancy, and she has no legal right to self-defense. I fully support a woman’s right to choose an abortion at any stage of her pregnancy. Women must have the right to decide at any point to discontinue hosting a fetus, and the manner in which she continues to host a fetus. I am opposed to any legislation that aims to protect fetal health over the woman’s right to determine how she uses her body. It’s her body – she should have the ultimate choice over how to treat her own body at all stages of her life. If we own anything in this world fully and completely, it’s our bodies. We must have the right to do with our bodies what we choose. However, I will say that all evidence that I have examined shows that sentience begins in a human fetus between 17-20 weeks. At this point, I believe some moral consideration should be given to a developing fetus, since that fetus can feel pain. Note closely: I said moral consideration. I did not say women shouldn’t be allowed to abort after this time. I did not say that the fetus’ rights outweigh the woman’s at this point. I said moral consideration. If the woman still decides after the point of sentience to abort, I fully support her right to do so.

This is what the debate boils down to for me: to not support women’s right to choose whether to carry a fetus to term do not support women’s equality. It is illogical to declare a human fetus more worthy of moral consideration than the fully formed moral agent carrying that fetus. Doing so reduces women to our reproductive function, and makes us into vessels whose true value comes about through becoming useful vessels rather than empty ones. And this certainly does not create an environment of equality.

So, I hope that today, some of you will also Blog for Choice. At least, I hope some of what you read will help you consider supporting women’s rights to reproductive freedom.

Edit: Please take the time to read the following posts (I’ll be adding to this list throughout the day as I find more and more great posts on this topic): Sarah’s Blog for Choice 2006 at the Razzberry, Jill’s Why I’m Pro-Choice, Anti-Choicers Bring the Crazy. And the Misogyny. And the Racism, and Embryonic Personhood at Feministe, Amanda’s Blogging for Choice and Beyond Choice at Pandagon, Shark-Fu’s Blog for Choice – Pro-choice for Life at Angry Black Bitch, BrownFemiPower’s “Choice” Challenged, and Who Gets to Be a Legitimate Mother at Women of Color Blog and Sage’s Funeral for an Abortion at Persephone’s Box. For those of you who might think that abortion is an easy, convenient choice, or that anyone other than the pregnant woman herself is a better candidate to make decisions that affect the entire course of the rest of her life.

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