Woodworth’s Attacks on Abortion Rights Challenge Harper to Step Up

Canadian House of CommonsJosey Ross is an anti-violence worker and reproductive justice activist living in Vancouver. She has an embarrassing and uncontainable love of small dogs but fears corgis.

The abortion debate is over in Canada. We won. Stop worrying so much.

This is what I kept hearing as I was beginning to write my Honours thesis, which looked at anti-choice legislation in Canada. And it’s partly true. We won. Oh boy did we win. Unlike in the U.S. where the increasingly fragile Roe v. Wade decision is based on an easily trump-able right to privacy, women’s right to abortion in Canada is predicated on security of the person.

Since the Morgantaler decision was handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988, precisely zero laws have been passed that regulate or prohibit abortion. However, there have been nearly 40 bills and motions introduced that sought to limit or prohibit abortion. In 1991 women’s right to bodily autonomy was maintained by a single vote when it tied in Senate.

And while I’m confident that Bill C-43 would have been deemed unconstitutional if not for that single vote, it would have been a nightmare. And it would have been women who paid the steep price of years of legal wrangling.

Conservative misogynist (or “pro-lifer” as he seems to prefer) Stephen Woodworth is using a well-worn tactic to attack abortion rights from the side. Focusing on personhood arguments neatly skirts the existence of the gestational vehicle otherwise known as a woman. Read more

Posted on by Josey Ross in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 3 Comments

Don’t Be Fooled by Fake Clinics

This column by Joyce Arthur was originally posted at the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada website. Cross-posted with permission from the author. 

If you purchased a bottle of wine at your local government liquor store in Kamloops BC during the holiday season last year, you may have noticed a tin on the counter labelled “Help a Woman in Crisis.” Perhaps you even dropped a few coins in it. What you may not have noticed is the name of the recipient on that tin—the Pregnancy Care Centre of Kamloops. Unfortunately, this agency is one that many people would be loathe to support if they knew what it really represented.

On its website and brochure, the Pregnancy Care Centre of Kamloops claims to help women with unplanned pregnancies by giving them practical support and “non-judgmental care” as well as “education on all pregnancy options, and “referrals for health, housing and community support,” among other laudable-sounding services.

But this carefully cultivated public persona deliberately hides the true nature and purpose of the centre. Unsuspecting donors would never guess that the centre is actually an anti-abortion Christian ministry whose main goal is to dissuade women from having abortions—and then convert them if possible.

About 150 of these fake clinics—so-called “crisis pregnancy centres”—exist across Canada. Many are affiliates of the Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS), an umbrella group that “encourages and equips” these centres. One of the primary tools that CAPSS provides to its affiliates for their work is an “Evangelism Manual.”

As an affiliate of CAPSS, the Kamloops Pregnancy Care Centre must maintain “faithful adherence” to several statements and codes, none of which are available to the public (we obtained a copy of them several years ago): Read more

Posted on by Joyce Arthur in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

Why Poll Data Doesn’t Matter

This article was originally posted at Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome. Cross-posted with permission. Peggy Cooke is a reproductive justice activist and former abortion clinic worker living in Toronto, ON. She likes feminism, grammar, and sharks.

So, I guess there’s been an Angus Reid poll that found that 51% of Canadians favour some restrictions on abortion – and 60% favour restricting sex-selective abortion. I have some thoughts.

First of all, who are these people who don’t think there should be any restrictions, but then do think that, oh yeah, if it’s for sex selection then we should really clamp down. What? I have so many questions for them. Like: how do we determine someone’s reason for aborting? How hard do you think it would be to get around such a restriction? What do you think it says about our society that sex selective abortion even exists? What other reasons are good enough to say no, you can’t have this? Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Abortion Rights Are Queer Rights

This piece was originally posted at Synergy, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada’s student and youth network for reproductive justice blog. It was written by guest contributor Kailey Willetts. She is a UVic student journalist working in the areas of queer rights and reproductive justice. Cross-posted with permission.

Anti-choicers love to connect queer people with the struggle for abortion rights in truly absurd ways. One example is this charmer from LifeSiteNews.com blogger, Alissa Golob:

“On an ideological level, homosexuality tends towards being individualistic; in a practical sense, profoundly sterile. Homosexuality uses sex as an instrument for self-gratifying pleasure, and cannot physically be used in the unitive and procreative way it was intended.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you find mainstream gay rights activists vehemently asserting that abortion rights are not gay rights. These are very likely the same gay rights activists solely occupied with pursuing the right to have children and parent.

While forsaking one aspect of reproductive justice that you don’t feel impacts you is shitty, it goes far beyond that. Reproductive justice in all aspects is a queer rights issue; abortion is a queer rights issue (and not because we’re “profoundly sterile”). Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT, Politics Leave a comment

Niagara Anti-Choice Group Launches Christmas Billboard Campaign

Niagara region residents will be treated to a new anti-choice billboard campaign this Christmas season.

Life Site News brags:

“A billboard a Canadian pro-life group has paid for has a Toy Story-themed messages that will surely resonate with area residents when it comes to the issue of abortion.

Using the message “Some toys will have fewer children to play with this year,” Niagra Region Right to Life’s billboard focuses on Christmas from a toy soldier’s perspective — who won’t have any children to play with him this year because they have become victims of abortion.”

While the ads might not be as graphic as those put out by the Genocide Awareness Project or the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, nor as downright bizarre as last year’s Baby Scan Jesus ad, the billboard being put out by Niagara Region Right to Life (pictured left) is notable for its use of a manipulative message and image which could be seen to be targeting children.

Although I’m sure it wasn’t their only goal, I envision Niagara Right aiming to have children equate abortion with sad and lonely toys and perhaps ask their parents why the government lets abortion make the toys sad. My response as a rational adult and obvious pro-choicer was: “If that’s true why are we making so many extra toys?”

If Niagara Region Right to Life wants to talk to children to lower the abortion rate, the best way would be through open, honest, and comprehensive (non-abstinence-only) sex-education. But somehow I doubt that’s what’ll happen.

Regardless of the intended target audience the ad is in poor taste, and it also reminds us to be vigilant about the rights we have today.

Another reminder came today in the form of Kitchener-Centre Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, who is calling for a re-opening of the debate on abortion rights, following in the footsteps of fellow Conservative backbenchers  Brad Trost and Rod Bruinooge. Woodworth’s announcement didn’t mention the word “abortion” and was couched in the argument that the laws are outdated, invoking the spectre of a breathing baby still partially attached to its mother somehow being aborted, but its intent to bring the issue up is clear.

“Canadian law provides no human rights protection whatsoever for children before the moment of complete birth.  This results from an unusual Canadian statute which defines a human being as a child who has completely proceeded in a living state from the mother’s body, whether or not the child has breathed.  This means that in Canada a child is legally considered to be sub-human while his or her little toe remains in the birth canal, even if he or she is breathing.”

It’s not a nice image, that’s for sure. But statistics show that only 0.4% of abortions in Canada are performed after 20 weeks (considered “late-term”). According to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, who examined StatsCan and abortion clinic data: “Only a tiny handful of doctors in all of Canada are trained and willing to do abortions after 20 weeks. The 3rd trimester begins after 24 weeks. The number of abortions done after 24 weeks in Canada is very small, although we don’t have exact figures. Without exception, all are done in cases of lethal fetal abnormality, where the fetus cannot survive after birth.”

The ARCC also points out that one major reason why women get second-trimester abortions is because of the problems accessing abortion in Canada. If a woman has to wait or travel, as in many provinces, to get the procedure, that can be a major factor delaying the procedure until the second-trimester.

While Stephen Harper’s office denies it, The Globe and Mail acknowledged: “Mr. Woodworth’s call for debate may have the tacit or expressed consent of the Prime Minister, who spent the first years in a minority government courting support of socially right-wing Canadians.” While the chances are slim for any private member’s bill along these lines to pass as long as Harper’s cabinet and most of the opposition members vote against it, it’ll be something to watch out for in the new year.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment

Remembering Dr. Robert Kinch

This post, by Roxanna Bennett, was originally posted at Feminists for Choice.

The name Dr. Henry Morgentaler is synonymous with pro-choice in Canada, but Dr. Robert Kinch was also instrumental in securing women’s rights as his colleague. Born in Iraq in 1920, Dr. Kinch immigrated to Canada with his family in 1949 after seeing a billboard advertising “Ontario Wants You.”

Dr. Kinch launched his career as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Toronto. In 1968 he moved to Montreal as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill University, eventually becoming chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Royal Victoria and Montreal General hospitals. He was appointed chairman of the Department of Obstetrics of Gynecology at McGill in 1979.

Beloved by his patients, Dr. Kinch delivered thousands of babies while determinedly championing maternal health and the advancement of sexual education.

In the early 1970’s abortion was decriminalized but could only be performed for therapeutic reasons after a committee agreed that a termination was necessary for the health of the mother. Dr. Kinch created a therapeutic action committee at Montreal General hospital, earning him the distasteful moniker of “Kinch the Killer” by anti-choice activists who picketed the hospital. Undeterred, Dr. Kinch helped to establish one of the first family planning centres in Montreal, providing access to birth control, pregnancy termination and counseling on other health matters to women.

Retired vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada André Lalonde is quoted as saying of Dr. Kinch: “He was pro-choice and advocated for changes in Canada, offering training to future generations of professionals.”

In the late 1980’s Dr. Kinch became divisional chief of maternal-fetal medicine University of Texas Medical Branch. Several years later he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, accepting a similar position. In 1998 he returned to McGill University, continuing his practice and teaching part-time. Shortly after, a fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynecology was created in his name.

A passionate educator, Dr. Kinch taught until he retired at the age of 86. Dedicated to furthering education in obstetrics and gynecology, former graduates of Dr. Kinch are the chairs of departments of gynecology and obstetrics at eight different Canadian universities, a singular distinction of Dr. Kinch.

Dr. Kinch remained active in the medical clinics of his community and as an educator wrote sexual education curriculum for schools in Ontario. “He introduced sexual health training when it was taboo in all medical schools [because] he saw the need and responded.” Lalonde says.

Internationally recognized as a champion of women’s health and reproductive rights and as a leader in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Robert Kinch leaves behind a profound legacy of integrity and compassion. He died of natural causes on July 22, 2011, at the age of 91.


Posted on by Roxanna Bennett in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment

Why Abortion Care Needs to be Fully Funded

This column by Joyce Arthur was originally posted at the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada website. Cross-posted with permission from the author. A more expansive article with stats can be found here.

Anti-choice activists in Canada argue that abortion should be defunded and that women should pay out-of-pocket for abortion care. But that is a right-wing ideological position that ignores evidence and human rights. Defunding abortion would be unconstitutional, discriminatory, and harmful to women. The following points explain why. (Each point is expanded upon here with detailed arguments, evidence and citations.)

1. Women’s lives and health are at stake. Funding abortion is necessary to guarantee women’s right to life and security of the person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The main reason the Supreme Court threw out the old abortion law in 1988 was because it arbitrarily increased the risk to women’s health and lives through unnecessary delays and obstructed access. Not funding abortion would have the same effect and the same constitutional problems as the old abortion law, and would put politics and ideology ahead of women’s lives and health.

2. Women’s liberty and conscience rights under the Charter require abortion to be funded. The government must not interfere with the deeply personal decision to bear a child or not, which is integral to women’s autonomy and privacy. Otherwise, the government would be co-opting women’s right to choose by funding childbirth but not abortion, and paternalizing women with an official stance of moral disapproval of abortion.

3. Since only women need abortions, funding abortion is necessary to ensure women’s legal right to be free from discrimination. Restrictive policies and laws that apply to only one gender violate human rights codes that provide protection on the basis of sex. Further, women’s equality rights under the Charter cannot be realized without access to safe, legal, fully funded abortion—otherwise, women would be subordinated to their childbearing role in a way that men are not.

4. Abortion funding is crucial to ensure fairness and equity, without discrimination on the basis of income. We must not compel low-income women and other disadvantaged women to continue an unwanted pregnancy due to lack of funding, or to delay care while they try to raise money. Any delay in abortion care raises the medical risks, especially when it extends into the second trimester. Delays are also a punitive burden that unnecessarily prolong stress and discomfort for women. Best medical practice should ensure that abortion takes place as early as possible in pregnancy, and this requires full funding.

5. Funding abortion is very cost-effective while unwanted pregnancies are costly. The medical costs of childbirth are at least three times higher than the medical costs of abortion, and the social costs of forced motherhood and unwanted children are prohibitive. Further, the overall cost of abortion care to the taxpayer is a pittance relative to healthcare costs as a whole.

6. Funding abortion serves to integrate abortion care into the healthcare system in general, and ensure the comprehensiveness of reproductive healthcare programs, which is essential. If abortions were not funded, it would ghettoize abortion care, as well as the women who need it and the healthcare professionals who deliver it. This would likely increase stigma, lead to other restrictions, further marginalize abortion care over time, and increase anti-choice harassment and violence. All of this occurred in the United States after abortion was defunded for poor women by the 1973 Hyde Amendment.

7. Funding abortion is the right thing to do, despite some peoples’ belief that abortion takes a human life. There is no social consensus on the moral status of the fetus, and our laws do not bestow legal personhood until birth. Regardless, most Canadians believe that the woman’s rights are paramount in all or most circumstances, because she is the one taking on the health risks of pregnancy, bearing a child is a major decision with significant lifelong consequences, and a woman should be able to direct her own life and pursue her own aspirations apart from motherhood.

8. Legal abortion is very safe for women, and generally beneficial. The alleged medical and psychological “dangers” of abortion to women as described by anti-choice activists are either totally false or grossly overstated. Such arguments cannot support the defunding of abortion anyway, since pregnancy and childbirth are actually far more medically risky, and many other funded medical treatments carry substantial risk. Access to legal, safe, fully funded abortion is also beneficial for women and families because it allows them to continue with their lives and plan wanted children later when they are ready to care for them.

9. Opinion polls showing that a majority of voters do not want to pay for abortion are misleading and not pertinent. Voter opinion on this issue has been shaped by anti-choice misinformation, as well as lingering prejudice about women who have abortions. Regardless, voters have no authority to dictate what medical treatments to fund, as this is the role of provinces and medical groups. Women’s basic rights and freedoms must not be subject to a majority vote.

10. Abortion must be funded because it is not an elective procedure, any more than childbirth is. Pregnancy outcomes are inescapable, meaning that a pregnant woman cannot simply cancel the outcome—once she is pregnant, she must decide to either give birth or have an abortion. To protect her health and rights, both outcomes need to be recognized as medically necessary and fully funded, on an equal basis.

11. Anti-choice activists often say that “pregnancy is not a disease” and therefore abortion should not be funded. But the same arguments can be made for childbirth, since there are no medical reasons for a woman to get pregnant and have a baby. More importantly, health is much more than the absence of disease – it’s about achieving a state of overall health and wellness. Women with unwanted pregnancies are not in a healthy place, so their abortion care should be funded.

-Joyce Arthur

photo credit: alexandralee

Posted on by Joyce Arthur in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 1 Comment