joyce arthur

Union Sisters Talk Reproductive Rights

Joyce Arthur, Jackie Larkin and Judy Darcy

Joyce Arthur, Jackie Larkin and Judy Darcy

by Jarrah Hodge

In the late 70′s and 80′s feminists involved in BC’s labour movement launched “Union Sisters”, regular gatherings of union women who would share a meal, listen to a speaker, and organize on important issues.

This fall a handful of union women decided to re-launch these gatherings. Using only emails, Facebook, and social media they put the word out and attracted about fifty women to the first meeting in September, which featured Dr. Marjorie Griffin-Cohen speaking on the negative impacts of BC Liberal policy on women in BC.

I’m pleased I was able to attend the second “Union Sisters” evening in New Westminster earlier this week. The theme of the night was: “The Current Challenges to our Reproductive Rights” and included an oral history on the 1970s Abortion Caravan, as well as a presentation by Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

Addressing the current situation, Arthur put the lie to Harper’s claim that he doesn’t want to “re-open the abortion debate”, noting right off the bat by limiting funding to organizations that provide abortion and contraception in developing countries for the first time in decades, that’s exactly what the Harper government did.

Arthur also touched on the defeat of the anti-choice M-312 in Parliament this fall:

“It was quite a strong defeat but nobody was really happy about it… it was disturbing because 1/3 of the cabinet voted in favour of it, including Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose.”

Arthur identified fighting anti-choice advertisements through complaints to Advertising Standards Canada as one area in which the ARCC and its feminist allies have had particular success.

“They’re usually demeaning to women in some way,” Arthur said of the ads. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 1 Comment

M-312 Goes Down!

Sasha Askarian and Thea Jardine at M-312 Rally

Radical Handmaids rally in Vancouver Tuesday

by Jarrah Hodge

As hoped and predicted, Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s anti-choice Motion-312 went down in flames in its final vote yesterday, losing 91 to 203. I think most of us who worked on this issue are happy but would’ve preferred an even stronger split. To see how everyone voted, alphabetical by last name, click here.

The fact that several front-bench Conservatives voted in favour of the motion was most disconcerting. In addition, to Jason Kenney, who had announced earlier this week he was voting in favour, seven other cabinet ministers and two ministers of state voted yes, including Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose.

Minister Ambrose’s move has led to calls for her to resign or be booted from cabinet. In a press release (pdf), Abortion Rights Coalition Executive Director Joyce Arthur said:

“Not only did Ambrose openly defy her Prime Minister’s instruction to his Cabinet to vote against the motion, she threw women under the bus,” said Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC). “Her job is to advance the rights and interests of women, so her Yes vote on the motion was a shocking failure and a slap in the face to the women of Canada. She’s proven herself to be unfit for the job and must resign immediately.”

A Facebook page “Rona Ambrose Must Go” has been set up and I’m expecting online petitions to be started soon, so will keep you posted. In addition, four Liberal MPs supported M-312 in the final vote.

The Bloc, NDP, and Green caucuses were united against it though a couple of MPs missed the vote due to other important business. I hope folks take time to thank the MPs who voted against M-312, especially those who also spoke up in the press and social media and who lobbied their colleagues on the importance of protecting women’s constitutional rights.

Overall it was a hard-fought victory and it’s not likely to be the last time we see something like this come forward. Keep those Radical Handmaids hats on hand, folks, because it’s still at least a year until the next federal election and Stephen Harper clearly isn’t trying that hard to keep the abortion debate closed.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 3 Comments

The Last Weeks of Woodworth: What You Can Do

by Jarrah Hodge

While most of us were enjoying sunny weather, maybe hitting up the beach or lounging on patios if we were lucky, MP Stephen Woodworth was lobbying hard for his Motion 312, which would require a special Parliamentary committee to review the definition of “human being” in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada to determine if it should be extended to include fetuses.

Although Woodworth has gone to great lengths to try to persuade moderates and progressives that his motion is about having a scientific debate, not primarily about restricting abortion rights, it’s clear he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth (that’s the nicest way I can think of to put it).

Dammit Janet received and published a copy of a letter Woodworth is distributing to his colleagues begging them to support M-312, in which he states:

I am enclosing a copy of Subsection 223(1), the law which is the sole focus of Motion 312. You will see that Subsection 223(1) is a 400 year old law which decrees the dehumanization and exclusion of an entire class of people we know to be human beings, namely, children before the moment of complete birth.

This is a direct assault upon the principle of universal human rights, which insists that every human being has an inherent worth and dignity which the state must recognize rather than merely a value assigned by others based on the utility or inconvenience of that human being.


Laws like Subsection 223(1), which decree the dehumanization and exclusion of an entire class of people, deny the principle of universal human rights. That principle, which asserts that every human being possesses equal and inherent worth and dignity is the bedrock upon which all of other our laws rest.

Dude, we’re not stupid. Fern Hill at Dammit Janet is spot-on when she states: “The clear intent of this charade from its inception has been to close the abortion debate — without, miraculously, opening it — by setting the scene for a law limiting abortion to the period ending at mid-second trimester.”

Woodworth will be holding a press conference tomorrow, the final hour of debate on M-312 will come on Friday the 21, and then the final vote will be September 26.

The plus side is that it’s almost over and we can all take a little breather before the next Conservative backbencher comes up with some similar private member’s motion or bill.

The other positive is that there’s still time to take action, which as Abortion Rights Coalition Executive Director Joyce Arthur points out at Rabble, is necessary even if we think the motion’s passing is a long shot: Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 3 Comments