Woodworth’s New Motion is Not About Abortion, and I’m the Queen of England

Photo of the Canadian Parliament buildingsby Jarrah Hodge

MP Stephen Woodworth must think we’re stupid. After introducing and failing to pass M-312 last year and insisting it wasn’t about abortion, he’s got a new motion now calling for the legal recognition of “the equal worth and dignity of every human being.” And he’s saying this one isn’t about abortion, either, even though his media release about the new motion was called “M-312 – Next Steps”.

“Only in a bizarro-world Canada would my motion be considered controversial,” said Woodworth in his press conference.

This is kind of like the Finance Minister introducing a budget and then saying it has nothing to do with money. The fact is there would be no reason to propose this law if you weren’t trying to get at reproductive rights. And in the time since M-312 failed, Woodworth has remained focused on anti-abortion activism. The only thing he’s distanced himself from is the actual word “abortion”.

He started by vowing to undertake a cross-Canada tour to, as LifeSite News put it: “promote respect for the unborn”. The Campaign Life Coalition. On January 1st “Canada’s Family and Life Newspaper” The Interim named Woodworth their Person of the Year, saying:

“[Campaign Life Coalition representative Jim] Hughes told The Interim that Woodworth deserves to be named this paper’s Man of the Year because he challenged an unjust law, inspired the pro-life movement to action, and refused to back down when the going got tough. “We need more MPs who are willing to lead on important issues.”

For background, part of the Interim‘s mission statement is “to report and comment on the many offences against human dignity our society has experienced: abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, contraception, sexual promiscuity, the decline of the traditional family, and the rise of radical environmentalism and animal rights agendas that put non-human matters at the centre of public concern.”

This March he used his International Women’s Day statement to take a passive-aggressive dig at the lack of legal protections for fetuses. In June he spoke to the Catholic Civil Rights League (which basically argues for some Catholics’ civil rights to refuse to recognize others’) to argue the pro-life movement needs to distance itself from the word “abortion” in order to “win hearts and minds” so it can, eventually, outlaw the thing . Hence his new motion. Read more

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

My Reality: My Abortion Experience

"Never Going Back!" written in sidewalk chalk on pavement with a drawing of a coat hanger crossed out

“Never Going Back!” written in sidewalk chalk on pavement with a drawing of a coat hanger crossed out

by Jane Person

This afternoon I had an abortion. This is not a sentence I ever thought I would utter. I’m pro-choice. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy writing about, advocating for, and protecting a woman’s right to choice. I never thought this would be a choice I personally would make, no matter how adamantly I support other women’s right to make this choice. It was an important issue to me before this point as a woman, as someone who vehemently believes that every single woman can be trusted to make right choices for herself about her own body.

In a culture dominated by patriarchy where women are not yet equal, bodily autonomy is one of the most important issues there is. If we cannot be agents of our own bodies, what rights have we as human beings? Men’s bodies are not similarity legislated, controlled, and shamed.


A few weeks ago my breasts began to get sore. “Great. My period is coming” was the thought I had. But after a couple of weeks they became increasingly sore and my period was late. That’s not uncommon for me. My cycle is very irregular.

But then I started feeling nauseated. I threw up one morning while at work. I couldn’t stand the smells of people on the bus. I couldn’t eat. Everything made me feel sick.

I went to the nearest drug store to purchase a pregnancy test. I still didn’t think I was pregnant. I simply wanted to assuage my anxiety and affirm that my period was simply delayed and my regular menstrual symptoms were just a little more intense this month.

I took the test as soon as I got home. Within seconds of urinating on the stick, a positive indication of pregnancy came up.


I’m sure my daughter heard my shout from downstairs. I didn’t waste a moment after finding out I was pregnant. I knew what I wanted, needed, to do.

First I called the sexual health clinic. They told me I could come by Monday afternoon to get a referral from a doctor, required for access to an abortion in Ontario.

Monday afternoon doesn’t work for me. I’ve got a job interview.” was my dismayed reply. It was Friday afternoon. I hid the panic I was feeling. I felt a sense of urgency, a desire to handle this as quickly as possible. I asked for alternative options with a calmness I wasn’t feeling.

I then called the university health centre. I made an appointment for Wednesday the following week.

I knew I wanted the referral sooner than later. My preference was for a medical abortion over a surgical abortion, if at all possible. The efficacy of medical abortion decreases as pregnancy progresses.

The four days leading up to my appointment were agonizing. I was sick. My body doesn’t handle pregnancy well. I just wanted this over with. Read more

Posted on by Jane Person in Can-Con, Feminism, My Reality 13 Comments

A Closer Look at REAL Women of Canada

Photo of the Canadian Parliament buildings

Photo of the Canadian Parliament buildings

by Patricia Kmiec

The self-described “pro-family conservative women’s movement” known as REAL Women of Canada has made their way into the headlines once again. This time they have publicly attacked Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird for publicly defending gay rights in Russia and Uganda. REAL women explains that Baird’s position is “offensive” and “undermine[s] other countries’ sovereignty and dignity.”

Of course, the media is attracted to the irony of this conservative group publicly calling out Baird, one of the most recognizable faces of the Conservative government, for “causing collateral damage to his party.” While I often find such public spats over ‘how conservative is too conservative?’ entertaining, there comes a point where we need to look at exactly who is perpetuating these ideas and who is listening.

REAL (Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life) Women of Canada was founded in 1983 and served as an active lobby group that countered efforts of pro-choice feminists to legalize abortion in Canada, and their anti-choice position remains at the centre of their work. They have also actively campaigned against other causes including: legalizing prostitution, expanding access to state-supported childcare, and establishing a Canadian human rights museum.

Though REAL Women claims to represent “women (and men) from all walks of life,” it is clear that their outdated ideas are shared by very few. In fact, they make no mention of their membership numbers or who their board members are on their website. Though their Facebook group has 738 members, a quick browse through the comments suggests that many of even those who “like” the group’s page are just there to oppose their regular posts.

So why should we care? It appears that this organization has very few members and is only given any attention when they release a press statement that is simply too absurd to ignore. But should we be ignoring them? I wish it were that easy.

Unfortunately, REAL Women still has sway with the Conservative government. As recently as last year, REAL Women was one of the chosen community organizations invited by the Harper government to recommend Canadians for the Queen’s Jubilee awards, while hundreds of other organizations (including EGALE Canada) were left off the list and unable to put forward nominees for the well-recognized awards.

So what are women (you know, women who actually care about women) to do? I would say make sure that your voice is out there. Regardless of who is telling us that we no longer need feminism and that women have achieved equality in Canada – keep letting people know that you support women’s rights.

Write letters to the editors, post comments online, volunteer for local feminist organizations (or start one!), or contact your local political representative when women’s issues come up, because you can be sure that the women of REAL Women are.

It is true that women’s views span across the board. Certainly women have every right to be anti-choice or disagree with issues like gay marriage – but when an organization like REAL Women continues to lobby the government in favour of discriminatory action on various levels, it is essential that actual real women continue to stand up against them.

Posted on by Patricia Kmiec in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 2 Comments

Ireland’s Abortion Legislation and Ongoing Denial of Choice

Irish anti-choice billboard

Irish anti-choice billboard

by Shelly Mitchell

One of the most popular on-going topics sweeping the Irish nation and being discussed in the Irish parliament at the moment is its abortion legislation.  The divisions within the government and the general population have resulted in mass protests across the country by “pro-choice” and “pro-life” advocates. Currently in Ireland abortion is illegal and can result in a 14-year prison sentence for the woman. If and only when a woman’s life is in danger the pregnancy can be terminated, but apparently guidelines are not very clear and doctors are unsure what exactly warrants grounds for a termination.

What I find most difficult to understand about the situation regarding abortion in Ireland is: first, the vast amount of input the Catholic Church is having into this debate and second, the refusal of the government to even contemplate an abortion-on-demand policy.

In regards to the Catholic Church, taking their long history of gender inequality and more recent history of clerical abuse into account, I see no reason why they are to be involved in this debate, especially since Ireland is becoming increasingly secularised and the Church’s influence among the laity is in severe decline. The idea of abortion-on-demand has rarely even entered Irish political discourse. I find this insulting. It shows the government does not trust women like me to make clear, informed decisions over their bodies should they find themselves pregnant. It also denies women the agency and autonomy that we are supposed to have over our bodies as free Irish citizens. Read more

Posted on by Shelly Mitchell in Feminism 4 Comments

Why the Delay Approving RU486 in Canada?

ru486by Jarrah Hodge

Australia is well on its way to making publicly available mifepristone and misoprostol, two drugs that make up RU486, used for abortion up to 49 days after becoming pregnant. If you’ve never heard of it it might sound a little scary, and that’s the angle anti-choice activists and legislators love to promote, but the truth is RU486 has been around for more than 20 years and has been demonstrated to be very safe. It is approved for use in 38 countries and is the preferred method for medical abortion in many, including France.

According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, RU486 has been associated with proportionately fewer deaths than Tylenol or Viagra. It’s also less risky than going through a full-term pregnancy.

Gail Rhyno at ROAR notes that RU486 is on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines, which catalogues 312 drugs considered international benchmarks in meeting “priority care needs”.

If a woman needs to terminate a pregnancy, it doesn’t make sense to prevent her from choosing this option. It allows a woman to make the decision with her family doctor and not have to face in many cases travelling long distances to a clinic where they may be subject to anti-choice harassment. Even more importantly, it has lower complication rates and is significantly cheaper than other forms of medical abortion. In Australia, public pharmaceutical coverage is likely to make RU486 available to all women for $36, and $12 for women who receive benefits.

So why the delay in Canada? In a country where many women still face barriers to accessing surgical abortion, it would certainly fill a need. It’s important to note there is an approved method of medical abortion in some places in Canada, but it’s not as efficient or effective. Health Canada’s procedures for approving drugs are stringent (as they should be), but the issue is not that the drug has gone through the process and failed; it has never been submitted to the final step for approval. Some RU486 advocates believe that what’s missing to get it through the process is political will and a greater commitment from Health Canada.  Fern Hill at Dammit Janet points out that Health Canada’s handling of the recent Apotex birth control pill recall raised questions about the agency’s level of understanding of women’s reproductive health needs.

The best thing to do right now is for people who care about reproductive health to educate themselves on RU486 and to raise the issue with your family doctor or OB/GYN. It’s time for Canada to catch up with the rest of the world on making private abortion safer and more effective.

(photo of pills [not RU486]  via Wikimedia Commons)

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

April is Abortion Wellbeing Month

wordcloudby Chanel Dubofsky

It feels hard and strange to write about anything after what happened in Boston on Monday. In a piece for Colorlines, Riku Sen  wrote, “I’m so exhausted from the cycle of sorrow, panic, defense and more sorrow that every incident of mass violence evokes in our national consciousness.” That’s more or less how I feel. I lived in Boston for a year after I graduated college, my friends live there, I know the place by heart, but I had to turn off the Twitter feed an hour after finding out about the explosions. That’s how quickly it became too much.

I’m afraid that writing about abortion right now is callous, that paying attention to anything that’s not a CNN news loop of the explosion and the injuries is wrong.  The thing I know to be true is that, in spite of the fact that everyone is scared and shocked and desperate for information, most of us just went back to living our lives, because we had to. Abortion is part of people’s lives. The desire to pretend that it’s not, or that it’s not “appropriate” to talk about stems from abortion stigma- the negative things we’re told about abortion and foist upon those who provide and receive them. (It’s not just cis gendered women who can get pregnant.)

Some examples of abortion stigma include the idea that all folks who have abortions are immoral, that the decision to have an abortion is made capriciously, that it’s used as birth control.  This is my favorite, because abortion IS birth control (in that it literally stops you from giving birth), and also because 87% of counties in the United States have no abortion provider. (insert source) This means that if the town you live in in Kentucky has no provider, you have to travel to the town where the provider is located, or perhaps to Ohio, West Virginia, or another state where there is a provider. Of course, this all depends on how much money you have to pay for things like transportation and/or childcare, if you can get the day off from work, or if you can get out of town without telling your parents.

Infographic via

Infographic via

Abortion stigma is also about controlling how people who have had abortions feel about their decision. Needless to say, it’s different for everyone, but the point of any stigma is to ignore that tiny detail. Recently, I attended the CLPP conference, From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom, held every year at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. In a workshop about early abortion, the provider (who asked that her name not be shared)  told us, “People wake up from their abortions and say, “Oh my Gd, you just gave me my life back,” as well as about folks who change their minds before the procedure begins.  “The language people use when they come in indicates how they’re feeling about the abortion.” For some folks, this means talking about babies and death, for others, feelings of joy and relief, and everything in between.

April is Abortion Well Being Month, based on the not-so-crazy notion that if you have an abortion, you deserve to be supported, regardless of, well, everything. If you’re having emotional hiccups after reading that sentence, If you’re thinking “But what if it was a later abortion? What if it’s this person’s second (or third, or…) abortion?,”  you have probably absorbed some abortion stigma.  It’s okay. You have it because you’re alive in the world, the same way we all carry around racist, sexist, classist notions that we’re not even aware of. But that’s not an excuse. We still need to take care of each other.


Posted on by Chanel Dubofsky in Feminism 1 Comment

Vintage Pregnancy Advice from the Canadian Government

canmotherby Jarrah Hodge

Thrift shopping with my mom and boyfriend in North Vancouver the other day I came across a real gem: a 1947 printing of the Canadian government’s handbook The Canadian Mother and Child, by Ernest Couture, M.D., Director of the Division of Child and Maternal Health.

A little context: this is the 7th printing of the 1st edition of the handbook, and it was a really popular guide that ended up being published and distributed every year for over 30 years. An article from Canadian Encyclopedia describes how important this book and other similar guides were to women in the 1940s:

In the 1940s, child-rearing was done, literally, by the book. Janet Berton vividly remembers the one she used -Canadian Mother and Child, a brochure from the federal health department that her doctor gave her when her first child, Penny, was born in 1948. “It had wonderful pictures of old, old, old-fashioned babies and nurses in black and white,” says Berton, who with her husband, author Pierre Berton, raised a family of eight children. “But it was pretty authoritarian. You had to do exactly what it said.” Berton says she tried to follow the rules for feeding an infant on a strict timetable, every four hours, and soon wound up “in a panic” because the baby did not seem to be getting enough milk.

I had an interesting time reading the guide and learning what women like my grandmother would have been advised to do when they were pregnant in that era, and thought I’d share some of the more interesting and maybe surprising lessons with you.

"While Awaiting a Baby", photo from Library & Archives Canada

“While Awaiting a Baby”, photo from Library & Archives Canada

On the Joy of Motherhood

“The birth of a baby is the most glorious achievement in the life of a woman, for, in becoming a mother, she completely fulfils the special purpose of her life as a woman.” (p. 3)

“There is nothing more fascinating for a mother than to read about the care of a baby.” (p. 84)

“The very presence of your baby, and your feeling of love for it, should prove more eloquent than any words to persuade you to breast-feed your infant, if you are able to do so.” (p. 108)

“When you bend affectionately over your growing infant, does not the contented joy of your heart tell you powerfully that you are gazing on the most precious of all your possessions? As the infant lies, charming but helpless, and dependent on you for everything, you feel that it was fully worth those special pains on your part to give it proper nourishment, to provide the benefit of fresh air and sunshine, the comfort of cleanliness and appropriate clothes, to guard it against digestive troubles, infections and contagious diseases and accidents, and also to direct with love the first manifestations of a budding character.” (p. 203)

On Lady-Parts

“Special local examination. On no account should you let false modesty influence you in the matter of this local examination. Unfortunately this is often the case, particularly with mothers expecting their first baby. You would not forgive yourself if, through neglect of this very important examination, some mishap occurred.” (p. 7)

“For local hygiene use a mild soap, or a mild antiseptic solution recommended by your doctor or a solution of baking soda or boracic acid (1 dessert spoonful to a quart of warm water). Make sure to dry the parts thoroughly.” (p. 40)

“In a married woman, the missing of a period is usually due to pregnancy.” (p. 11)

On Leisure Time

“There is, of course, no harm in playing bridge. Indeed it is a wholesome way of relaxing, if not abused, but it is fatiguing if indulged in too frequently or for lengthy sessions.” (p. 21) Read more

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