reproductive rights

New Brunswickers Rally for Choice

Photo of crowd rallying in front of the legislature in Fredericton

photo: Alyse Stuart

by Sorcha Beirne

April 10th was a sad day for many New Brunswickers, as the Morgentaler Clinic announced it’s plans to close in July due to lack of government funding during an early morning press conference. This was an announcement that many knew would have to come someday, as the provincial government had been refusing funding for years.

Exactly a week later, on April 17th, over 500 people protested in front of the New Brunswick legislative building. The rally was organized by the Fredericton Youth Feminists and became known as A Rally for Our Right to Accessible Abortion. Protesters demanded a repeal of regulation 84-20, which states that abortions may only be covered in hospitals if deemed “medically necessary” in writing by two doctors, and demanded funding for the Morgentaler Clinic.

The legislature security fenced off the steps to the building, not allowing speakers to stand where originally planned. Speakers ended up having to use a step-stool. The protesters booed at the legislature when they heard this, screaming that it’s our building too. Among the speakers were NDP leader, Dominic Cardy; and Green Party leader, David Coon; who both showed their support for the cause and both agreed that the New Brunswick Premier, David Alward, could remove the regulation with the stroke of a pen.

Liberal leader Brian Gallant, agreed that he thought the two doctor rule was excessive and said he was encouraging the government to review the regulation. Protesters let out screams of “Not enough!”, “Repeal, not review” and booed at the leader. He left immediately after his speech, not staying for the rest of the rally.

People drove to the rally from all over New Brunswick and even other provinces like Nova Scotia and PEI. Colleen MacQuarrie, a researcher for the University of PEI, spoke about how the closure of the Morgentaler Clinic affected access in PEI, as there are no hospitals or clinics that provide abortion services in the province.

The rally-goers held signs and coat hangers in the air as they listened to speeches, many getting emotional. Before leaving, many left their signs on the lawn and hung coat hangers with messages for the legislature on the fence. Protesters wore pins with the rally’s slogan “We have the law, we need the access.” and tweeted during the event with #NBProchoice. The rally made it clear that there is a strong, powerful support for abortion access in New Brunswick and that the provincial government will not be able to stay silent forever.

More solidarity rallies are scheduled for next week in Ottawa, Charlottetown and Montreal. Get the details here or organize your own and add it to the list.
Posted on by Sorcha Beirne in Can-Con, Politics Leave a comment

This Is My Rally Cry: #NBProchoice

Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton photoby Kathleen Pye. Originally posted at Fem2pt0. Cross-posted with the author’s permission.

It takes a special kind of person to work at an Abortion Clinic.

You need to possess just the right combination of kindness and compassion, combined with courage, determination, and a whole lot of humility. Not something you can put on a resume, and I highly doubt it’s something you can learn from an overpriced webinar. It’s something you’re born with. Perhaps better worded – it’s something you’re born to do.

I first met the wonderful women at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick during my counselling psychology training program. I had recently decided that I was a feminist and wanted to learn more about abortion services. Despite my naivety I had good intentions; I knew the clinic was a source of contention within the community, and I felt compelled to learn about it.

But if I’m honest, there was another rationale for my desire to train as a counsellor at the clinic, although not one that I consciously recognized until my placement had completed: I wanted to better understand my internal conflict with being prochoice.

I grew up attending Catholic schools in an upper middle class community – the land of privilege. I was never lacking for anything and had a great education. I went to Sunday-School and I hated going to church, but only because it took me away from playing basketball for an hour a week.

I had also known that I was adopted long before it ever registered to me as being different. And just for clarity’s sake: despite how many people try to convince you that being adopted makes you ‘no different than anyone else’ it’s just not true. Being adopted does make you different. This is neither good nor bad – it just is. It’s a fact.

And with this difference comes the inevitable struggle with the ‘prochoice/antichoice’ debate. We are told that we can’t support abortion; we weren’t aborted, after all. We should be grateful. We should want to save other ‘adoptable children’. We are ‘gifts from God’. We were the ‘lucky ones’. We were ‘loved by our mothers right from the start’. These are all antichoice catch-phrases, told to me by the overtly uncritical. Read more

Posted on by Kathleen Pye in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic Forced To Close. How You Can Help.

Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton photoby Jarrah Hodge

Today the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick announced it will be forced to close its doors at the end of July, after a 20-year long battle with the provincial and federal governments to get the funding it should be entitled to under the Canada Health Act.

This will seriously jeopardize the already limited access to reproductive health care in New Brunswick and PEI, putting lives at risk.

Activists are already starting to organize to call on the provincial and federal governments to save the clinic and deal with some of the larger issues that have led to this situation. Here at Gender Focus we know how important these services are to people in Atlantic Canada and we’ll keep you posted on how you can show your support.

Here are three things you can do right now:

 

  1. Sign the Change.Org petition calling on the government to fund services at the Morgentaler Clinic
  2. Tweet a message of support using the #NBProChoice hashtag
  3. Write a letter to your Member of Parliament (find out their contact info here). You can use this sample letter drafted by a local activist and former clinic volunteer, but if you can, it’s best to rephrase  in your own words so your MP knows you care personally about this issue enough to take the time to write.

4. (Added April 11) Take a picture of yourself with a message of solidarity for the NB Pro Choice Tumblr.

And keep checking back to our website for updates and more ways to help. Another good resource to stay up-to-date is the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada site.

Here is the press release from the clinic with more of the background:

FREDERICTON MORGENTALER CLINIC – BACKGROUNDER

From the moment Dr. Morgentaler announced his intention to open an abortion clinic in Fredericton, the provincial government planned to thwart his efforts.  The premier at the time, Frank McKenna, stated that: “if Mr. Morgentaler tries to open a clinic in the province of New Brunswick, he’s going to get the fight of his life.” Subsequent New Brunswick governments have continued to block access to abortion services in New Brunswick.

Dr. Morgentaler was immune to their threats.  He had already survived jail, threats against his life and the bombing of his Toronto clinic.  The actions of the N.B. government only served to strengthen his resolve to ensure that New Brunswick women would have access to safe abortion care in his clinic and that no woman would be turned away regardless of her ability to pay.  The Morgentaler Clinic opened in June, 1994 and since then has provided abortion services to more than 10,000 women in a non-judgmental, evidence based, and professional environment.

The main obstacle the New Brunswick government created for New Brunswick women who needed to access abortions was, and still is, Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2(a.1). It states that an abortion will only be covered by Medicare if:

  • It is performed in a hospital by a specialist in the field of obstetrics or gynaecology and that
  •  Two doctors have certified in writing that the procedure is ‘medically necessary’.

 

Note:  The federal government or the courts have never defined what ‘medically necessary’ means, other than the circular definition in the Canada Health Act – “medically necessary is that which is physician performed”.  The provinces decide what is medically necessary under the Act, by creating a list of insured services, which are then automatically deemed medically necessary.  With respect to abortion it does not mean ‘only if there is a threat to the mother or the foetus’.  New Brunswick acknowledges that abortion is a ‘medically necessary’ procedure by permitting abortions in some hospitals.  The same definition applies to clinics.

The practical consequence of this regulation is that, unlike in any other Canadian province with stand-alone clinics, abortions provided at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton are not funded by Medicare. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics 4 Comments

FFFF: “How to Talk to Women” for Republicans

Funny Feminist Friday Film square logoA progressive PAC in the US has put together this spoof Republican training video for candidates on “how to talk to women” without offending them as pesky potential voters.

h/t to Feministing for sharing the video and reminding us how spot-on this in, especially given the GOP is really offering lessons on speaking to women voters.

Transcript (after the jump): Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in FFFF Leave a comment

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.

“Fuck!”

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