I’ve erased myself so many times. So many times that I’ve lost count. My parents were abuse. My self-esteem has required a lot of patch work. I have lost myself just as many times. Emotional and psychological abuse leaves many invisible scars that are hard to explain. Even harder to understand. Every time I’m not perfect, every time I mistake I have to deal with the consequences. It’s not solved by a simple apology. Rather, I’ll spend hours or days fixating on how imperfect and awful I am. I will dry heave at the thought of other people finding out my secret and loathing me as much as I often loath myself. This is what my childhood abuse has left me with. Sometimes I am whole. Sometimes I believe in myself. Sometimes I love myself. Other times I am so afraid, so lonely, so trapped. So many of my friends long for their childhood. Me, life has never been particularly easy or kind. I long for the future. The future I dream of is one where I am secure and healed. A future where I don’t feel trapped or fear my mistakes. A future where I trust myself and my thoughts. I dream of a future where I’m no longer afraid of myself.
The other night I attended an informative presentation on the history of sexual assault in Canada. I learned a lot of new things and speaker was well prepared, engaging, and did an excellent job of creating a safe space for all of us. But I want to take a moment to talk about the troll that came in late. The troll that missed the talk about creating a safe space. The troll that tried to derail the conversation to discuss how The Red Pill was right, men have it worse in society, that feminists are evil, and that the real crime feminists should have concerned themselves with is male circumcision. Firstly, the speaker did an impressive job not shutting the troll down in the spirit of good faith and safe space. She told the troll that she heard where she was coming from, that she could see that it was a subject she was passionate about, and that she would be interested in discussing male circumcision at another time. She ended by stating that while that was a worthwhile situation discuss this wasn’t the time or place for that discussion. The troll stopped talking and the presentation continued. Until it was interrupted again. This time it was again to suggest that feminists are evil, men are more often victims than women, and that we should talk about men. Facts: women and children are more often than not the victims of sexual assault. Fact: Trans folk have the highest risk of being sexually assaulted. Fact: Feminists care about the ways in which the patriarchy also harms men. Here’s the thing, most of us are open to discussing feminist issues with you, we will even engage with haters to dispel myths. But when you decided to interrupt a safe space that’s trying to deal with an issue that leaves so many women fearful you need to be respectful and you need to understand why women care so much about sexual assault. It’s because we’ve either been victims or so many of our friends have been raped that we can no longer count the numbers on one hand. It’s because we have seen firsthand the result of sexualized violence. It’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe we’re asking for it, it’s because society turns a blind eye with a “boys will be boys” approach, it’s because when we go to the police we won’t get a case number simply because we have had too many partners, engage in sex work, have a history of mental health problems, are homeless, belong to a minority group…etc. It’s because IF it goes to trial his presumption of innocence means that we’re lying automatically. It’s because our reputation will be dragged through the mud. It’s because sexual assault is something we will spend our entire lives facing. So I’m sorry that we don’t want to talk in-depth about male circumcision when the topic is sexual assault history in the context of Canadian law. I’m sorry that you have a twisted view of feminism. But when you hate on feminism you’re hating a movement that seeks equality. When you hate on feminism you’re misunderstanding what it means to be a feminist. When you hate on feminist approaches to sexual assault you’re hating on survivors of sexual assault. When you hate on feminism you’re hating on women. When you hate on feminism I can’t take you seriously because you’re a misogynist. Regardless of your gender or sex.
Everyday patriarchal nonsense. Where I work hired a woman to work in our shipping department, she might be tiny buy she is strong af. Actually. She lifts, she’s in great shape, and she’s (in my opinion) good at her job. Every day I witness male clients underestimate her. One of my clients bought a 10 x 10 popup tent and I paged shipping to bring it up. The entire time the client kept trying to carry it for her, “let me get it. It looks heavy. Let me help”. To which she repeatedly replied that she had it, was good, and that it was her job. It’s something she encounters every day here, and it’s dumb. She’s one of the strongest people I know. Her and her fiancé helped me move my couch and they lifted it like it was nothing. The other thing she has to contend with are unsolicited comments on her unshaved underarms. She’s one of those ladies who prefers to get waxed and hasn’t had time (not that that should even matter) so her arms are hairier than usual. While this really shouldn’t be a thing clients had kept commenting on it and saying it was disgusting that she started wearing longer sleeved shirts and sweaters. It really shouldn’t matter what her, or mine, or anyone’s underarms look like, it’s of no one’s concern. These beauty standards were forced on women during the 1920s, we’d like them to stop. Thanks.
For the span of two months, up until the route of the bus changed, I continuously found little Frida Kahlo cards on the seat of the bus that I take to work. These cards are produced by Abort 73. This is an anti-abortion group in North America, pretty sure Frida wouldn’t like them using her image since the woman suffered a life changing bus accident that broke her pelvis and caused an iron handrail to pierce her abdomen and uterus. But I digress, let’s talk about this anti-abortion group. They’d like you to think that abortion is never the answer, that there are plenty of other options. What I find interesting about these groups is that they’re obsessed with making sure birth occurs but where are they to be found when that child is born into poverty or a home that doesn’t want them? Where is this group when a mother who couldn’t access an abortion struggles to make ends meet, find child care, and has to give up school or a career? They claim to work to protect women and children from the violence of abortion but what about protecting women and (existing) children from real harm like poverty, misogyny, sexual assault, and pregnancy and child labor related pain and death? If this group actually cared about women it would recognize that abortion saves lives both the physical life of the woman but also her spirit and her dreams.
They would like you to believe that life begins at fertilization, fun fact ½ of all fertilized eggs don’t end up implanted in the uterine wall, so why aren’t they praying for the souls of these eggs? It isn’t medical testimony because the truth is that a fetus only has the potential to become human life and it doesn’t feel pain until the third trimester, about 27 weeks. This is because the fetus nervous system isn’t developed until that time. Therefore, it does not have the ability to feel or process pain as we know it. On their claim to personhood: this assumes that a group of cells trump the rights of a fully formed, living person who has autonomy, value, and can contribute to society. We don’t award rights to unicorns, no matter how cool they might be. On their do no harm claim: 1) for there to be harm their must a person involved, a fetus is not considered a person and has no rights to personhood as it only has the potential to become a human life. 2) Medical abortions are often performed to save the life of the woman, allowing a fetus to remain within her person may result in her death, therefore causing harm.
“Would it bother us more if they used guns?”. Genuinely ridiculous. First and foremost, using a gun would harm the woman, possibly kill her and possibly leave lasting, long term damage. A gun wouldn’t be consensual either which means that we remove a woman’s choice from the matter. So yeah, we would care. Like, wtf kind of argument is this? I’d also go as far as to say we’d have a problem with it because guns are absurd in and of themselves but if this group has a problem with violence why don’t they mobilize to restrict that dumb right to bear arms? Oh right, because they wouldn’t be sending women back to the stone age at the same time. What’s the point of attempting to accomplish something that saves real people if you’re not oppressing women at the same time?
They’d like you to believe that all women regret having an abortion, they don’t. It’s very much the opposite. (Read Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights). But let’s go through their most interesting pages (I’m skipping a lot not because I cannot engage with the material but because I find the claims laughable).
I really hope everyone that is part of Abort 73 is a vegan, if not they’re a bunch of hypocrites. They state that all live begins at fertilization and that we must accept that abortion kills in that it ends a life. I have some issue with that 1) it assumes all life is equal; 2) it assumes that the fetus is not only living but is comparable to a human life already in existence. So let’s jump into this, yes abortion ends the potential of a fertilized egg or fetus to develop and possibly become a human and to eventually live a life outside of the womb. I’m going to say that everyone knows what abortion is. Here’s the thing, abortion advocates value the woman’s life more than the potential life of a fetus. Because she is a person, she has value, she is living. A fetus only has the potential to be and have those things. The only way you can say this without being a hypocrite is if you take it as far to say that all life has equal value meaning that you won’t eat animal byproducts and you will advocate against their imprisonment for capitalistic gains and human nourishment. Fun fact, a cow has the same mental processing capabilities of a human three-year-old, yet Abort 73 is lining up at slaughterhouses protesting for the rights of cows to live their lives. I think it would be of more value for the ones based in America to just argue and protect against the death penalty (as that kills loads of innocent people each year) instead. The thing is, when life begins is subjective, the idea of life beginning at conception is usually a religious one, something to do with it being ensouled (did I just make up a word?) at that point. Even though the bible actually never talks about abortion as something that shouldn’t happen…ugh. Those of us not trying to force our individual religious beliefs down the throat of free citizens would say that life begins once the fetus is viable outside of the body of the woman. Which also happens to usually be when abortion doesn’t occur unless the fetus is unviable or the woman is at grave risk.
The mother’s body: I think the group misunderstands the slogan “my body, my choice”. It isn’t to say that the fetus is a part of a woman’s body like a limb is it’s more of the whole thing about the fetus is developing within her body and it is her choice to decide what becomes of it. Canadian law already says a man has no say in whether or not a woman has an abortion to grant him rights would mean we would value him over the woman, we would trust his decision about someone else’s body rather than the owner of that body. It would grant him, and the state, control over women’s bodies and that’s an idea we have (thankfully) long since left behind. This whole thought process continues down the rabbit hole, go read it for some giggles. “It is possible for a fetus to die while the mother lives, and it is possible for the mother to die while the fetus lives. This could not be true if the mother and child were simply one person.” But the fetus is dependent on the woman, she is not dependent on the fetus. If the fetus is not viable when the woman dies it will die. If viable it can be extracted. Read a book. It’s illegal to execute a woman who is pregnant because she has given value to the fetus inside of her…duh.
They conflate the rights of fetus to that of living children. I see no value in this. Of course it is wrong to kill and existing person who has feelings, hopes, dreams, everything that makes a person a person. A fetus isn’t a person. Guys, can you try harder to come up with nuanced arguments instead of the same old babble? Silly slippery slopes. They like to assert that because a woman has engaged in sex she should have to deal with the consequences. Essentially, they want to punish female sexuality.
They enjoy arguing against the pro-choice stance that women will have abortions regardless of whether or not they’re legal. They say this is a slippery slope that could mean we legalize things like robbery and rape. Ugh, no. Here’s why: when women seek out abortions when they were illegal in Canada only wealthy women could afford to have safe abortions. Poor women resorted to unsafe methods that resulted in pain, death, or serious damage to their reproductive health. Legalizing prevents women from engaging in risky situations to obtain an abortion. This is justifiable for many reasons including the fact that the women’s rights outweigh those of a fetus, that is how we determine rights and when to limit them. This is a lot different that robbery. Nice try.
They’ll tell you abortion is racist. Um, no, the women seeking out abortions are doing it not because they’re racist but because viable minorities happen to be the most disadvantaged in society and will be most harmed by an unwanted pregnancy. Stop blaming minority women for the problems facing their communities. White people have more privilege. STFU. Also, stop trying to convince us abortion is genocide. It’s offensive. It could possibly a tool of genocide, sure. But on its own, it is not. Like, really?
Anyway, bored now.
Something that I find rather odd is that it isn’t that difficult to find excellent fem lit concerning abortion in America, which is fantastic. Meanwhile, trying to find the same for Canada- not that easy. I find this odd because I think access to information, dispelling myths, and opening up dialogue is vital so we never go through what is happening in America. With the current US government’s movement to regulate and control women’s bodies (even more than usual) I am left fearful that that could happen here in Canada, to some extent. It’s no secret that America views female sexuality as something unnatural and in need of regulation and that the government believes that women cannot be trusted to make decision about their body and their health. Meanwhile, we sit back in Canada with complete access to abortion, or at least that is the assumption. So, let’s talk about abortion and let’s talk about it in the specific context of Canada.
Abortion was completely illegal in Canada up until 1969, just a few years before Roe v. Wade in the USA. Although it was illegal women still sought out abortions. If you were wealthy you could travel to a different country, if you had the right connections you could find a doctor who would perform one for an under the table fee. If you were poor, you could try various methods- seek out a nurse abortionist, an underground abortion facility, or try it yourself. You can bet that without the proper medical care, medical training and the lack of a proper facility a lot of these women became quite ill, were left with last health problem including infertility, and many died. This was most definitely a threat to women’s health but I think most of us are aware of the gruesome stories.
Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s government changed the Criminal Code in 1969 to make abortion legal in Canada in certain cases. In order to obtain one a woman would have to have a committee of doctors sign off that it was necessary for the physical and mental health of the woman. This was a start but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there were serious issues. 1) It assumes that women are not capable of making informed decisions about their health without the oversight of several doctors and therefore strips women of their autonomy; 2) The vagueness of the change would allow for various doctors with their own moral objections to interpret and deny as they saw fit; 3) Where does a person draw the line in terms of physical health, is it high blood pressure, low blood pressure, diabetes? Or does the pregnancy literally have to be killing the woman? 4) It assumes that a panel of doctors have a better understanding of the impact of a child on woman’s well being than the woman herself. 5) It leaves family planning in the hands of a team of (predominately male) doctors. These are only a few of the issues with this change, yet, it persisted until 1988.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the standing laws were unconstitutional in R v. Morgentaler. It was found that forcing a woman to carry a fetus gravely impacted the security of the person. The excessive requirements in place under the 1969 rule prevented smaller hospitals from being able to offer abortion and therefore it was not totally accessible to all women who may have been otherwise granted an abortion. Dickson, one of the judges on the case, found that the committee’s ability to grant or deny abortions was done arbitrarily and was therefore inadequate. The law could not be justified under section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it failed every step of the proportionality test. To recap Dickson’s position: 1) The administrative process was unfair and arbitrary; 2) the impairment of women’s rights was greater than legally permissible; 3) The impact on women’s rights far outweighed the importance of the law’s objective. To better understand this position, I would recommend reading up on the Oaks Test. But basically, this law impacted women’s rights more than what was justifiable. Wilson, another justice on the bench for this case, wrote that the law violated women’s liberty and security of the person. She focused on how section 251 of the Criminal Code violated a woman’s autonomy by preventing her from making decisions that impact her life and her fetus. Wilson also pointed out that the law effectively controlled a woman’s capacity to reproduce. She also stated that “The decision whether to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision, a matter of conscience. I do not think there is or can be any dispute about that. The question is: whose conscience? Is the conscience of the woman to be paramount or the conscience of the state? I believe, for the reasons I gave in discussing the right to liberty, that in a free and democratic society it must be the conscience of the individual.”
In Tremblay v. Daigle, which went to the Supreme Court in 1989, Daigle’s ex-boyfriend obtained a restraining order to prevent her from having an abortion. The SCC ruled that only the woman could make the choice; the father had no legal say in a woman’s choice to terminate a pregnancy or carry it to completion. Daigle had gone to US to have an abortion while the case was still being heard. In Dobson (Litigation Guardian of) v. Dobson, a grandfather brought forward a case on behalf of his grandchild. He attempted to sue the mother with negligence in driving that supposedly caused the child to have cerebral palsy. Citing the City of Kamloops v. Nielsen, the Court decided that courts cannot impose a duty of care on a pregnant woman as it would interfere with her autonomy rights and because it would be difficult to define a standard of care for pregnancy. In Winnipeg Child & Family Services (Northwest Area) v. G . (D.F.), [I997] 3 SCR 925 M, courts determined that a pregnant woman addicted to solvents could not be civilly committed for treatment.
All of these cases are deeply important when speaking about women’s rights in Canada. There have been incidents in the US where women have been arrested and confined (with handcuffs) to a hospital bed simply because she wanted to give birth at home. When we’re living so close to a neighbor that has determined that women’s rights aren’t human rights it is important to know where our rights are legitimized, what case law is important, and what they mean for our autonomy. What is happening in the USA, in terms of the erosion of access to abortion and women’s rights in general, has been happening since Roe v. Wade. We need to learn from these mistakes, we mustn’t give pro life groups any ground. They can say their peace, but we must ensure that our rights are never infringed upon. What we can tell from the US is that it is just a slippery slope from closing abortion clinics to having mandatory wait times, to forcing women to report their miscarriages. I thoroughly recommend reading Pro; Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt as it perfectly outlines what has happened in the US in regards to the restrictions on abortion.
The most recent data I was able to find on the number of abortions per year in Canada was from 2006 (thanks, Harper). In 2006, there were 49,435 abortions performed in hospitals across Canada and 41, 942 abortions performed in clinics. Looking at statistics from prior years it looks like the rate of abortions has been steadily decreasing. This is a direct result in having better access to birth control and other contraceptives as well as the state providing better sex ed. You can have a look at these stats here: http://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb-bmdi/document/3209_D4_T2_V7-eng.pdf. Canadian women use contraception more regularly than our American counterparts. 80% of Canadian women use contraception versus 64% of American women. That said, unplanned pregnancies still account for about 40% of all Canadian pregnancies. Contraception can fail, mistakes can happen. People aren’t perfect but a child shouldn’t have to live a life unwanted because a condom broke and woman shouldn’t have to have a baby that she cannot care for simply because she took her pill late.
About 50% of women who have had an abortion are under the age of 25; 64% are single, and 45% already have children. The vast majority of abortions performed in Canada are done in the first trimester- more than 90%. Very few are done after the 16-week mark, somewhere between 2 and 3%. No doctors perform late term abortions (past 20 weeks) unless the fetus is no longer viable or the woman’s life or physical health is at risk. This is something we really have to look at because there are a lot of people who speak out against late term abortions. If we were to set limitations on when a woman could obtain an abortion, it would severely impact a woman’s right to security of the person. Find these stats and more here: http://www.med.uottawa.ca/sim/data/abortion_e.htm.
Let’s talk about access because its great to have no restrictions on abortion but it is a moot point if you don’t have a clinic in your city or doctors willing to perform abortion in your province. Abortions are to be funded, upon request, by Medicare to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents in hospitals across Canada. Hospitals account for 2/3 of all abortions performed while 1/3 of all hospitals perform abortion in Canada. The rest are done by either private or public clinics. You can also obtain a medical abortion through various medications (three), one of which was only recently approved for use in Canada. That one is RU-486, also known as Mifepristone. It must be prescribed by a doctor.
The Federal Government has interpreted the Canadian Health Act in such a way that provinces must fund abortion clinics fully. However, Nova Scotia only partially funds them and New Brunswick and PEI do not even attempt it. Manitoba only began funding clinics after 2004, when a non-profit organization who purchased the only abortion clinic in Manitoba turned around and sued the province. Quebec began to fund all abortions in private clinics in 2008. Some hospitals will refuse to perform abortions on out-of-province patients, which is a major issue for women in the Maritime provinces where abortions clinics are few. Less and less medical schools in Canada are providing instruction on abortion procedures to students. This will create yet another issue for women attempting to access abortion.
I want to talk about my home province. I am originally from New Brunswick and New Brunswick’s lack of abortion access has disgusted me since I was in high school. Typically, there are laws preventing protesters from getting too close to an abortion clinic (because safety), but the “pro-life” group in Fredericton actually side stepped this by buying the building next-door. Rather than having to keep at least 8 metres back they were able to be on the edge of the property line. The protests got so hairy that the clinic had to have volunteers walk people in and out. The Morgentaler clinic had to shut its doors recently due to a lack of funding. The only other abortion clinic, which I believe is relatively new, is located in Fredericton. They will perform an abortion up until 16 weeks and it will cost you $700-$850 depending. There are three hospitals in the province that will perform an abortion- The Moncton Hospital, Bathurst Chauler Regional Hospital, and Dr. Georges-L Dumount University Hospital Centre. That means you can have an abortion performed in a hospital if you can make it to Moncton or Bathurst. If you can’t afford $800 at the Fredericton clinic, then you’ll have to take time off of work to make it to one of the three hospitals.
That said, they have finally made some progress, the NB government has stated that they will make Mifegymiso available to women free of charge. It can only be obtained by doctor’s prescription, and only 24 doctors and pharmacists in New Brunswick have completed/registered for the training required to prescribe/dispense it. It’s great the government is willing to address the financial barriers women have to obtaining an abortion within NB but they also have to address the very real physical and physician-related barriers. NB has a long history of having trouble finding doctors willing to perform an abortion, it isn’t a surprise that only 24 have signed up to be able to prescribe a pill that will do the same thing. More needs to be done. We need to change perspectives on abortion in a predominately conservative, Christian province. I was so impressed by the women and other people who protested in Fredericton when the clinic closed. People do care and people are courageous when it comes to their rights. Speak out. Be safe. Trust women.
For an excellent list of abortion services by province please click here: