Friday, February 18, 2011

I'm not sure I like the view from up on this soapbox...

I'm seeing a lot of stuff going down in the American media concerning the apparent war that the religious right seems to be waging on women's reproductive rights and all I can say is:

"What the fucking fuck, America?"

It's becoming pretty damn obvious to me that the term Pro-life is a misnomer and would be more correctly referred to as Pro-Fetus, since if you are a woman, or low-income, or both life suddenly becomes pretty friggin' neglible.

And this isn't one of those situations where I can sit back and feel smug in my Canadian-ness like I did when it came to the Social healthcare debate in the U.S. (and I did, I admit it).  Because, let's face it, as America's hat the stuff that's been going on could happen here too.  Think back a bit.. Our own PM, Steve Harper, cut funding to womens groups focused on women's health in developing nations who wouldn't "...shut the fuck up" on the abortion issue.  If old Steve-O is willing to cut funding to developing nations over a conservative ideology, well, it's just a small step before cuts start here in our own country, which is what basically happened in the U.S. today when the House voted to cut funding to Planned Parenthood because they provide abortion services, even though the funding provided cancer screening and access to contraceptives to thousands of low-income families.

As my brother-in-law, Frank, is usually quick to point out, what happens in the States stands a good chance of affecting Canada in the long run, which is why the House's decision has my panties in a bunch.

I'm sure Margaret Atwood never really thought she'd see this kind of Handmaid's Tale stuff played out in her lifetime.

First there was the issue of the nun getting ex-communicated for allowing a woman to receive a life-saving abortion in a catholic hospital, because clearly the merciful thing to do would have been to let the woman die on the off-chance the fetus might have been viable, which to my understanding, it likely would not have been.  Very Pro-Life indeed.  This story was disturbing enough, but because the situation was so entrenched in the inner workings of the Catholic church, the level of threat was not the same, because a simple solution to someone whose life hung in the balance would be don't go to a Catholic hospital.

Last week I heard a story that a law is on the table in South Dakota that would allow killing in the defense of a fetus to be considered justifiable homocide.  Now, unless it is worded very carefully this could leave a lot of holes for the killing of doctors and nurses who perform abortions.  It's my understanding that the idea is that it would protect pregnant women from being attacked in domestic disputes, but let's be realistic and admit that this law would have more than likely been used in the former situation rather than the latter.  For now, it looks as though the law has been shelved, thankfully.

This latest news about the defunding of Planned Parenthood is upsetting at best, as it presents a huge step backwards in reproductive rights and in access to healthcare for low-income people.  Jill at Feministe puts it well in saying that this goes well beyond just being about abortion and has become an all out war on our reproductive rights, as well as a war on the working class and those below the poverty line:

This isn’t about abortion — it’s about cutting access to health care for women. One in five American women has used Planned Parenthood’s services. The vast majority of care — more than 90% — offered at Planned Parenthood health centers is preventative. Every year, Planned Parenthood carries out nearly one million screenings for cervical cancer — screenings which save lives. Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses give more than 830,000 breast exams — exams which save lives. Every year, nearly 2.5 million patients receive contraception from Planned Parenthood — a service which prevents enormous numbers of unintended pregnancies and, by extension, an enormous number of abortions. Every year, Planned Parenthood administers nearly 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV — tests and treatments which save lives, extend lives, preserve fertility, and maintain reproductive health.
What the anti-choicer's are not realizing here (or perhaps they are fully aware of) is that cutting funding to Planned Parenthood is not going to save any significant number of lives, even those of the unborn.  This will not reduce the number of abortions being performed - it could even increase the number, when you consider the fallout is reduced access to contraceptives and family planning information.  What it will reduce is the number of safe abortions being perfomed.  But of course, as we touched on earlier, Pro-Life is really just Pro-Fetus, and the life of the evil, bad, dirty secks-lovin' woman is neglible, as is the rape victim, or the married couple whose condom broke.

In a rather moving speech given to the House, Rep. Jackie Speier made a bold move and spoke about her own experience in having an abortion for health-related reasons.

Speier hits the nail on the head. Most times, this is not a decision that anyone takes lightly.  And for the few who do, that is unfortunate, but the idea of choice is that we have choice, whether or not we use that choice responsibly.   I used to rail against women that used abortion as a form of birth control, and you know, it still bugs me.  But it is not my body.

I'm going to get a little personal here.  I've always maintained that being Pro-choice is not the same as being pro-abortion.   The idea of being Pro-choice is that a woman has a right to decide what happens to her body, under any circumstances.  It is our right to decide whether we are physically and emotionally ready, willing and capable to carry a child to term.  And this is something close to my heart because I've been there.  My ex left when I was six-weeks pregnant with my youngest daughter.  And I faced that choice.  In my heart of hearts I know I made the right choice and I wouldn't trade my baby girl for anything in the world, but the point is that is the choice I made was my own and what was good for me, is not always good for others.

It's also close to me because I know there's a possibility down the road that I could face that decision again.  After I had Reegs (and I might add I will always be glad to be able to look her in the eye and tell her she is here because I WANTED to have her..) my OB told me that carrying another child could and would likely kill me.  On that warning I took the precaution of having my tubes tied because A) dying is bullshit and B) Two kids is more than enough for the less-than-maternal type.  But even though tubal ligation is considered 99% effective against pregnancy, well, simple math states that 99% is not 100%.  There is a chance, albeit ridiculous slim, that down the road I could find myself in the position of having to choose between terminating a pregnancy or trying to carry to term and possibly leaving my children motherless.

I cannot fathom what I would do if a lack of resources, or my beliefs, or a piece of legislation were to force my hand in such a situation.

I've been frustrated as hell over the last day or two because I've been seeing all these calls-to-action to support Planned Parenthood, but being in Canada I generally have been unable to sign petitions, so all I can do is talk about it.  Access to family planning is important to everyone.  If you are able, please show your support.


  1. Per a conversation I had with American history professor one time, (a woman, btw, who also taught women's studies) your feelings represent about 80% of those in the U.S. Being pro-choice is not being pro-abortion.

    The frightening thing is how a small minority have been so successful in manipulating the political process.

    So go ahead and get on your soapbox any old time.

  2. Wonderful post! Exactly, pro-choice is not pro-abortion, and pro-life is definitely a misnomer. The term they are looking for is anti-choice, as you mentioned, because obviously, that's what it all comes down to. Yesterday was a huge step backwards for women's rights in America, and for human rights in America, and it devastates me. Thanks so much for this post!

  3. Part of their hope in defunding Planned Parenthood is that more of the Christian centers will replace the PP centers. Slog had a pretty decent article on the kind of "help" these Christian centers provide.

  4. Johann, that a was a great article. Interesting to see some of the scared straight tactics these clinics will go to.

  5. Yandie, this was wonderfully written and important points were well articulated. I share in your frustration, also being Canadian.

    I also feel, quite frankly, that this is bullshit and terrifying. It is a step in the wrong direction, and removing that choice should not be decided by the government.

    There was a horribly offensive skit on rape and abortion on the Daily Show, which aimed to poke holes in the ridiculousness, but still emphasized the wrong issues.

    What about rape victims? What about women who are mentally challenged? What about women who risk dying? What about all of those people who won't have access to contraception?

    This is NOT the government's decision to make. And I am terrified of Harper's ideology with this. I think he would take us back in time as long as he had the support to back him up.

    Infuriating and scary.

  6. I'm not sure if you really were fully aware or not, but there are a LOT of self-righteous morons here in the States...ughhh...

  7. I had an inkling but sometimes I let the handful of nice, rational folks I know from there color my view of the U.S. I guess I'm just a hopeless optimist that way. Thanks for reading :-)


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