It’s been a very interesting few days with lots of things to report on, starting with a couple of book reviews (I know I keep saying that, but I swear I’m actually gonna do it!), reviews of two plays (Neverman’s Land in Toronto and Phobophilia in Montreal), and various brain meanderings I’ve enjoyed (about D/s, alternative sexual elitism, and more).
For now, though, I just wanted to pass on a couple of things that have come my way on a topic I rarely address here… in fact this might be a first, at least at this depth. That topic is abortion rights.
The Globe and Mail is currently conducting a poll asking whether or not Dr. Henry Morgentaler should be awarded the Order of Canada. For those who don’t know him, Morgentaler is a longtime champion of abortion rights for women, a hugely influential figure in Canada’s history in this regard. Here’s a bit of history from the Globe and Mail article:
“It has been 20 years since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law (as well as 35 years since the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court).
The path to that decision arguably began in 1967, when Dr. Morgentaler presented a brief to the House of Commons health and welfare committee in which he urged that Canada’s restrictive abortion law be repealed.
The next year, he performed his first abortion and then, in 1969, he defied the law by opening a private abortion clinic. In 1970, the doctor was arrested and acquitted, but the acquittal was overturned and he served 10 months of an 18-month sentence in prison.
Legal battles multiplied until the issue made its way to the highest court. On Jan. 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law, ruling that Parliament had a legitimate interest in protecting human fetuses but that the existing prohibition on abortion was disproportionate in its means and failed to protect women’s right to security of the person.”
Now here’s the catch: Morgentaler has been nominated twice already, and passed over both times; he has recently suffered a stroke and his health is failing; and the Order of Canada cannot be awarded posthumously. In other words, this might be his last chance to receive the recognition he deserves for saving countless women from back-alley abortions and protecting our right to choose what happens with our bodies and our lives.
Currently, 84% of the votes say he should not be given the Order. Clearly this is a case of the right wing stacking the poll; also, a public poll by an unrelated group (especially a poll so clearly stacked) is unlikely to exert a major influence the decision-makers who actually award the thing, especially since they’re not supposed to discuss this with the public at all. Nonetheless, I went and voted on principle, and I invite you to do the same.
In other abortion-rights news, the “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” (Bill C-484) is coming up for a vote in Parliament on March 5. There’s currently a petition going around opposing the bill. According to the petition website, the bill “poses a real danger to abortion rights, to the rights of all pregnant women, and to women’s equality rights in general.” Their logic is fairly solid – here are the bits of the petition wording that I think make the point most helpfully, but the full text is available on the site.
- The proposed “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” conflicts with the Criminal Code, because it grants a type of legal personhood to fetuses, fetuses being non-persons under the law.
- Giving any legal recognition to fetuses would necessarily compromise women’s established rights.
- Pregnant women being assaulted or killed is largely a domestic violence issue and “fetal homicide” laws elsewhere have done nothing to reduce domestic violence against pregnant women or their fetuses.
- The proposed “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” is a dangerous step towards re-criminalizing abortion and it could also criminalize pregnant women for behaviours perceived to harm their fetuses.
- The proposed bill’s exemptions for pregnant women may not work since, in the U.S., arrests of pregnant women have occurred even under state fetal homicide laws that make exemptions for the pregnant woman.
- The best way to protect fetuses is to provide pregnant women the supports and resources they need for a good pregnancy outcome, including protection from domestic violence.
Yep. Pretty solid. Sign here, folks.
I gotta tell you, the state of abortion access in Canada already freaks me out – I wrote an article for the Mirror a couple of years ago to this effect. Among other things, Canada has 40% fewer abortion providers now than in 1980, and med students can come out of an OB/GYN residency without ever having seen or learned about an abortion as it isn’t part of the stated curriculum in Canadian universities. So knowing all that, and seeing that in the same week, Morgentaler’s award nomination is being zealously opposed and anti-choice forces are pushing a bill that would compromise abortion’s legal status… well, it’s rather alarming. If a few clicks can help on that front, I’m all for it, and if more is needed, I’m all for that too. I’m proud to be part of the long history of queers who support abortion rights. Did you know, for example, that ACT-UP, the hugely influential grassroots organization that pushed for access to HIV/AIDS treatments and basically put AIDS on the political map in the 80s, also stood firmly for a woman’s right to choose? There is no coincidence there. Let me lay it out:
As a queer, I oppose any endeavour on the part of the State or any other body to limit my right to fuck and love whom I please, regardless of gender or sex.
As a sadomasochist, I oppose any endeavour to limit my right to fuck, play and conduct relationships in the manner my partners and I enjoy.
As an individualist and a polyamorist, I oppose any endeavour to limit my right to fuck however few or many people I please and to value my relationships with myself and my partners as I please.
And as a woman and a feminist, I most certainly oppose any endeavour to limit what I can and can’t do with my cunt and all its related bits, from the tip of my clit to the deepest recesses of my womb.
Just because I have no plans to fill my own womb with a child doesn’t mean the right to abort is any less relevant for me or for other queers. It all ties in with this idea that the State, or people whose beliefs don’t match with mine, should not have any say over what I can and cannot do with my own body. That principle remains essential to me whether it’s about feeling another woman’s tongue on my clit, welcoming the lashes of a flogger on my back or the sting of a needle under my skin, putting a collar on my sweetheart to acknowledge our D/s dynamic, altering my body so it matches my gender (or in my case personally, supporting others in doing so), taking more than one partner to bed or to the movies… or producing or aborting a baby.