Friday, January 16, 2015

So Many Things Left

Still here, still angry. Still too cynical to tell y'all my in depth feelings about recent developments. I am currently reading Olivia Chow's memoirs and the message I am taking away is the same that permeated Jack Layton's last letter - hope is better than fear. I am trying to be loving, hopeful and optimistic. I am not always succeeding.

Today the announcement came that a new clinic is opening in Fredericton. I am genuinely happy that underserved populations will be seen - prioritized, in fact - at this clinic.

I am hopeful that those who care about abortion and reproductive health care in New Brunswick - myself, as always, included - can now turn to the real work of organizing for universal access, and for the complete repeal of all anti-choice rules and regulations.

I have a postcard, sent a few years ago by a dear friend, now displayed (perhaps unwisely) in my hall. Last time I wrote, the chant 'The system isn't broken, it was built this way' echoed in my head. Today it is the words on the postcard that I hear - 'There are so many things left to do'.

I am working on making this an optimistic and hopeful message to myself.

Apologies for the vagueness of this post.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Boiling Over

This week so far has been like a strange dream that I have floated through. The decision out of Ferguson did not surprise me but it stunned me, and ever since I have been detached and numb. It can't help that I had my IUD removed (more on that in another post!), had a flu shot, went to the Ferguson solidarity rally here in Toronto and screamed my frustration and anger and hopelessness into the cold air. And now this announcement - the newly-elected New Brunswick Liberals have taken a baby step towards improving access to abortion in NB by getting rid of the infamous "two doctor rule". What does this mean?

First, you might wonder why I write on the blog so infrequently these days. I have my reasons, but mostly the frustration of being outside of New Brunswick - but still caring very much what happens there - has made me somewhat cynical. And when I offer my input, being treated as a "from away" who doesn't understand the issues has made me somewhat bitter. Typical Fredericton, of course (love ya New Brunny!). Not entirely unjustified. But still, there it is.

I want to be as hopeful and idealistic as I always was, and failing that, I want to keep my cynicism off this blog. Its home is in my weekly calls with my mum, where we indulge in it together as family tradition dictates.

So anyway, this is big news, and full credit should go to the hardworking activists who have been pushing for years/decades - yes, including me; I may have come from away and left again but I did work hard and still do - and not to the ultimately cynical (glass houses I know) Liberal Party, who did this out of strategy and practicality and nothing more, which, fine, that's how politics works. Let's just try not to pretend it's anything it ain't.

And of course there's more to do, as wisely pointed out in the RJNB press release. This means nothing without more doctors - the two that have been performing abortions in hospitals have been turning people away since they started because the demand is simply too high. And the "only in a hospital" rule needs to go. The Liberals are being dicks even as they give us a victory, blindsiding us with the announcement to elicit the outpouring of unexamined gratitude. Well fuck that. The response is, as it should be, "Thanks - finally! Now what about the rest?"

The words "the system isn't broken, it was built this way" have been echoing through my head since last night at the rally. Here is yet another example. Failing tearing down the whole system, each piecemeal improvement has to be relentlessly fought for, and even then, who does it help? Those on the margins, the rural, poor and the racialized, can no more get to one of the two hospitals than they could to the clinic. For many New Brunswickers those hospitals may as well be on the moon.

A system couldn't be built to be impenetrable, so it had to be built in such a way that each small change, each tiny capitulation, needed to be ripped and squeezed over lifetimes, on the backs of those with the heaviest burdens.

Anyway, I am still angry.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Vasectomies for some, miniature Canadian flags for others!

Do yourself a favour and go read this excellent piece by Leigha Ariana at the Toast, about how a woman named Norma Ellen Verwey trolled the entire country by proposing mandatory vasectomies to the Royal Commission on the Status of women. An important part of our history.

Everything, according to Norma, went exactly as she’d hoped. After being called onto talk show after talk show – “as expected, the moderators who contacted me were either impolite, chauvinistic and sarcastic, or patronising and full of good-humoured male upmanship,” she writes – she eventually got more than one medical doctor to call in, amidst the vulgar phone calls and personal attacks aplenty, to admit that, even in 1968, vasectomies had 60-70% reversibility. Some men phoned in to admit they’d had a vasectomy, and that they were happier for it, while others phoned in to express a wish to get a vasectomy; and soon, the conversation about vasectomies began to change. 
By the end of it, she says, no matter what else you wanted to say about it, “No listener in the Vancouver area, male or female, could claim that they had never heard of reversible vasectomy.” 
So please, never forget, if you are Canadian or even if you are not, this courageous woman who almost single-handedly changed the landscape of the Canadian birth control story with what began as a social experiment. She endured a great deal of ridicule in order to give this gift to us; the threatening phone calls did not end, though she received several in her support as well, and she was a topic in the papers for years to come.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

National Day of Action for Access - September 20, 2014

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC-CDAC) is hosting a National Day of Action this Saturday - come on out if there is an event in your city! If not, I highly recommend you get in touch with ARCC or with RJNB for tips on how you can help in the battle for abortion access in the Maritimes.

The Toronto event will be featuring a speech by yours truly! (Exciting, I know). Here is the ARCC release in full:

Reproductive Justice Rallies Across the Country: Sep 20

National Day of Action in Solidarity with New Brunswick and PEI: Equal Access Now! 

NATIONAL – Reproductive justice activists across the country will be rallying this Saturday
September 20 to stand in solidarity with the citizens of New Brunswick and PEI, who lack
access to abortion. The former Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton was forced to close in July for
financial reasons, because the provincial government had refused to fund it for 20 years in
violation of federal law and Supreme Court precedent. The province continues to refuse to
improve access, even though many women are now being forced to travel out of province.

In Prince Edward Island, Health PEI blocked the application of three doctors willing to provide
abortions at the Charlottetown hospital, saying "it was not in line with current government
policies." But the PEI government does not have a policy on abortion, or any other excuse. The
proposal was cost-neutral, and lack of a provider has been the only barrier to providing services

Across Canada, especially in northern, rural, conservative, and low-income areas, there is often
a lack of access to basic sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) and information.
The most vulnerable usually pay the highest price, including youth, LGBTQ people, Aboriginals,
refugees, racialized communities, people with disabilities or health issues, and those of low
income. To achieve equality and justice, women and marginalized communities in NB, PEI, and
across Canada are demanding recognition of their rights, and Equal Access Now to services.
Reproductive justice includes a range of issues that are integral to equality for all, including not
just access to SRH services, but also affordable childcare, pay equity, housing, stopping
violence against women, defeating racism and colonialism, and transgender people’s right to
non-discriminatory access to healthcare and employment. Saturday’s rallies will feature
speakers on many of these issues.

Rally Information

Halifax: Equal Access Now Event--National Day of Action. 1pm, Victoria Park.

New Brunswick: National Day of Action: Equal Access Now / Journée nationale d’action :
Pour l’équité, dès maintenant.

• Rothesay: Rally, 9-10am, look for our red banner on Hampton Rd.
• Sackville: 12:30pm, Fall Fair Parade (starting from 165 Main Street)
• Fredericton: Photo booth at Farmers Market Boyce (8 am to 13 pm)

Charlottetown: Rally for Abortion Access at Province House. Noon, Province House.

Montréal: Journée nationale d’action : La justice reproductive : Pour l’équité, dès maintenant.
2-4pm, Place Émilie-Gamelin.

Toronto: Rally & March, Reproductive Justice: EQUAL ACCESS NOW! 11am. Lake Devo,
Ryerson U. (corner of Victoria and Gould Streets).

Vancouver: Reproductive Justice Solidarity Rally. Noon, Thornton Park, 1166 Main Street.

Resources and Further Info:

National Day of Action Facebook page:
Reproductive Justice New Brunswick website:
Abortion Access in New Brunswick (ARCC):