Thursday, July 3, 2014

Movie Review: Obvious Child

Ok so I saw 'Obvious Child' last night, and I adored it, and I'm not just saying that because it's an "abortion movie".

You may have heard a little about this film - I actually remember seeing the short film version online a couple years ago - basically it is the story of Donna, who is in a really shitty place in her life, hooking up with a dude, getting pregnant, and deciding to have an abortion. I know it doesn't sound like super feel good rom-com material, but hear me out.

Donna is a stand-up comedian at a rough bar in Brooklyn (this is not her day job). When we first meet her she is doing a pretty funny bit about underwear stains that was TOO REAL. Shortly afterwards her boyfriend dumps her (in the bathroom!!) and shortly after that, she finds out the bookstore she works at is closing, and she will soon be out of a job. The breakup is clearly the hardest on her heart, but it's all kind of a terrible spiral. Fortunately she has a great (and predictably quirky) support network - her divorced parents, feminist roommate, gay bestie, etc.

Donna meets Max, who is totally square. They have a fun and hilarious night together. They are very drunk and may or may not have correctly used a condom. Donna finds out she is pregnant, immediately decides to have an abortion, goes to Planned Parenthood (realest scene in the movie) and continues to spiral into awfulness thanks to her impending unemployment and the $500 cost of the abortion - which she has scheduled for Valentine's Day.

You have to watch the movie, it is just so lovely. There were definitely some rom-com staples (aforementioned gay bestie comes to mind, although totally worth it for his line about getting a guy's mouth pregnant), and everyone was pretty white, and there were too many fart jokes for my personal taste. But those were seriously the only criticisms I had.

What I love most about the movie is that it isn't really about the abortion (or the pregnancy) at all - even the scenes that are about it. It's about Donna. It's about her life and her friends and the circumstances around the abortion, but this movie doesn't feel the need to spend any time on the actual decision-making process, and that's awesome. It makes sense that this character would make this choice. It is consistent with who she is, that she would not agonize over maybe having the baby.

Some viewers might find some of it preachy - the roommate does use the word "patriarchy" at one point, and the mother's confession is a little convenient - but overall I think that even if you don't give a shit about abortion, you will probably enjoy this movie. Jenny Slate is extremely likeable and creates a Donna that we can get behind.

The scene where she talks about her abortion in her stand-up is the bravest shit I have seen in a movie in a long time, maybe ever. My heart, you guys! I cried and cried. Please see this movie.

If you're in Toronto, it's playing at the Cineplex at the Manulife Centre (at Bay and Bloor). Otherwise I guess check your local listings.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

If Not Now, Then When?

Today it was announced in Fredericton that the Morgentaler Clinic will be shutting its doors after 20 years. From the press release:

The Morgentaler Clinic is closing for the following reasons:
Many women are unable to pay for their abortions. As a result, the clinic revenue has never met expenses. Shortfalls were made up by Dr. Morgentaler personally.  In the past ten years the clinic has contributed over $105,400 to subsidize abortions for women unable to pay the full amount.
The 2008 flood caused damage to the clinic totalling more than $100,000.  Many downtown businesses received some compensation but the clinic was denied any because it was not owned by a resident of New Brunswick.  Had Dr. Morgentaler not paid for the required repairs to keep the clinic open, the clinic would have closed in 2008.
The clinic cannot continue to provide abortion services that are not publically funded.
As a former employee of the clinic, I can vouch for all three of these reasons. Every week I made appointments for women who didn't have any of the money to pay, or only had part of it. Of course we tried as much as possible to help direct them to funds, and we even sometimes tried payment plans, although of course this was a futile effort. I'm actually surprised the amount subsidized was not more than $105,400.

After the 2008 flood we spent hours in the basement of the clinic, trying to rescue as many patient files as possible, and using a borrowed ShopVac to frantically bail out the water. The city was compensating businesses affected by the flood; I was there when the government employee charged with inspecting the damage pulled up to our building, and, upon learning what kind of business it was, got back into his car and drove away without conducting the inspection. 

A clinic like this could never continue unfunded in a province like New Brunswick, and anyone who believed it could was dreaming. I think the provincial government may feel a sense of relief upon hearing the news of the clinic closing, but what they don't recognize is that this will only hurt the province - socially and economically - in the long term. 

The silver lining is that the clinic's closure may be the impetus needed to finally push the province into action. We must strike when the iron is hot; it is time for the people of New Brunswick to organize. In the wake of this news I would love to see two things:

1. Some kind of referral/support network for providing folks seeking abortion with the immediate care they need, just like in the bad old days when abortion was illegal. There needs to be a network where people can go and find out: sympathetic referral doctors; doctors who will provide medical abortions (when RU486 becomes available); funds to travel out of province for abortions; and people who can help with transportation and accommodations in that regard. It is important that people who need abortions continue to be able to access them.

2. Grassroots, hardcore protest action. Not standing outside the clinic with candles, because why would any legislator give a shit? I mean identifying specific targets and taking actual, stand-up-and-take-notice action. Set up a tent on the lawn of the Legislature and start providing abortions in it. Hang bloody coat hangers on the mailboxes of anti-choice MLAs. Abortion caravan that shit, chain yourselves to seats in the Legislature. They won't listen to reason, so get radical. Lives are at stake.

I hope that New Brunswick finds the energy and the spirit to fight back. If not now, then when?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Keeping the Pressure On

A bold group of students from Saint Thomas University in Fredericton have created an online petition that is getting some attention. The aim is to ask/force/demand the government of New Brunswick to pay for abortions performed at the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic, and runs thusly:

For more than 25 years, the New Brunswick government has been enforcing a regulation that allows Medicare coverage for abortions only to be done at hospitals (in Moncton),by an Ob/Gyn, and approved by two doctors in writing as "medically required". This violates the Morgentaler Supreme Court decision of 1988, which ruled that restrictions like these are unconstitutional because they violate women’s rights. The regulation also violates the Canada Health Act, which Health Canada has said mandates full funding of abortions at both clinics and hospitals. Over 60% of NB women needing abortions are forced to pay out of pocket for abortion care at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, because hospital access is inadequate. The cost for the procedure at this clinic ranges from $700-$850 for women that are up to 16 weeks in their pregnancies. This discriminates against women, especially those of lower socio-economic status. 
Women who are considering an abortion should not have to worry about covering the costs of the procedure. 
Lets inform our apathetic government that they need to make women's reproductive rights a priority! 
*Also, for those who are wondering about their tax paying dollars, this procedure would cost approximately $2.21 per annum.   
We call upon the New Brunswick government to fully fund abortions at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, and repeal the provincial law restricting abortion payment (Regulation 84-20, Schedule 2 (a.1), of the Medical Services Payment Act).

Now I feel like I have articulated my position on petitions before, but I feel like, hey, it costs you nothing to sign this - it will take maybe 30 seconds of your time - and it does show that there is a demand for this, and that we are not going away.

Click here to sign the petition.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Summer is not so far away...

Wishful thinking? February really does drag on, doesn't it? Anyway, there are two very interesting looking but very different conferences happening in August that you should know about:

1. Abortion: The Unfinished Revolution

An international conference being hosted at UPEI, this endeavour is very ambitious in its scope and should attract an interesting mix of academics and activists. From the website:

In recent years, there have been numerous attempts worldwide to limit women’s access to safe abortion.  In 2012, an anti-abortion bill in the Canadian parliament that purportedly aimed to open a discussion on “when life begins” was interpreted as an attack on abortion rights and was defeated by Members of Parliament in a vote of 203 to 91.  In Ireland that same year, Savita Halappanavar was denied an abortion, even though she was miscarrying the fetus. Her subsequent death sparked international outrage and renewed calls to relax abortion restrictions in that country.  In Texas in 2013, despite an inspiring eleven-hour filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis, Democrats ultimately failed to block stringent new restrictions on abortion availability in that state.  Meanwhile, the Mexico City Policy continues to affect the abortion experiences of women throughout the world. Thus, in spite of the many gains that have been made in women’s rights since the mid-twentieth century, reproductive autonomy continues to elude women in many countries around the world. Even in Canada, where there is no federal abortion law and abortion is regulated like any other medical procedure, there is tremendous disparity in access to abortion services across the country. For example, Prince Edward Island is touted by the Canadian anti-abortion movement as being a “life sanctuary” since it eliminated access to safe surgical abortions in 1986,  a point that was a focus of that movement’s national conference in 2013.  Attendees are invited to PEI to reflect on the status of abortion internationally.

Full disclosure: I am presenting at this conference (on restrictions to access in New Brunswick).

The conference is August 7-8 at UPEI in Charlottetown.  Early bird registration is $85 for students/income challenged, and $145 for salaried/employed and faculty. Register here.

2. YoniFest

This is not actually a conference, more of a gathering/festival focused on birth culture - along with workshops, YoniFest promises burlesque, music and dance, and a "village spirit". From the website:

YoniFest is an international festival organized by YONI, a non-profit organization committed to questioning birth culture today. YONI has faith in intuitive and instinctive ways of knowing. YONI creates spaces in which to question, reflect on, express and manifest the sacred quality of birth and the capacity of women to birth their baby and placenta by themselves. We celebrate the universal power of women and babies and their right to be born in dignity and security.

The festival is being held in Coaticook, Quebec, August 1-3. Early bird registration includes camping onsite and is $300, or $225 for students. Register here.

Also they are still accepting proposals for workshops until March 1 (this Saturday!) so if you have an idea, you can pitch it here.

See you this summer!!