Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekly Reader

Here is what I've been reading this week:

More news on the Carleton University saga: now that the anti-choice club has been shut down, the university may change its policies to allow them to start up again.

The anti-choice battle raging in Ottawa.

Not much else going on, I'm afraid. I'll try to be more active in posting this week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Update on My Working Life

I can't really talk to much about my job, but I spend my Tuesday mornings wondering how things are going at the Fredericton clinic and I feel bad for not really participating in the quid pro quo when the volunteers there do give me updates. So I will give you a little update on my (working) life here, and try to be general.

Working at the Toronto clinic is pretty much 100% different than working at the Fredericton clinic. It's the difference between operating six and a half days a week as opposed to one, and being in a fully staffed clinic every shift as opposed to just me and SL four days out of five. I like it, just like I liked Fredericton, but they can't really be compared. But for the abortion angle, it would be a totally different job.

I like answering the phones. I didn't think I would like a job that was essentially just that, because I'm not a phone person, but having a script helps. I really enjoy talking to different women and hearing their stories, including the stories they tell through not telling. I love my co-workers, they are fabulous women (with the exception of a few doctors and one accountant, everyone who works there is a woman) and I admire them greatly. I have one co-worker in particular who is always saying hilarious things and then commenting "I know you're going to blog about me saying this!" but I never do. Mostly because it would be strange, out of context. But I do think she is awesome.

For those who are interested, basically what I do is I sit at a computer with our appointment software in it and I take calls and make appointments. During the downtime I help out with the stuff that needs to be done to get the clinic ready for the next day - pulling files, printing day sheets, verifying health cards and that kind of thing. The shifts go by quickly because there are always calls.

Recently I started training on admitting, which involves actually dealing with patients face to face (to do their billing paperwork). This is a lot less heartbreaking than in New Brunswick where everyone is paying out of pocket, but it is a lot more complex and involves a lot of bureaucratic nonsense. There's also a little more time pressure because there are two counsellors, so they are sometimes waiting around if you take too long admitting. And then they get antsy.

My favourite thing about working at the clinic is that everyone treats everyone else like an equal, and it seems effortless. I think they would all be surprised to know that it's not like that in some places. People have weird issues around medical staff and authority, and it's easy in a facility like this to treat doctors like they are better than the rest of us. But the admin staff and the doctors and management and counsellors and nurses and accountants and security staff are pretty much indistinguishable in their interactions with each other. It feels very empowering to think the work I'm doing is just as vital a part of the organization as the doctor's work.

I do miss the Fredericton clinic - I miss working with SL, and seeing my volunteers every week. It is still my favourite job of every job I've ever had. But I'm really glad that this job is working out, and that I can go to work in such a positive environment. I am a very lucky person.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Abortion Protesters in Canada

Hey y'all, just wanted to draw your attention to the latest press release from ARCC:

Survey: 64% of Abortion Clinics in Canada Experience Protesters

But most clinics have no bubble zone protection

NATIONAL – A new survey by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) reveals that 64% of abortion clinics in Canada clinics currently experience protest activity, while a further 15% have had protesters in the past. But 73% of clinics have no legal protection from picketing.

The survey, conducted by a UBC law student on behalf of ARCC, interviewed staff at all 33 abortion clinics in Canada by phone. In addition to asking about protest activity and history, the survey asked clinics about the effect of protesters on patients and staff, measures taken to protect patients and staff, and the effectiveness of those measures.

· Twenty-six (79%) abortion clinics in Canada have been picketed by protesters, with twenty-one (64%) currently experiencing some degree of protest activity, and five (15%) having had protest activity in the past. Seven clinics (21%) have never had protesters.

· Sixteen clinics (53%) reported that patients and/or staff are negatively affected by the presence of protesters, such as feeling upset, frightened, or bullied.

· Twenty-one clinics (64%) have tried to reduce the impact of protester activity by obtaining private injunctions, recruiting volunteer escorts for the patients and staff, using security guards, calling in local law enforcement, training staff on how to respond to protestors, and other measures.

· Seven clinics (21%) have obtained private court injunctions to protect staff and patients from protesters. Two clinics (6%) are protected by BC’s provincial law, the Access to Abortion Services Act (which creates protest-free “bubble zones” around clinics, hospitals, and the offices and homes of providers). Twenty-four clinics (73%) in Canada have no legal protection.

· All clinics with injunctions or bubble zones reported heavy and/or aggressive protest activity prior to obtaining their injunction or bubble zone.

“The court injunctions and BC’s law have been quite successful – they have significantly reduced protest activity at every clinic that uses them, sometimes completely eliminating it,” said Joyce Arthur, Coordinator for ARCC, and co-author of the study. “Women have a right to access necessary health services privately without being bullied, and providers need protection from anti-choice harassment and violence. We hope that the survey data will be helpful for other provinces that may want to pass bubble zone legislation, or for clinics thinking about getting a court injunction.”

Other highlights:

Every clinic in Canada participated – a total of 33. There are 11 standalone clinics, 12 clinics located in a multi-tenant office or medical building, and 9 clinics associated with a hospital.
Seventeen clinics (52%) reported that the measures they took to protect providers and staff from protesters were effective or mostly effective. Four clinics (12%) said measures were not effective or only sometimes effective.
Although protest activity has been relatively low and sporadic at most clinics since the mid-1990’s, it is on the rise again with the anti-choice “40 Days for Life” campaign that stages ongoing “vigils” outside abortion clinics once or twice a year.
Nineteen clinics (58%) said that bubble zone legislation similar to BC’s would be desirable for their clinic.
The full report is available here (English only).

So, any thoughts?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ideas Please!

Hi friends. I don't have any ideas right now so I'm just checking in to tell you that I do intend to keep up the pace of blogging that I've been going with the last week or so, but going away this weekend has put a bit of a dent in my idea reservoir so until I think of something to write about (or you suggest something to me), the blog might be a bit dry for a couple days. Look out for my work on Abortion Gang if you're missing my (internet) voice.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekly Reader

Hey friends! Sorry this is coming so late in the day - my partner and I were on a weekend getaway to Stratford for our anniversary, which was lovely, but now I have a mountain of stuff to catch up on. Here are some things I've been reading:

UN to women: "You don't matter".

The abortion wars from the United Church perspective.

Women's rights are human rights.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Edited to add: this little gem - every anti-choice Private Members Bill and Motion introduce in Canada since 1987. Yikes!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Twitter Battles

So, I wonder if any of you guys caught Antonia Zerbisias's piece the other day on the Twitter abortion wars? If not, it's just short, go check it out. It features Abortion Gang founder Steph Herold, who is a super awesome lady, and one of my Twitter/Facebook favourites, Angie Jackson.

The centre of the controversy is the #ihadanabortion hashtag, which has had a remarkable response. It is difficult to share stories of abortion even within our own small circles, let alone the big wide internet, so it certainly is heartening to see women taking that courageous leap.

If you are on Twitter, definitely check out the hashtag and, if you are comfortable doing so, add your own story. There is power in our voices, and our numbers. At the very least, if enough people step forward and say "I had an abortion", there will be too many people for the anti-choicers to threaten.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bill C-510 Hits the Blogs

One of my favourite feminist blogs, Feminists For Choice, has printed a great guest post on Bill C-510 by Roxanna Bennett which I encourage you to check out.

What I like about it is that Bennett has focused on the same issue that bothers me the most about the bill - the fact that the true problem with situations like those of Roxanne Fernando (for whom the bill is named) is not abortion, but violence; and that if Rod Bruinooge truly wanted to help, he could at the very least work on anti-domestic violence law (or enforcement of laws already on the books), but better still support social programs that provide preventative steps and resources for women who are at risk.

The fact that this woman wanted to have an abortion is entirely irrelevant; her partner killed her. This happens ALL THE TIME. The most dangerous time in the life of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship is when she is pregnant. Every single moment of every single day, a woman or child is being beaten by a male in their life.

That is the straight dope, friends. Roxanne was in trouble and having a law against coerced abortion was not going to help her. But there is a lot of stuff that could have.

Where I take issue with the piece is actually the line that ARCC seems to be taking on it, which is regarding coercion into childbirth being much more common than coercion into abortion. While I think that's probably true, I don't feel like there's much to be gained by calling for an opposing law (although perhaps this was slightly tongue-in-cheek?). Everybody: coercion is ALREADY against the law! None of these laws or proposed laws are of any use, because the law is already in place.

“It’s not just partners or family members who try to compel women and girls to have babies against their will,” said Arthur. “The entire anti-choice movement has been trying to force women into pregnancy and motherhood for decades, by working to outlaw or restrict abortion. Perhaps we need to protect women from this coercion by criminalizing anti-choice activism!”

Really I think it's ridiculous to try to introduce new law to confront a problem (or perceived problem) in our society. Perhaps it's a little anarchist-y of me, but I really feel these things are better solved (or at least examined) on a community level. We need to support women who are pregnant, to give them the resources they need to leave (or never enter) abusive relationships. And we need to teach young people how to have healthy relationships and to treat each other with respect. And I wasn't kidding about handing out condoms!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What to Do With Your Vag Hair

The other day I had a woman call to book an appointment, and she asked me if she needed to do any specific hygenic maintenance "down there". WTF?

Oh, friends. Unless you are told otherwise, no, you don't have to do anything special with your pubic hair before an abortion. Not at all. You don't need to braid it or shave it into a nice big heart. You don't need to wax it all off. You don't even need to trim it, really. I can't speak for the doctors, but I would imagine they see many, many cunts in the course of a week and I doubt they are picky about the aesthetics.

Just keep it as clean as you normally would. Take a deep breath. Leave it up to the universe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thanks Again, Henry

Henry Morgentaler has been selected as one of 25 "Transformational Canadians" by the Globe and Mail. I think it's very hard to argue that Dr. Morgentaler is a transformational figure in Canadian history, regardless of which side of the debate you fall on.

He certainly had a transformational effect on me, and I've never met the man, or had an abortion. I know I've told this story before, but it bears repeating. My father, while certainly progressive (at least, much more now that when I was younger), is also not what you would categorize as outwardly passionate. He argues, sure, but I don't remember seeing him get involved in a lot of heated discussions about his core values and beliefs. When Dr. Morgentaler was being given an honorary degree at UWO - before I identified as a feminist or had ever given abortion much thought - my dad said, very emphatically, that it was about damn time. He said Dr. Morgentaler had done more for women's rights in this country than any single other person, and that the man deserved an Order of Canada (which he later received!). Dad was so adamant, so passionate, that I immediately committed myself to finding out more about this Morgentaler fellow and what he was all about.

Thus began my path to activism. Not that I wouldn't have got here anyway, but it was certainly a helpful nudge. Dr. Morgentaler is a very human hero, but I think it makes him all the more endearing because he fought hard despite his flaws, and showed unwavering faith in the cause. He also overcame some enormous obstacles; most people would argue that being a Holocaust survivor makes someone hero enough.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler really did transform this country and I hope that we can stay true to his legacy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Reintroduction to the Pedgehog

Perhaps it is time to (re)introduce myself. In case you haven't noticed, there's actual activity on this blog again, and in my delusional state I predict this will attract readers. So, it's good to know whose words you're reading, I think. And for those who know me already, well, things have changed.

Really I just like talking about myself.

When I started this blog it was as a volunteer patient escort at the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic. Later I became the office assistant and volunteer co-ordinator, but kept the same tone and purpose here: the blog was meant as a status report, a chronicle of life at an abortion clinic that suffers regular anti-choice protesters. I wanted a Canadian voice in the pro-choice blogosphere, and I wanted to show what it is really like to walk into a clinic besieged by sign-wielding zealots.

After three years at the clinic, and more years than I would care to say in Fredericton, I packed my bags and moved to Toronto, where I live now. I am working at a Morgentaler Clinic here, but one that has decidedly different needs. There is an injunction preventing anti-choice protesters from coming too close, and the clinic itself is in a very discrete building, so there is no need for volunteer escorts. I am working in intake, which is definitely very interesting, but compared to Fredericton I feel like a very small fish in a very big pond. Which can sometimes be refreshing. However, for various reasons I cannot continue to blog solely about my work in abortion provision.

I feel like I have a good thing going here, however, and I really do feel like there are not enough specifically Canadian, reproductive rights-focused voices on the internet (although there are some very good ones - check my blogroll for recommendations). So I've decided to keep it up, in a general sense, without so much of the personal perspective that I have had in the past. But I will definitely still be referencing my work, and there will definitely still be stories from time to time. And to make up for the havoc this change will most certainly cause in your lives, I promise the blogging is going to be a lot more frequent than it ever has been. I also write somewhat regularly over at Abortion Gang.

So, to brief you on who I am: I am a 26-year-old fat white bisexual cis woman. I consider myself an activist, and certainly a feminist. I have many privileges, which I try very hard to examine and check, but sometimes I fail and I'm sorry. I work two part-time jobs: one for the Morgentaler Clinic, and one for a non-profit organization unrelated to reproductive rights (I won't name them here, just to spare them the potentially negative publicity of being associated with me). Professionally I guess I would consider myself an administrative assistant. Personally I would consider myself a lovable grump.

Welcome (back) to my space.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mrozek's Response

So, a sharp-eyed reader directed my attention to Andrea Mrozek's response to my blog about her article on the proposed "Roxanne's Law" (Bill C-510). A couple of her critiques were also left in a comment, which I responded to, but I would like to reiterate that I never said she misquoted me. She did not. She took a post from my blog out of context, and misrepresented or completely ignored the rest of the entry.

The rest of her response is more of the usual anti-choice tropes about women regretting their abortions. Dear abortion opponents: yes, some women regret their abortions. The pro-choice movement is not afraid to admit that. Of course they do. Just like some women regret carrying their pregnancy to term, some women have a hard time with mothering, some women regret giving up their child for adoption. My question is: what does this have to do with coercion? Many women who regret their abortions were not coerced. Mrozek says herself that women may feel relief on the day of their procedure, only to regret it later. Even if outlawing coerced abortion would actually stop the coercion, there would still be women who regret their choice. So what is the purpose of this law?

Rod Bruinooge is not fooling anyone - we all know this proposed law is not about helping women who are in abusive situations. It's about the fetus. Just like C-484, it's about getting a foot in the door on fetal rights to try to change abortion law in this country. While I applaud the anti-choice side for at least using the democratic system to do this, instead of pipe bombs, I still think it is a slimy way to go about it. Coercion is already illegal and no one has given any reason why this redundant law is necessary. If you want to pretend you care about women in difficult situations, let's focus on preventative measures. Same with abortion, in fact: if you think women regretting their abortions is a problem, let's focus on preventative measures to bring down the numbers of women who find themselves in that difficult situation. You all know what that means, right? Comprehensive sex education, and free and accessible birth control. I feel like I should get that tattooed on my forehead.

Here's the really annoying part of Mrozek's response, however:

Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome is 26 years old. She sounds like the type of person I’d like. After all, she’s someone who started up a blog about a topic she believes in. But she could afford to open up the dialogue and listen to the heart of what I wrote. It was something I was hoping people working in clinics would hear, and be aware of, since I fully understand that they are not wanting to do abortions on women who are unsure, or don’t want them. They should be the front lines in diverting women out the door. They should be the front lines of asking the tough questions on whether or not a woman wants to be there. They should be at the front lines of diminishing abortion numbers. I know some who actually want to do this.

I'm not sure what my age has to do with anything, but whatever. What bothers me about this is that people working in clinics DO know about this. They ARE aware of it. Everyone working in abortion care in this country knows that some women regret their abortions, and that some women are coerced into abortion. They ARE on the front lines, asking the tough questions. That's our fucking job. People who work in abortion care do a lot more than give or deny abortions. We are here with the options, to listen to women and set them up with the resources they need. When that is abortion, we provide safe and comfortable abortion care. When it's a referral for counselling, or resources on sexual assault or transition houses, or adoption agencies or prenatal care - anything women need that we can possibly provide, we will give it to them. People do not work in abortion clinics because they want to strap women down and steal their pregnancies. They do it because they care about providing quality healthcare, and because they know that only an individual woman knows what is best for her. We trust women. Sometimes that means standing back and letting them make decisions they later regret - only because the alternative is outlawing that choice for everyone, including the people who really need it.

So thanks for letting us know what is up with our own patients, Andrea. But next time you want to help those of us in abortion clinics do our jobs, let me know because I have some condoms you can hand out, for a start.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekly Reader

Did y'all remember to turn your clocks back? And while you're at it, check the expiry dates on your condoms!

Here's what I've been reading about:

Is the anti-abortion movement hitting a wall?

What we need to preserve.

More thoughts (and debate) on Bill C-510.

Some more coverage of the New Brunswick HRC enquiry.

Feel free to share more in comments.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Radical Mime. It's a Thing.

In Ottawa, the Morgentaler Clinic is still beset by protesters, just like the Fredericton one. The protesters have a permit and are legally allowed to be there. I must say, it is very frustrating to have to struggle for each and every injunction, to fight for each clinic's room to breathe. I wish we had something in Canada similar to the FACE Act in the States, something that would cover all the clinics. It is difficult when you live in a socially conservative province (like New Brunswick for example) to convince the government that anti-choice protesters are a public safety hazard. Even though they very clearly are.

Anyway, the Pro-Choice Coalition of Ottawa is pushing to have the protesters' permit revoked. This would make a huge difference for women going to the clinic, as well as for the staff. Imagine going to work every day through a throng of people who believe with all their hearts that you murder little children. How safe would you feel? That is the reality of working in abortion care in most clinics. I feel very lucky to work at the Morgentaler Clinic in Toronto, especially coming from Fredericton where I don't think our government can even spell "injunction".

The Coaltion in Ottawa is to be applauded - it is not always easy to take on a sometimes very unpopular position. You know what else isn't easy? Mime. That's why my friend, amazing repro rights activist Jenn Farr, is fucking awesome.

So that's what's up in Ottawa.

Friday, November 5, 2010

STFU Remix

Here's a little tidbit that I wish had been given more play in the media: Nancy Ruth talked about how she told everyone to STFU on abortion rights, and gives a very measured and well-thought-out semi-retraction. I also really want to read this book she contributed to.

I think it is easy to vilify politicians, obviously, even for one careless remark. And I think the tone of Ruth's warning was ill-advised, to say the least. But at the time I sort of defended what she said, and I stand by that. I think Ruth has been playing the game for a long time and momentarily forgot that the rest of us haven't been. I think she honestly didn't mean to silence us, although that was how it came across and that's not okay. I just feel like this apology of sorts, while a little late and clearly part of the publicity for the book, is heartfelt and encouraging. I wish it had received as much exposure as the original remark did.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Catching up on the Fetus Minefield

I know this story is a bit old, but I missed blogging about it so I just wanted to touch on it briefly here. You probably heard about it, and certainly it was all over the news and the internet: a couple found out that the fetus their surrogate was carrying was likely to be born with Down Syndrome, and they wanted her to terminate the pregnancy. But she didn't want to have an abortion.

Like most tricky legal situations involving abortion, this is not actually about abortion at all, and certainly the occurrence of circumstances such as this cannot reasonably be used to argue either for or against the availability of the procedure. The issue here is the quandary posed by commodifying the use of our bodies. As a feminist I can see arguments for or against surrogacy, but it must be appreciated that the concept itself is born of a complex society full of uneasy cultural relationships and various socioeconomic situations.

Whether we allow surrogacy or not, or abortion or not, the situation exists now (or at least it did) and there's no going back. Most of the opinions I've heard or read on this particular story acknowledge that it is a difficult moral/legal/ethical fetus minefield, if you will, and there is no clear solution. I'm inclined to agree. Certainly as a feminist and abortion rights activist, my instinct says the woman's bodily autonomy comes first, and as a bit of a socialist I also feel that it certainly comes before any kind of financial agreement. However, it is always good to think of what is best for the child. And one does have to admit that there is a legal problem of custody and ownership. It's tricky, friends.

In the end I think it should be up to the surrogate, and I think it would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise. If we cannot decide what happens in our own body, after all, what power do we have? It will be interesting to see, however, what kind of an impact this has on surrogacy, or at the very least what kind of lengthy changes have to be made to a whole bunch of contracts.

Human relationships are more complex than we could have imagined.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One Step at a Time, Sweet Jesus

So, the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission has decided to launch an investigation into NB's abortion policy - you know, the illegal policy that contravenes the Canada Health Act, forcing women to either pay out of pocket for an abortion or obtain a referral from to doctors and go to one of two hospitals in the province performing the procedure.

While it's great to focus attention on this policy, I'm not sure what the HRC can do when the actual lawsuit against the province on this matter seems hopelessly stalled. How much power does the HRC have in terms of legislation - any legal- or policy-minded readers feel like enlightening me?

Oh well, either way, props to whoever launched the complaint. It seems the best we can do right now is to keep the pressure on.

More on this at FMF.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Abortion Law We Can All Roll Our Eyes At

Hi, friends. Let's do something fun! Maybe you've heard of Bill C-510, the "coerced abortion" bill. This is another SUPER SUBTLE attempt by the relentless Rod Bruinooge to get a foot in the door for fetal rights. You might remember a very similar debacle around the unfortunate Bill C-484, introduced by Ken Epp in an attempt to help prevent intimate partner violence - oh wait, no, it was an attempt to create redundant legislation in order to wear away at abortion access in this country. If either of this men had even the slightest interest in actually doing something about intimate partner violence and preventing the kind of situations they are so fond of dedicating their proposed bills to, they would step the fuck up and write some real legislation, or perhaps even better, encourage their own government to stop cutting funding to social programs and women's groups.

So, something fun, right? This blog got name-checked in an article by Andrea Mrozek about the new bill, so I thought I would return the favour and have a look at this article, maybe go a step further and correct all the stuff the author got wrong. Let's go!

We've hit a new point in the abortion debate. This is good news for a conversation frequently called a dialogue of the deaf (and not without reason).

I've never heard this expression. It seems a bit outdated. But whatever, let's move on.

Pro-choice advocates are concerned that choice is threatened. And so it may be, just not in the way they think. Today, many women facing unplanned pregnancy feel pressure to choose abortion. We need to empower them with the ability to choose not to. Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge's new private member's bill, Bill C-510 (Roxanne's Law) would help.

First of all, it does not seem that Mrozek has spent any time at all considering why a woman would be coerced into having (or not having) an abortion. Where might that pressure be coming from? Our society places a great deal of stigma on women who choose abortion (as any woman who has had one will tell you - if she even feels comfortable admitting that she has), so most likely it is not a societal pressure. My guess is that any woman who is being coerced one way or the other is in some kind of relationship - whether romantic, platonic or familial - that is not entirely healthy. Which, I would argue, is the core issue here; NOT the pregnancy or what the woman chooses to do with it. But let's hear Mrozek out.

Since many will be incredulous at the notion that women couldn't say no to abortion, let's examine the lay of the land in Canada.

All but the most fanatical of abortion supporters acknowledge we have broad access, and that women are not impeded from getting abortions anywhere.

Well, I guess you can count me among the most fanatical of abortion supporters then (which, let's face it, is not a big surprise). But so, then, are most people who work in abortion care, as well as any woman from a rural area - or PEI, or up north - who has tried to access an abortion, any woman from New Brunswick without a family doctor (or with an anti-choice or unsupportive family doctor), any woman who has needed an abortion past 22 weeks for any reason, and on and on. In fact, the only women who are not impeded from getting abortions are those women who live in a major city (outside of New Brunswick and PEI), are in the first trimester of pregnancy, have up-to-date provincial healthcare, access to transportation to and from their appointment, and a myriad of other privileges like language, citizenship, physical ability, and on and on.

The abortion providers in this country do work hard to make abortion accessible for as many women as they can, but abortion access in Canada is far from "broad".

Women can get abortions at any point throughout the nine months of pregnancy, a fact that an Angus Reid poll in July 2010 showed only 21 per cent of Canadians know. (Statistics Canada indicates 12.1 per cent of abortions are done after 13 weeks.)

Legally, this is true. The practical reality is far different.

When studies arise indicating that abortion has negative repercussions, the media doesn't publicize them. For example, a pro-choice psychologist in New Zealand, Dr. David Fergusson, reported in 2006 that women who abort are at three times greater risk of mental health problems than women who give birth. After controlling for more variables he got a similar result in 2008. European studies show higher suicide rates for women who abort compared to women who deliver and American studies show increased drug and alcohol use post-abortion.

Finally, university administrations censor students who disagree. Most recently, Carleton University students who attempted to display anti-abortion materials on their own campus were arrested for trespassing. University of Calgary pro-life students too, have been charged with trespassing and hauled before an academic misconduct board.

This is just a bit of the usual anti-choice bellyaching that general accompanies this kind of opinion piece. Abortion opponents have to set themselves up as the victims in order to justify creating legislation to protect themselves. Yes, isn't it terrible that sometimes women make the best choice for them and their future children, despite potential negative consequences? And isn't it awful that university administrators sometimes try to protect their female staff and students from offensive and dishonest groups whose sole mandate is to take away their rights?

Most women will not be savagely beaten, stuffed in the trunk of a car and then dumped in a snow bank and left to die for refusing to have an abortion, as 24-year-old Roxanne Fernando was in February 2007. But the presence of a soft coercion toward abortion is the norm, not the exception.

Again, if by "soft coercion" Mrozek means a societal pressure towards abortion, I have to say, she is patently false. Our society still stigmatizes abortion, and even generally progressive people can sometimes be appalled by the idea that someone close to them is considering it as an option.

Take "Nadia" (not her real name), who at 22 was brought to the hospital emergency department by her brother. She had overdosed on 20 tranquillizer pills. The day before she'd had an abortion in a private clinic. She was deeply ambivalent about the abortion; her boyfriend was adamant it was the right thing to do.

Obviously if abortion was illegal, everything in this young woman's life would have been hunky-dory, right? Obviously there are no underlying issues here or anything. And if "coerced abortion" was illegal, I'm sure her boyfriend would be just lovely to her and never try to make her do anything she didn't want to. Obviously abortion is the problem here. /sarcasm

There are even those who report similar stories from the pro-choice side. Antichoice is anti-awesome is the blog of a volunteer co-ordinator at an abortion clinic in New Brunswick. In February 2010, she wrote about a woman who was being forced to abort by her parents. "The patient clearly did not want to have an abortion; while in to have her ultrasound she freaked out about the finger prick test, and then told the nurse, her mother and anyone who would listen that it was a blessing to be pregnant, a beautiful gift from God," she writes.

I really enjoy how she both name-checks and quotes me, but doesn't link to the blog or to the post in question. So there is no encouragement to read the whole thing and find out, for example, the context of the story, or my opinion on the situation or anything. No need to consider the fact that many women do not want to have abortions and are being coerced, or do want to have an abortion and then change their mind before the procedure, and that abortion providers and counsellors are well aware of this phenomenon. No need to acknowledge the fact that at any reputable abortion clinic, no woman would be undergoing an abortion unless she signed an informed consent form and the counsellor and/or doctor felt that she was making the choice herself, without coercion. That's just good medicine. We don't need a law protecting people from "coerced knee surgery" or "coerced tonsil removal".

It takes a special strength and courage to say no to abortion in face of pressure from a boyfriend, from parents and from society at large. (Our tax dollars fund Planned Parenthood, not crisis pregnancy centres.)

Yes it does. It also takes strength to say no to childbirth in the face of those same pressures. This is the annoying this about this bill and Mrozek's argument: pro-choicers are already there with you on this one, except we are anti-coerced abortion AND anti-coerced childbirth. We are anti-coercion in general (thus, pro-CHOICE). If the problem is the pressure, let's address that pressure. Let's admit the problem is that anyone is coercing women into doing anything. The problem is violence and abuse. When Bruinooge and his cronies are ready to deal with violence and abuse, pro-choicers are here to help.

Also, our tax dollars don't fund crisis pregnancy centres because CPCs are unnecessary. Planned Parenthood (and similar organizations) offer information on all choices without judgement, as well as offering a wide range of other sexual health services. PP meets a demand. When there is a demand from society for religious organizations that bully and lie in order to prevent women from accessing abortions, perhaps then our tax dollars can start funding CPCs.

New Democrat health critic Megan Leslie told the media over the weekend with regards to Bill C-510 that "if we can open that door even a crack to this idea of fetal rights -- which in my opinion promotes anti-choice ideas -- that has an impact on women's rights and freedoms when it comes to the very personal decision about abortion." What Leslie seems to want is a freeze on freedom of thought.

No, you are still free to think whatever you like. That is maybe the worst rebuttal to a logical objection I've ever read.

Meanwhile, the same Angus Reid poll cited above also shows that 81 per cent of women and 77 per cent of men think their provincial health authority should demand that all health-care workers offer information about alternatives to abortion, such as adoption and counselling for pregnant women.

Great! Most abortion providers are happy to offer whatever information women need - if you want your tax dollars to go towards helping health-care workers get information on all their options to women, I guess we should keep supporting Planned Parenthood, since that is exactly what they do!

Many women who experience an unplanned pregnancy would keep the child if they thought they had support -- physical, financial or emotional. And all too often that is absent. "It's your choice," is just another way of saying "I don't care."

The implication here being that allowing women to access all the options, to make choices about their own bodies, means that nobody cares about them. I assure you that if abortion were made illegal, women would still feel unsupported - physically, financially and emotionally - in their pregnancies. If women are lacking in support, the answer is not to take their choices away, it is to...wait for it...SUPPORT THEM. Let's talk about how we can do that, shall we? Better access to prenatal care, universal childcare, better parental leave policies, access to counselling (if needed), more support for women with alternative birth plans (props to doulas and midwives!), free and accessible birth control, better and more accessible resources and social services for new and expecting mothers, access to relationship counselling, violence prevention, comprehensive sex education in schools, dismantle the patriarchy (oh goodness, I got a little carried away there...), the list goes on and on. There are so many ways to support pregnant women. I bet that if we - pro-choice and pro-life - worked together, we could do that. And yes, we could decrease the demand for abortion, but more importantly, we could increase the proportion of women having happy, healthy, supported and WANTED babies.

No law can prevent the myriad soft coercions that push a woman toward abortion. But Roxanne's Law is a small voice empowering at least some women who, in the face of overwhelming odds and even violence, choose to say no. That's a choice we can all support.

The choice, yes, I can support it. But the bill, no. It is incredibly irritating to me that the people who are behind this bill and those supporting it are co-opting the language of choice, as if they can fool us into believing this is a pro-choice bill. But if you want to support and empower women, if you want them to feel confident exercising their bodily autonomy, you need to get out of the way, first of all, and stop introducing bullshit legislation that incrementally takes away one of their choices.

Second of all, you need to find a way to make real changes. I know I always say this every time one of these bullshit bills gets introduced, but PREVENTION! Let's educate people! Let's give them access to information and services! Instead of punitive laws that only deal with the aftermath of situations like Roxanne Fernando's, what about preventative laws and services that help make sure other young women don't find themselves in similar situations? Call me a cynic, but I feel the lack of focus on prevention points to the fact that Bruinooge and the rest of them don't actually care about women in abusive or violent situations, as much as they do about controlling women's choices.

Here's the real test: what if Roxanne Fernando had been beaten and left in a snowbank to die because she went ahead and HAD an abortion? What kind of bill would Bruinooge come up with then?

***If you are interested in writing your MP to protest this bill, here is a sample letter from ARCC***

Monday, November 1, 2010

O rly?

This is how I feel about my life sometimes...

I don't know what that means. But I do know that things are about to get back to normal here at Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome. A new normal, but a normal nonetheless.

Thank you for hanging in there.