Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading this week (sorry it's a couple days late!):

Linda Gibbons was arrested at the Toronto Morgentaler Clinic

These idiotic anti-choice billboards about sad toys are back

Some idiot MP wants to re-open the abortion debate (surprise!) by arguing about the definition of personhood. Nothing new here.

PEI is pretty happy with the way they're ignoring women's rights.

What have you been reading over the holidays?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekly Reader

Hey everyone, here's what I've been reading about this week:

Chretien warns that abortion and gay marriage could be on the chopping block

Linda Gibbons gets her day in court

Dunville responds to anti-abortion display

PEI pro-choice groups meet with the Health Minister, but things don't look promising

What have you been reading?

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Pedgehog's Holiday Gift Guide 2011

It's that time of year again! When I encourage those of you who celebrate gift-giving holidays to curb your mindless consumerism and re-evaluate meaningful gifts by supporting worthwhile organizations (yes I am aware I am kind of a buzzkill).

Last year I talked about four organizations (ARCC, ACORN Canada, ACR and the Stephen Lewis Foundation) that you could donate to - on someone else's behalf or just out of the goodness of your heart - and I still encourage you to check those orgs out and give them some love. This year I have a few more suggestions, including actual things you can buy!

Most of the following are organizations/projects that I have been involved in OR that my friends and/or loved ones work or volunteer for. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in comments!


Occupy Toronto (or your local Occupy)

Things to Buy

Global Grassroots: Perspectives on International Organizing (Edited by Wade Rathke)

ACORN Canada 2012 calendars: contact your local office for information

A subscription to Bitch Magazine

Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading this week:

News and coverage of the situation in PEI continues to pour in

Don't forget to enter ARCC's video contest

A good editorial on Canada's maternal health policy

On debating with anti-choicers

Feel free to share more links in comments!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Some Reminders

Hi everyone! I just wanted to remind y'all that the ARCC video contest is still open and accepting entries!

I also hope that you will check out the first round of voting at the Canadian Blog Awards, which continues until December 24th (after which the top five from each category will go on to a second round). There are some terrific blogs that I had never heard of, so go check it out and I promise you will discover something awesome!

I will have a gift guide post next week, but I do want to remind you that if you're the type that donates, especially around this time of year, please don't forget ARCC - this is a fantastic organization that runs on donations and lobbies tirelessly for abortion rights and access in Canada. Also please consider contacting your local clinic to see what they need; volunteers are hard to come by at this busy time of year. Even just dropping off some hot chocolate is a real morale booster!

And because I love to shamelessly self promote...if you're looking to kick back and relax with a good book, why not one set in Toronto?

Be well, friends.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Island Fight

Ok, so is anyone else totally excited to see what's happening around abortion access in PEI? My last two weekly readers have been chock full of news around this, and I keep reading more and more about it.

For those who don't know, there is no abortion access on PEI at all. Those women who do need/want an abortion generally do one of two things: travel to Fredericton to have an abortion done at the Morgentaler Clinic for $600 - $800; or travel to Halifax to have an abortion at the hospital, which is covered under the reciprocal billing agreement between Nova Scotia and PEI.

Obviously there are a lot of problems with these two options, the main one being that out-of-province travel is not something that everyone has access to all the time. Especially travelling to Fredericton, where the abortion is done as an outpatient procedure in one early morning, weekday appointment. That is all kinds of inconvenient for the majority of PEI women.

Some other hurdles in this system include:
- Availability of appointments (at both locations; many times it is difficult for providers to keep up with the demand)
- Finding someone to drive/accompany you
- Paying for gas and/or overnight stay
- Lost day of work; childcare/petcare arrangements
- Explaining to the people in your life who might notice, why you went to Fredericton or Halifax for the day (assuming you don't want to tell them about your abortion)
- Navigating a potentially unfamiliar city, in the presence of protesters
- Suffering the potential discomfort or painful after effects of surgery during a prolonged car ride
- Making travel and accommodation arrangements around an early morning appointment
- Money, money, money!

...and on and on. This is assuming a woman even has the resources and support to know about those two options, and is able to get an appointment in time (the Fredericton clinic's gestational limit is sixteen weeks).

So you can see how this is a very difficult situation for any woman on PEI seeking an abortion, on top of which there is a shortage of doctors and a stigma around abortion.

All that said, it is amazing and inspiring to see Island activists rising up and demanding something better. I was active in reproductive rights activism for three years in Fredericton so I know a little bit about the difficulties of going against the grain in a small city with a certain outlook. People in the Maritimes are great, but sometimes the social climate is stifling - WASP-y, puritanical, ridiculously conservative/traditional and most of all, silent (and silencing). I would even say Victorian, at times. It's a difficult place to be a young person, a progressive, and especially someone from a marginalized group.

The result is a difficult uphill battle for activists. And maybe the silver lining is that the Maritimes builds fierce, resilient activists. My heart goes out to the brave people fighting the powers that be on PEI; please think of them and do what you can to help.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekly Reader

This week it's all about PEI!

Pro-lifers want to tighten up the guidelines on PEI.

More coverage of the rally

The CCLA points out the hidden costs of off-island abortions

ARCC's press release on the situation in PEI - picked up by the Guardian

The PEI government thinks "no restrictions" means "totally accessible".

What have you been reading?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Corner: Intimate Wars by Merle Hoffman

How does on go about reviewing a memoir? I feel as if I have to, in some sense, review Ms. Hoffman's life.

Merle Hoffman was one of the trailblazers of the pro-choice movement in the USA, a controversial feminist who opened one of the first ambulatory abortion centres in America, and who has lived a life of boldness, ambition and, dare I say it, ego. Many times throughout the book I wrinkled my nose in distaste at her decisions, and her attitudes, and then had to ask myself how much more “natural” I would have found them if she were a man. In that respect the book was very challenging for me, in a good way.

I knew pretty much nothing about Hoffman before I read the book, so it was all new to me. She writes well, and seems sincere and unapologetic about her life and her role in the struggle for abortion on demand. Where her writing is the most detailed and informative is near the middle of her life, when she describes the challenges of opening and running the clinic, being a public figure, and protecting herself and her staff from the violence of anti-choice activists. For those looking for insight on the “abortion wars” of the late 1970s and early 1980s, specifically in New York, this book comes highly recommended.

I found Hoffman’s focus to be a little off in terms of the flow of her book. She spent as much time detailing her decision to purchase and learn to use a gun as she does on her mother’s death. There is very little about her early life. Sometimes, her decisions seem to come out of nowhere, although I’m sure in reality they took a great deal of time and consideration. I would have liked to have known more about her ideology, how it changed and grew, what factors went into her decisions, than about the details of the decisions themselves. For example, Hoffman decided, as a 58-year-old widow, to adopt a three-year-old daughter from an orphanage in Russia. Her decision to do so, and all the subsequent stuff that happens – going to get her, introducing her to Hoffman’s mother, the reaction of Hoffman’s friends – occupy the last twelve pages of the book. It seems…disproportionate.

I liked reading about the abortion rights struggle and I think Hoffman’s story is informative and inspiring to some extent. However, I don’t know if it would create any kind of profound change or understand like, for example, Susan Wicklund’s This Common Secret. Hoffman comes across as absolute in her ideals and doesn’t make a lot of room in her book (or, perhaps, in her life) for explorations of her emotions, or the changing perceptions and lives of the people close to her. I had a hard time relating to Hoffman because I believe we have vastly different personalities; her affair with a married man bothered me not so much for the questionable morality of it than because of her complete lack of empathy for – in fact, outright dismissal of – the feelings of the man’s wife.

Perhaps the most maddening theme in the book is Hoffman’s constant mention of choices she makes that other feminists didn’t agree with or were shocked by, without exploring that conflict at all. I don’t feel she should have to justify each choice that is perceived “unfeminist”, but I would be interested to know how she fits her own outlook and life path into her identity as a feminist. I feel that in today’s young feminist movement she will be judged more harshly than she was during the second wave, for her unapologetic capitalism, her gun ownership, and especially her totally unexamined relationship to a man 28 years her senior, who acted not just as lover and husband but also mentor, financial backer, advisor and boss. There are many areas where Hoffman is vulnerable, and the book could have been richer and more challenging by examining these perceived deficiencies in her feminist persona.

Overall, however, I have to say I really enjoyed reading the book. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about a period in history that had such a huge part in shaping the women’s movement today. I also enjoyed the challenge of reading about a person whose life and choices seem so alien to me. It was difficult but enriching. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for insight into the beginning of the abortion-on-demand movement in the USA, and/or hoping to read the story of an undeniably strong and fascinating woman.

For my interview with Merle Hoffman, keep an eye on Abortion Gang.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading this week:

A report has been launched on abortion services in Ontario

Women turn to desperate measures due to the lack of abortion services on PEI

More on the growing pro-choice movement on PEI

The abortion rate is on the decline

Exciting stuff happening in PEI! Feel free to share what you've been reading in comments.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Corner: Life Choices by Linda Weber

Sentient sent me a copy of Life Choices to read and review, and I'm really glad I decided to because it came at a time when I've been feeling a little homesick, and Linda Weber's tone and worldview are so much like my mother's, it was like reading a letter she would write to me.

The book is an exploration of abortion through the eyes of a counsellor, which I think makes a big difference to how we look at, well, anything, really. I always love stories told by providers - like Susan Wicklund's book, This Common Secret - but counsellors, especially those who have been practicing for a while, have an outlook that resonates with me.

It's hard to describe what the Weber actually talks about; it is mostly a jumble of ideas about abortion and what it means in a wider context. Life Choices is about how we view our bodies, what we think and feel about sex and sexuality, what it is like to live in a patriarchy. While the ideas presented are not overtly political, they have great political implications. Weber even takes a chapter to imagine an ideal world, sans patriarchy, where women could will themselves not to conceive through a greater spiritual connection to the world and our bodies.

If it sounds a little flaky, it is, but it takes a while to get there and it is built on a solid foundation. Weber has clearly spoken with many women going through the abortion decision and she shares some of their stories, and it is fascinating. There were also a lot of different ways of viewing abortion that I had never thought of, dropped like quick little asides in a book stuffed with ideas. Blink and you'll miss them!

What really made me think of my mother was Weber's tone; she has many things to say, a lot of advice to give, but it never comes across as even suggestions. It just sort of...flows. It is hard to describe, but I guess I feel like it comes across that Weber is a person who has spent a long time doing non-judgmental listening. The type of person who asks "And what does that mean to you?" or "How does that make you feel?". In a good way, of course. I have never had an abortion, but when I read this book I felt safe and loved. That's not nothing.

There were downsides, of course. I feel like someone who has not grown up being talked to this way might find Weber's tone to be flaky and even a bit cuckoo, especially the parts about spirit and "All That Is". So I don't know how accessible it is to your average person. On the other hand, for those who are open and receptive to it, it is a great read. It will change your ideas about abortion (if you read it with an open mind).

I feel like I can't make it any more obvious that I loved this book. I highly recommend it!


This review is part of a promotional blog tour - it was preceded by a review on Eve Laments on Nov. 16th and the next review is at The Abortion Monologues on Nov. 18. The author is planning an actual tour in February - keep an eye on the website for details.

Although I was asked to review this book I received no compensation for doing so and was encouraged to express my honest opinion. Nothing I've said in this blog post was influenced by the publisher in any way.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading lately:

Joyce Arthur on the abortion debate

Abortion protest in Winnipeg

Things are really starting to happen around the lack of abortion services in PEI!

A Canadian abortion provider has written a new memoir

And don't forget to check out ARCC's autumn newsletter

Feel free to share other things you've been reading in comments.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Event: PEI Reproductive Rights Rally

Saturday, November 19 · 12:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: Peace Fountain by Province House on Grafton Street

PRRO - Prince Edward Island Reproductive Rights Organization - is organizing a reproductive rights rally to inform residents of Prince Edward Island what reproductive rights women are entitled to as decreed by the Canadian Government in 1988, but are being denied in Prince Edward Island.

Come out and have some coffee or tea, enjoy some busking, listen to informative speakers, learn something new and support a great cause.

Speaker List to follow.

There will also be a drop-off box for a Women's 'Zine. Please feel free to drop off any creative/ informative pieces you would like to contribute.

For more information about PRRO please visit PRRO's facebook group at :


Or the website at: http://www.prro.tk/

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading this week:

Local organization wants national debate on abortion.

Some coverage and photos of last week's rally.

My latest piece at Abortion Gang.

The criminalization of abortion is an abuse of state power.

Feel free to share in comments.

Friday, October 28, 2011

An Open Letter to Young Feminists

As a response to shit like this, I wanted to say:

Dear young feminists,

Thank you for existing. Thank you for being strong, driven, compassionate and empathetic. You are the heralds of a better world and the only reason I can continue to believe in it.

I could never have learned anything about privilege, intersectionality, or being an ally without the guidance, writing and action of the feminists of my generation. There is so much I would never have been able to discover without the help of feminist blogs. Thank you, young feminists, for being bold and bravely talking openly about oppression.

Thank you for organizing, promoting, and participating in actions - as big as Occupy and as small as a local clinic defense. Thanks for picking up the torch of the second wave and burning it much brighter, in more directions. Thank you for marching when there has been marching to be done.

Thank you for expanding feminism, for making it bigger, more inclusive, and more radical. Thank you for teaching me how my whiteness makes my feminist lens different, and how all the power imbalances I experience and participate in are interconnected. Thank you for dreaming big.

Thank you for believing that a woman is more than her body, and that there is more to life than woman/man. Thank you for believing people when they say what they are - man, woman, genderqueer, bisexual, asexual, trans, polyamorous, survivor, victim, queer, fat, ok, not ok. Thanks for creating a movement full of people, not labels.

Thank you for carrying on and fighting in the face of people who think the fight is over. Thanks for being active feminists while people say you don't exist. Thanks for reaching out across generations while casting aside the harmful beliefs of the second wave. Thanks for pushing beyond white liberal feminism.

Thank you also for your mistakes, your infighting, your sellouts and fuck ups. Thanks for not being perfect. Thanks for trying to fix it.

Young feminists do not just exist. We are shaping the world whether the old guard likes it or not. We are building new understandings of old issues. We are broadening our scope and for better or for worse, creating the revolution. If you haven't noticed us, perhaps you can't see the forest for the trees.

Thank you, young feminists, for teaching me something new every day, and giving me hope.

Love your friend,

"Je ne les crains pas. C'est pour cela que je suis nee." - Joan of Arc

Photo credit: John Bonnar (rabble.ca)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekly Reader

Not much to read this week, I'm afraid.

A reminder to enter the ARCC Video Contest

A lovely obituary for the abortion pioneer Dr. Robert Kinch

And from the horrifying typos department: does Canada think abortion providers are terrorists?

Mom mad about school's anti-abortion event

Joyce Arthur on why abortion must be fully funded

What have you all been reading?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tomorrow's Rally and Reproductive Justice

Those of you in Toronto may have heard about the "Defund Abortion" rally being planned for tomorrow at Queen's Park at 1pm. You may have also heard that there is a pro-choice presence/counter-rally being planned; I hope you are planning on attending!

I will be there, as part of the Reproductive Justice Coalition of Toronto. We felt it was important to have a presence there, even though we do talk a lot about the reactive nature of the movement, and how frustrating it sometimes feels to be doing actions like this. Another thing we often discuss is the domination of the movement by the talking points of an older generation, and an older focus. We are pretty tired of talking about "choice", especially since it is most often coming out of whiteness and a more privileged class. That is why I think it is important to note that while the RJT is in solidarity with OCAC and other groups regarding opposition to defunding abortion, we will maintain a distinctive presence at the rally tomorrow (and any like-minded or curious folks are welcome to join us!).

For me, "choice" and the other established goals of the pro-choice movement like access to abortion have become much less important than this more reproductive justice-focused worldview I am slowly learning about and adopting. I love the idea of being radical in the sense of tracing back to the root, and an RJ approach encourages that kind of analysis. What is important to a younger generation of RJ activists is not so much the defunding of abortion as the decolonizing of our bodies, particularly the bodies of racialized women and trans people and other marginalized folks. That is where these contentious issues come from. We also care less about lobbying and legislating than we do about teaching and learning to know and care for our bodies. Sure it worries me that abortion might be made illegal, but quite honestly I'm more worried about how few young women know how to masturbate.

Anyway, I'm just sort of skimming the surface of reproductive justice right now, but it's something I will continue to talk about, for sure. And if you come out to the rally tomorrow you will see from the diversity of our signs that there is a lot more to this than abortion.

If you are interested in being part of the RJT presence, please contact me at pedgehog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekly Reader

Here's what I've been reading about this week:

More Conservative nonsense around IPPF funding.

When abortion restrictions backfire.

Healthy women are women with choices.

Anti-choice "memorial" taken down

Why Alberta should start funding Essure birth control

Catholic school gives credits for attending anti-abortion protests; then revokes them.

Dr. Garson Romalis's challenge to Canada's assisted suicide law is rejected

What have you been reading?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Corner: The Cider House Rules by John Irving

I know, this is another one that I'm years behind on. However, like The Handmaid's Tale, it's a better late than never kind of situation; if you've never read The Cider House Rules, you really ought to pick it up because it is quite frankly amazing.

I have always been a John Irving fan; my father's favourite book in the whole world is A Prayer for Owen Meany, and as a little book nerd of course I encountered it (earlier than I probably should have). I think Irving has a lovely style and a real knack for characters - he takes his time with them, letting the stories sort of unfold naturally. I have read a couple of his other books, including the horrifically under-rated, laugh-out-loud hilarious The Water-Method Man, which I recommend more highly than anything. It's a relatively short read and seriously, you will be crying with laughter from about page three.

Anyway, Cider House. A friend of mine has been telling me to read this for years, insisting I will like it because "it's about abortion". I knew one of the characters was an abortion doctor, but didn't think it could possibly be more than a subplot. But she was right - it is about abortion. Partially, of course. Really what it's about is rules: the rules we make for each other, the rules we find it acceptable to break, and the way the rules change in different situations, for different people. The story challenges a lot of rules - from social norms to laws - in a powerful but simultaneously gentle sort of way. Irving forces his characters (and readers) to examine the reasons for rules and for breaking them.

The book is, in short, about an orphanage run by the aging Dr. Larch, who takes in pregnant women overnight to deliver "an orphan or an abortion" - their choice - before sending them on their way. One of the orphans, Homer Wells, has a hard time getting adopted and soon accepts that he belongs at the orphanage, learning medicine from Dr. Larch. But the two men differ on their opinion of abortion (or "the Lord's work" as Larch calls it) and Homer eventually rejects the destiny Larch has set out for him, and leaves the orphanage with a beautiful young couple to work in their apple orchard and learn the rules in the outside world.

I can't really tell you any more about the plot - anyway, the plot is kind of beside the point. It's meandering and strange and really just background for Irving's true strengths as a writer: characters, themes and setting. This book could not have taken place anywhere other than coastal Maine, and the descriptions are totally evocative of that strange place. I'm telling you guys, this book is amazing. If it wasn't about abortion, they would teach it in high school writing classes. It is both technically perfect and emotionally strong.

Most of all I loved how Irving dealt with the abortion issue. His characters are sometimes preachy, but the story never is. It ends about twenty years before Roe v. Wade but the legality takes a back seat to the morality of it; the arguments and situations could easily apply today. I loved how the story even had sympathy for the back-alley butcher, whom Larch goes to see (and condemn) for her shoddy, life-threatening abortions. "At least I'm doing something!" she says. Indeed.

Larch's simple philosophy - that it is best to be of use - is probably a bit utilitarian for some people to accept as an argument backing up the availability of abortion. But I think the stronger driving force of Larch's character is his shameful early life, and his idea that he himself once made a bad sexual decision, and therefore it is not his right to judge the sexual decisions of others. The doctor is a humanizing element in the orphanage. He is simply a flawed person trying to do what is best - as is Homer Wells, whose experience with a young apple picker who has been the victim of incest neatly mirrors Larch's own awakening, in the back alley doctor's waiting room, with a young woman who has been impregnated by her father. A lifetime has made no difference in the demand for abortion, the reasons, the desperation. Irving gently, implicitly reminds us that the need will always exist - it is up to us whether we "play God" by making that decision for a woman.

I loved this book - in case that isn't clear. I think it is not only totally compelling, I also believe it provides some of the best arguments for abortion provision I have ever encountered. Not just legal abortion, mind, but actively providing abortions or ensuring women have access to them. This one gets ten fetus cookies out of ten.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Your Good Deed for the Day

Oh hello! Let me tell you what I put up with - a lot of the things detailed in this post.

You know what would make me feel better? If you nominated me for this.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Event: Rock for Reproductive Justice

Saturday, October 22 · 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Victoria's Spirit Square (in Centennial Square)

Created By

On Saturday October 22nd come out and Rock for Reproductive Justice!

Rock for Reproductive Justice will include creative activism, music, and speakers. Come learn more about reproductive justice and showcase strong community support for access to reproductive health services. ASL interpretation and bus tickets will be available (emailsjcollective.vic@gmail.com for bus tickets)

Music will include Witch Baby, Medusa and Claire Mortifee.

Joyce Arthur from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, UVic Political Science Professor Janni Aragon and others will be speaking on a wide-range of topics related to reproductive justice.

This event is in response to the presence of "40 Days for Life" in Victoria. Come out and support the ability of individuals to make choices about their bodies, sexuality, and families!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Corner: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

So. I realize I am about twenty-five years too late on this review. However, I actually think this book might be more relevant now than it was when it was written, which is a mark of success, however bittersweet, for the author of a dystopian novel. And for my money, Atwood is the master of dystopia - I honestly think she is some kind of strange prophet or soothsayer. This shit is terrifying, and it’s terrifying because it is so real.

First let me say it does damage my Canadian feminist cred a bit to have not read this book until now, but hey, we all have flaws. I feel like coming to it later in my feminism is maybe a bad choice; I still loved it, but there were a lot of revelations and ideas that would have been revolutionary to me about five years ago. Stuff I had to find out on my own, without Atwood. That is sad, because I think I would always rather learn through Atwood.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, it is set in the not-so-distant future in the Republic of Gilead (formerly the USA). It is a theocracy of sorts, where women have narrowly defined roles and are marked by different coloured clothing. The story is told from the point of view of Offred, a handmaid, whose purpose is to produce children for a rich man and his wife. This new society is in its infancy and Offred (and the people in her life) can remember what it was like before.

Atwood apparently based the society (in part) on Iran, but there is nothing in the book that hasn’t happened somewhere, at some point. Her descriptions of the transition are particularly chilling because they are so believable. Looking at the politics in the USA right now (and to a lesser extent, Canada), yeah, the ideas are there. Thank goodness for the progressive voices speaking up. But when the narrator describes executed political prisoners hanging in public with signs denoting them as abortion providers, or “gender traitors”, it does not seem so far from our own world - the only difference is in our real life, it’s the citizens who do the killing; the government only offers politically expedient disapproval (depending on the government!).

I could take every single thing from the book and show a parallel with our current society, but that sounds painful. Instead I will just highly recommend that you read it - or if it’s been a long time since you’ve read it, give it another look. I think you’ll be surprised/horrified at how much more real it has become.

Also, I really want a “nolite te bastardes carborundorum” tattoo.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Time to Overshare!

Things that are crappy when you have your period*

Reading about (and remembering) pinch-y cervical implements (damn you Irving!)

Being on transit

Being in hot and sweaty situations

Having to go in to the mess fingers first (whether for pleasure or on an emergency rescue mission for an adventurous tampon)

Synching up with someone you spend time with and suffering twice the crankiness

Things that are nice when you have your period*

Showers. Dear lord, showers.


Finding -and having access to - a method that works for you, whether it's tampons or catchers (for me it's reusable cloth pads).

A sympathetic housemate - especially when they are of the non-menstruating persuasion and enjoy watching DVDs of Frasier with you

Fresh clean sheets and a good night's sleep

How about you?

* Obviously my experience and preferences are not universal.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekly Reader

I haven't been able to accumulate enough material for a reader for a couple weeks now...so sorry some of this is a little old! Regardless, here's what I've been reading:

The National Posts asks: is the abortion debate really about religion?

The odious Show the Truth was in Ottawa.

Barbara Kay et al. continue to be awful.

Kelowna, BC issues an anti-abortion proclamation.

Canadian pro-lifers are taking a page from the Tea Party book.

Regina, SK docs fear abortion restrictions.

Planned Parenthood Canada's funding has been renewed, to Brad Trost's disapproval (among others). In fact, Trost says this essentially reopens the debate. IPPF counters that Canada is helping to prevent abortions.

What have you been reading?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Toronto Activists: Rally for Abortion Rights

A notice from OCAC and ARCC:

Rally for Abortion Rights - Don't lose the right to choose!

Saturday October 22, 1pm
North-east corner of College and University, Toronto

Anti-choice organizations in Ontario are mobilizing to attempt to pressure the provincial government to defund abortion in this province. Join this counter-rally to defend reproductive rights! Don't lose the right to choose!

Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak signed a petition supporting defunding abortion, but when pressed recently to answer whether he would move to attack abortion rights if elected premier, he said "he would follow Prime Minister Stephen Harper's lead and leave the abortion issue alone."

With the Harper government excluding abortion funding from the maternal health initiative, constraining International Planned Parenthood and defunding groups that support reproductive rights, women know what 'following Harper's lead' means: eroding abortion rights one step at a time.

The same Conservatives who are the architects of the current federal attacks on abortion are advising the provincial conservatives today. We need to mobilize and show that the pro-choice majority will fight back against attempts to take away our hard-won reproductive rights!

Organized by the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics and the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Community

I recently took a brief, financially ill-advised but positively wonderful, two-night trip to New York City. My main intent in doing so was to see a friend I hadn't seen for fourteen years. As you can imagine, the experience was thoroughly surreal. It's weird when you're inside your own head and you can't really see yourself growing and changing, and then you're forced to reflect on what a strange little person you were at 13. I was overjoyed to find that my friend and I have one of those relationships that you can just pick up again, no matter how much time has passed, not least of all due to the fact that he has grown into an amazing, sweet, funny, clever and brave person - don't I know how to pick 'em!

But that's actually not the point of my post. You see, while I was in NY I was staying with the inimitable Steph Herold, activist extraordinaire and founder of I am Dr. Tiller and Abortion Gang (from whence I know her). I had never met Steph in person before, and in fact only knew her through the surprisingly warm, incredibly close community of AG bloggers.

It is not generally my wheelhouse, flying off on my own to a strange (and how!) city in America to stay with people I've never met. But such is the power of the online community. Steph and her partner (and their gorgeous dog) turned out to be simply lovely hosts, as did Nicole Levitz, another AG blogger I was meeting in person for the first time. We had great conversations about all manner of things - reproductive justice of course, but also sex, maple, wine, real estate, politics, the differences between Canada and America, work, life, cats, dogs and mice.

One of the things we discussed was moving around as a child, and what kind of impact that can have on your adult life. I knew my friend I was there to see because I lived in Australia for six years as a tween; until I moved out of my parents' house I lived in four different cities. I know that's not a lot compared to some kids, especially army brats, but it certainly had a big effect on me. Certainly it wasn't all good: I have a hard time taking those first steps towards making deep and lasting friendships; I tend to be a bit snobby about my "worldliness"; I probably idealize the time I spent in Australia too much. But it has all been worth it for the opportunity to have people like my visiting friend in my life. It made my heart ache to wish him goodbye, again, at the end of my trip; but at least now it is easier than ever to be in touch with people who are far away.

All this to explain that I am so grateful for the online communities of activists I have encountered and been privileged to be a part of. I'm thinking specifically of Abortion Gang but there are lots of others - starting in mIRC chatrooms and into my teenage Wiccan days (ask my friend Amy about this, she will be glad to make fun of me with you) and moving through every stage of frivolous fandom and earnest activism (and sometimes both combined). I am so grateful to live in an age where we have such technology at our disposal, and where I can connect with such well-spoken, thoughtful and courageous people. And of course, again, there are downsides; I have a whole folder labelled "hate mail" in my gmail that can testify to that. But it has been worth it to know these people, and to be welcomed into their lives and (sometimes) into their homes.

I know all this stuff is supposed to be making us less social and neighbourly, and in some ways I agree; I read Bowling Alone for a university class and I thought Putnam had some pretty valid points to make. But maybe it's just because I'm an introvert and online communication is so much easier for me, but in my experience it has opened the world up for me. I talk to so many more people, read so much more, and see so many more issues through so many different perspectives than I ever could have otherwise. And I can be in contact with amazing, brilliant people I left on the other side of the world fourteen years ago without a hope of seeing again.

Most of all, I think these online communities are so important to our movement. I believe that while it is far from the only way to do effective organizing, online activism is such an efficient and valuable way to reach and connect people. Not only like-minded people, either. Friends of mine have told me that the stuff I write, and other stuff I share on Facebook and Twitter has made them curious about those issues in their own communities. Imagine that on a grander scale, and you can really see the importance of big feminist group blogs like Feministing, Racialicious, Tiger Beatdown, Shakesville, Womanist Musings, etc. etc.

I read shit every day that I would never see or think about if I didn't have the internet. And more importantly, I have amazing friends in far-flung places with whom to share insight and maple cookies any time I can get there. Thanks internet! And thanks especially to the generation before mine (Gen X?) who pioneered this style of activism that has redefined the meaning of the word "community".

Monday, September 26, 2011

2011 Queen's Health and Human Rights Conference

"The theme of the 2011 conference is "Maternal and Child Health," reflecting the rising international focus on the unique issues affecting the wellbeing of these vulnerable populations. Join us as our array of passionate and compelling speakers examine these issues, engage in discussion, and propose solutions for the future."
Libby Davies, NDP MP for Vancouver East, is a keynote speaker, along with Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, a lawyer involved in international development and women's equality.
Also as part of the conference, on Saturday, October 1, 2011, starting at 2:45 pm,Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada will be debating Andrea Mrozek of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada on the question: “Can Canada have an effective global maternal health policy by excluding funding for abortions?”
The debate is open to the public and free of charge, so please attend if you can get to Kingston.
To register for the entire conference: http://www.queenshhrc.ca/register.html

Friday, September 16, 2011

Hitting a Slump

Sometimes it can be very easy, as someone with even the slightest interest in things like human rights, to throw up one's hands and give up. The problem with knowing about the horrible state of the world is that you can't un-know it. And even if you happen to be one of the incredibly fortunate people who are not directly suffering (or at least not in a life-threatening way), it is hard not to feel a terrible guilt about that (a guilt that hopefully doesn't fester, but instead mobilizes you to act). So once you start to care about stuff like social justice, you can't look away again.

I think every person who is an activist or works toward a "better world" (whatever that looks like to you) every now and then gets a feeling of despair about the whole endeavour. Especially if, like me, you have the option to walk away. I have this feeling sometimes. I find myself withdrawing from my usual activist stuff, not writing as much, tweeting more about the mundane shit going on in my own life than about what is happening in the world. Even when the two combine and the personal is political, sometimes I just can't bring myself to see the *point* of picking up that picket sign.

I am not completely idealistic. I know the revolution won't happen in my lifetime. And I feel sometimes like the small acts I do are not changing anything. Not even the act of mindfulness, of not being completely oblivious, seems helpful. Some days I honestly don't know if it would make a difference anywhere (outside of my own heart) if I fought for capitalism to win, or fought against it.

I know you've probably been there.

For me, I could very easily stop caring. Sure I'm not doing so well financially right now, but I am a white university-educated cis woman with straight passing privilege, a middle class upbringing, a supportive and functional family of university-educated professionals, who is going to marry a lawyer. I would be alright; the boot of the kyriarchy is not pressing down on my neck particularly painfully. But like I said at the start, once you know, you can't un-know. I couldn't live with myself if I was that kind of an asshole. If I'm going to be an asshole (and I assure you, I am) it has to be by accident when I was trying not to be.

Sometimes I think I don't have strong ethics, especially compared to the people around me - particularly my partner, who is ethical to a fault, and with whom I recently had a long, frustrating debate about whether it is ever ethical to lie (it is!). But I guess I do ok, ethics-wise, because I couldn't be a person who doesn't care. So that's something. Is it? Or is it the bare minimum of ethical behaviour? And maybe it's just the genetic luck of the draw; I have a great deal of empathy that I don't feel I came by honestly. So maybe unethical people just missed out on that through no fault of their own.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is: I'm going through a little bit of a slump in the caring department right now. But that's normal - probably very much so for people who work in the social justice field as well. So you'll have to forgive my social networking updates about dinosaurs, my aimless blogging, my in-person chatter about Jeff Goldblum and haircuts and feta cheese. I guess if you leave the activist switch on too long, it burns out a little and you need to let it recharge.

How do you get it going again? I'd love to hear about your experiences with this.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Corner: Broken Words by Jonathan Dudley

For this edition of the book corner, I read Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics, by Jonathan Dudley. For me this was a little bit of a break from my usual focus, because I do try to keep the focus on Canadian content here. There are a lot of blogs on the internet talking about abortion and reproductive rights/justice from an American POV and I'm trying to provide something a little different.

However, on the other side of that is the unsettling fact that the political landscape in Canada is growing ever more reminiscent of that of the USA. We are always a few years behind and a few notches less extreme, but our destinies as nations are so intertwined that it is probably pretty foolish to not pay attention to what is going on down there; like it or not, it's coming our way. So I think this book is, in a roundabout way, relevant to my focus.

I have read a few books about this kind of thing - the dangers of religious fundamentalism, the terrifying influence of Evangelical Christians on US politics - especially during my hardcore atheist days. One reason I began to get frustrated with the genre was that it's very much about preaching to the choir. So an element of Broken Words that I really liked was that the author was very upfront about his upbringing as an evangelical Christian, and is not afraid to incorporate that into the book. It is clear that he still believes in God and considers himself a Christian; instead of modelling a contemptuous atheism to readers, he shows a moderate understanding of his religion that coexists peacefully with his medical studies and his scientific knowledge and political views.

The book tackles the four big points of contention for Evangelical Christianity: gay marriage, evolution, abortion and the environment. Constant throughout is the theme of interpretation: for every Bible verse commonly used to support the Evangelical position, Dudley comes up with three or four that could just as easily be interpreted to oppose it. But the book is not an argument, nor is it about showing how "they" are wrong. What it is, is an exposure of the current Evangelical position as one invented for almost entirely political reasons, a fascinating (recent!) history of the ways in which religion has been used to control the American political landscape.

I suppose it will not shock you that I liked this book, but there you go. I will say that it is a refreshing take on a somewhat tired theme, and I would much rather read this than someone more established and maddeningly cynical, like Hitchens or Dawkins (although I would really rather read anything than Hitchens, because "not hating women" is a criterion I like to set for the authors I read). It is not, as I expected, yet another rallying cry for the atheist movement; it is a measured, thoughtful exploration of the difference between personal spirituality, and the religious manipulation of the public. I think some Christians might like it.

This appears to be Dudley's first book and there are certain touches that give it away - he is at times a bit too earnest, at other times a little too abstract. But he has a good "voice" and seems to have found himself a decent editor, and I for one hope to be hearing more from him in the future.

Eight fetus cookies out of ten.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

ARCC Video Contest!

Version française

Help us bring attention to the importance of choice—from your perspective. We’re looking for short creative original videos to highlight what choice means to you, your peers or Canadians in general. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top 3 submissions.

Reproductive choice and access to abortion services is a right in Canada, but it’s not always easy or possible to access appropriate services to support that right.
Opponents of choice are always looking for ways to turn back time and prevent women from having full control over their own bodies and their reproductive choices. And, depending on where you live in Canada, it can be difficult and expensive to access the support and medical services required to truly have “freedom of choice”.

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC-CDAC) is dedicated to ensuring that women can exercise their right to health services equitably and without barriers. Your video can help us share diverse pro-choice perspectives, engaging others in our work and encouraging discussion and action.

Videos can be documentary-style, creative, artistic, action-packed, musical, journalistic or dramatic. Enlist your friends, family or classmates to help you, or make a solitary production. Tell us stories, entertain and inform us.

Videos must be between 30 seconds and 2 minutes long (:30 – 2:00 min). Videos entered must be original material and participants must acquire appropriate releases from all performers or interviewees. First prize is $500 and 2nd and 3rd prizes are $250 each.

Please follow the instructions on our website and read the Contest Rules carefully before creating and entering your video in the contest. If you have questions, please contact

Let your voice for choice be heard around the world!


1. Read contest rules.
2. Complete and submit entry form.
3. Complete a Release Form for each person in your video, including yourself.
4. Can you help spread the word? Please send the attached poster (or this link to it) about the contest to your friends, thank you!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Choice 101

Calling All Young Pro-Choice Canadians Apply for Choice 101!

“Choice 101” will bring together 15 pro-choice Canadians from coast to coast to participate in an interactive 8-week course about pro-choice issues. The course will link you with other individuals who want to learn, share and contribute to the movement for sexual and reproductive rights in Canada.

You don’t have to be an expert to participate; just interested in learning more about pro-choice issues and sharing your ideas, experiences and questions with other people who are under 35.

We will be using teleconference calls to meet each week and we will create a networking site for people to post their thoughts, videos, drawings, web links, etc. to deepen our collective pro-choice knowledge. It’s a great way to broaden your pro-choice horizons and to strengthen the young pro-choice network across Canada.


  • Pro-Choice, Sex-positivity, Attitudes, & Values
  • Current Access Issues in Canada
  • History of Abortion Politics in Canada
  • Anti-Oppression, Intersectionality, & Privilege
  • First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Women & Reproductive Justice
  • Demystifying Sex Work
  • Pro-choice Activism: Goals, Strategies & Tactics


  • Joyce Arthur, Executive Director, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, which protects the legal right to abortion on request and works to improve access to quality abortion services. Before founding ARCC in 2005, she ran the Pro-Choice Action Network in British Columbia for 10 years and edited the national newsletter Pro-Choice Press, which she began in 1995. Arthur has written hundreds of articles on abortion and other political and social justice issues, spoken at dozens of venues in Canada and internationally, given hundreds of media interviews, and appeared in several documentaries. For more information visit: www.arcc-cdac.ca
  • Patrizia Gentile, Assistant Professor in the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University holds a Ph.D. from Queen’s University in the Department of History. Her dissertation was an historical study of beauty contests in Canada from the 1920s to the early 1990s. Professor Gentile is also co-author of The Canadian War on Queer: National Security as Sexual Regulation (UBC: 2010) with Dr. Gary Kinsman.

  • Prostitutes of Ottawa/Gatineau Work, Educate, Resist (POWER) is a non-profit, voluntary organization open to individuals of all genders who self-identify as former or current sex workers, regardless of the industry sector in which they work(ed) (i.e. dancers, street level workers, in and out call workers, phone sex, etc.) and to allies who share our vision.

POWER envisions a society in which sex workers are able to practice their professions free of legal and social discrimination, victimization, harassment and violence and in which sex work is valued as legitimate and fulfilling work making an important contribution to society. For more information visithttp://www.powerottawa.ca/:

  • Julie Lalonde, co-founder of the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre and board member of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. Julie is a feminist activist and part-time academic. She has been doing work in the reproductive justice movement and anti-violence movement officially and unofficially for about 8 years. Her work ranges from protest attending and organizing to public education campaigns. She currently sits on the board of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. She has a megaphone and is not afraid to use it. Follow her on twitter: http://twitter.com/AskingForIt

  • Courtney Scalan, Community Education Coordinator of Planned ParenthoodOttawa (PPO), offers education, counselling and referral services to assist and support people in making informed sexual and reproductive health choices. PPO is a non-judgmental, pro-choice, confidential, supportive, GLBTTQ positive, youth positive organization. For more information visit: http://www.ppottawa.ca/

  • And more! Stay tuned as more presenters are confirmed…


The course will be held from September 27 - November 15, 2011 once a week onTuesdays for two hours at: 14:00 (British Columbia); 15:00 (Alberta / Saskatchewan / Northwest); 16:00 (Manitoba); 17:00 (Quebec / Ontario / Nunavut); 18:00 (Atlantic); and 18:30 (Newfoundland).

All participants must complete our online application and consent form. The consent form needs to be signed and either scanned and emailed/faxed; or sent by postal mail.

Apply online now at: www.canadiansforchoice.ca The deadline to apply is September 19, 2011.

Participant selection will take into consideration provincial and regional representation as well as representation of diverse identities.