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: