Full human beings
In 2005, at Maclean's 100th anniversary bash, I was seated next to Dr. Henry Morgentaler and his wife, Arlene.
We'd never met before.
''My God, for a man of such courage, here is a man of such of fragility,'' is what I thought as he sat down.
I was expecting a giant.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision, a judgment he risked everything to win.
As he said at the time, "It was a vindication of everything I believed in. For the first time, it gave women the status of full human beings able to make decisions about their own lives.”
Two weeks ago, I issued a Canadian Bloggers for Choice challenge. I am proud to say that my sister and brother bloggers have stepped up to the plate.
I am going to take some time culling through their posts -- and I will be back to update this one as soon as I do.
AND THE BLOGGERS ARE ...
(This is by no means a complete list of those who joined in. If I missed you, please add your link to the comments!)
Dave at The Galloping Beaver has been blogging for choice for what seems like forever. But he didn't run out of stuff to say today, taking the discussion to a whole new level:
Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, it has been women fighting for freedom from the male dominance of society which has brought about most of the positive changes we take for granted today. Most young people today would not accept that women in this country at one time were not allowed to vote, were not allowed to own property and were, in fact, considered "minors" under the governance of their husbands with no more rights than their own children.
A simple observation is that the majority of those who oppose a woman's right to make her own decisions regarding her own body are men. The majority of voices in western governments opposing health initiatives for young girls which would protect them in adulthood are, you've got it, men.
Dominance. And it isn't sustainable.
Too often, when women actually do achieve something nearing equality in some aspect of life, it is framed by a male demand for compliance. True equality always falls a little short of the mark.
Look at make-up of the Canadian federal government ministry. At last count there were 28 ministers in cabinet and 5 outside cabinet. Six are women.
This same government has made a meal out of wreaking havoc on the ability of women to advance to an equal standing in this country.
Dr. Dawg weighs in on the language of the debate here:
"Pro-life" is a disingenuous purr-word that upholds life against those who are...what? "Pro-death?" You mean like supporters of the death penalty? Whoops, most of them are "pro-life." See the problem here?
"Pro-abortion" is what we supporters of reproductive freedom used to be called by the media and, of course, by the "pro-life" folks, who were called "anti-abortion" much of the time by those same media. You've got a "pro," you've got an "anti." Simple.
And wrong. No woman I have ever met supports abortion per se, as a good in itself. Those who have decided to have one don't propose that everyone should do so. State policy that mandates abortion (as in China, with its one-child policy) might arguably be called "pro-abortion," but not the feminist/pro-feminist position.
Last week, Pretty Shaved Ape at Canadian Cynic excoriated The National Post's opinion series on the anniversary. Those posts are here and here -- brilliant but much too bleepable for this blog. Today, the Cynic himself went on the attack, against the Blogging Tories who still don't get it.
Oh, dear ... what with the 20th anniversary of R. v Morgentaler, the Christopaths among Canada's Blogging Tories are outdoing themselves in an absolute frenzy of pearl clutching and panty twisting.
All of the above have been from progressive men.
Now for les femmes ...
Unrepentant Old Hippie was, of course, there:
The last twenty years of choice has been accompanied by twenty years of being hassled (and worse) by those who mistakenly think it's their business to dictate our reproductive decisions. The word "debate" keeps coming up: debate? What debate? The "debate" over whether women have the right to self-ownership (makes me sick just to type that) ended on January 28, 1988.
Justice is Woman with a Sword made a stab at it here, with sad words about a demo that didn't attract much support.
Today, a small group of pro-choicers proudly walked in downtown Montréal to remind their fellow citizens of this important date, and show that they want abortion in Canada to remain legal, safe, accessible and free.
Despite our numbers, the event was a success because the participants responded individually to this call for action. They walked in the cold, not because they're part of some group or organization that told them to be there, but because they believe in reproductive freedom.
Creekside takes on the ''fetus fetishists'' here:
(S)ome fetus fetishists, who presumably hope to one day celebrate the supremacy of the state over the individual here, have attempted to mark the occasion by selling anti-abortion billboard ads for buses and shelters in St John's, Fredericton, and Hamilton. The ad was declined on the grounds that it was misleading.
It reads :
"Nine months… the length of time an abortion is allowed in Canada. Abortion.
Have we gone too far?"
Yes, fetus fetishists, I'm afraid you have gone too far this time.
A fetus becomes viable at around 20 weeks, no?
According to Statscan, the percentage of Canadian abortions performed at the 20 week mark in 2003 was .7% or 0.007. That's point double-oh-seven.
Needless to say, Birth Pangs didn't stay silent, noting that, just because we have the right to choose, that that right is protected by legislation.
Twenty years ago today, Canada became the only country on the planet without a law on abortion.
Last but not least, my friend Megan -- who got preggers two seconds after her husband returned home from serving in Afghanistan last summer -- has this to say:
As you know, I have a healthy, happy fetus kicking around in my uterus right now, distracting me from all sorts of other important things that I should be doing. And as you also know, this was a planned pregnancy – so it’s safe to assume that I would never have considered terminating it, even for one second.
But a lot of that is down to luck, and to my particular combination of circumstances. I’m tremendously lucky to have a loving, supportive partner, who is as excited as I am, and who can’t wait to be a father. I’m also lucky to have loving supportive family and friends nearby, and lucky to have enough money to raise this child into adulthood. She won’t be getting a car for her 16th birthday (although if all goes well, Sandy and I might just be able to afford one for ourselves by then!), but she will have food, clothing, school trips, Christmas presents, and everything else she needs.
So I’m immensely lucky as a parent…but of course my daughter is going to be the recipient of tremendous good fortune as well. Not only the supportive family and friends mentioned above, but she will also have plenty of food and clean drinking water running freely in her home. And not only will she have this clean water available for drinking and cooking, but she will be able to pour litres and litres of it down the drain as she takes a shower or flushes the toilet. In fact, my daughter will be flushing the toilet with cleaner water than most of the world has to drink – and I hope we can raise her to understand what a privilege that is.
She will also have access to some of the best taxpayer-funded education and healthcare in the world, and if she chooses to go to university, she will have both the rights and the means to make that happen.
But what if you’re not so lucky? What if you’re too young, too poor, too sick, to be able to raise a child? What if you already have six kids, or you live in a country where you don’t have access to enough food, water, or medical care? It’s hard work, this parenting thing, and not everyone has the emotional or financial wherewithal to handle it.
Of course adoption is always an option as well. But I’m discovering that pregnancy is also very hard work – there’s nausea, fatigue, a thousand different kinds of discomfort, crazy hormonal surges, and of course the financial cost of replacing your entire wardrobe as your body expands.
Plus you have to take a ton of time off work for doctor’s appointments. My pregnancy is about as low-risk as they come, and still in the past five months I’ve had six medical appointments and four ultrasounds. And more are scheduled for down the line as well.
I urge you to read her whole post -- and then consider that there are people who would force this on teenage girls, victims of rape and impoverished and desperate women. They say that these women should ''face the consequences'' of their actions, as if they are evil fallen women, as if forcing women into being baby incubators is okay, as if an act of sex should be a life sentence.
One last thing: I notice that many of the people who object to a woman's reproductive rights also are against state-funded daycare. Why is that?
Oh and I decided to go with an all-Canadian banner at the top of this post.
ONE MORE WITH FEELING: Many more posts included in the comments but I wanted to extend a special shout-out to Aurelia for her very personal post.
And then there's the women like me, the Bitches with the scarlet A on our chest. The ones no member of the public ever wants to discuss, the women who get a fatal or severely disabling prenatal diagnosis and make the hard decision to end the pregnancy of a very much wanted and loved child. We make that decision for the same reason that people decide to stop life support on the elderly, on the fatally ill, on those suffering in agony. Doctors like to pretend that they can save everyone, but sadly, they have limits too. The Catholic Church even recognizes this and allows live born people to decline extraordinary medical measures and simply die in peace, without tubes and machines in every orifice of their body.
But for some odd reason, this kindness and logical acceptance of a dignified death all stops at the door to the womb. Women like me are supposed to become living coffins waiting for the moment when the wrecked and barely functioning hearts of our babies stop. We are supposed to risk dying from preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome to birth dying micropreemies. We are supposed to risk our future fertility and our future children's lives to give birth to chromosomally damaged ones who be stillborn or die shortly after birth.
I've always said that the only thing worse than having a dead baby is not knowing you have a dead baby. Well, even worse---knowing you have a dying child in your uterus and being forced to sit in limbo wondering which day, which hour, which moment the death knell will sound. The psychological torture of that is incomprehensible.
Only a pregnant woman knows.