The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – Introduction

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

Introduction

In an ideal world, women could choose when their bodies would become pregnant, and every child would result from a fully intended pregnancy. Scientifically, we as a society are getting closer to this ideal through an improved understanding of how the human body works, and through the use of contraception. However these methods are still flawed in a number of ways. Many women do not have access to contraceptives, either because they are too expensive or because they live in a restrictive home where they are not able to receive a prescription for birth control, or purchase condoms. Even if contraceptives are used, mistakes or lack of knowledge can still lead a woman to become pregnant. In addition to this, rape and intimate partner abuse is all too common in our society; women should not be expected to prepare themselves to prevent pregnancy from sexual assault. In addition to this, a partner may refuse to wear a condom. There are countless situations when contraceptives are either impossible to access, or their use is ineffective.
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The Constitutionality of Abortion Policy in New Brunswick – cover

Tia Beaudoin, a recent Political Science Honours graduate at University of New Brunswick, has kindly offered her thesis as a series of guest blog posts on the subject of the abortion policy in NB, with particular regard to the laws that have resulted in abortion being virtually inaccessible for much of the Maritimes.

As it’s very long, I’ve broken it up into multiple posts:

Cover / Works Cited
Introduction
Chapter 1: A Social and Legal History of Abortion in Canada
Chapter 2: New Brunswick: Openly Defying the Canada Health Act
Conclusion

As an editor’s note, I should point out that Dr. Henry Morgentaler died last May, and after his death, the clinic he founded in New Brunswick — which he’d been fighting to force the government to cover the costs of the procedures done there in the courts over the last 11 years — was forced to close for lack of funding, despite the Canada Health Act requiring funding of abortions. The provincial government, thanks to Regulation 84-20, only covers funding for abortions recommended by two doctors as “medically necessary” — a law that makes it nearly impossible to obtain the two doctors’ sign-off during the mandated first twelve weeks of the woman’s pregnancy. Those two facts essentially make it impossible to get medical funding, and the clinic under Morgentaler had mandated to never turn away a woman in need. As a result, it has lost close to $100,000 over the past ten years.

Worse, the lawsuit was dropped in the wake of the ongoing backlash against Regulation 84-20.

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Dr Henry Morgentaler’s Legacy

I hail from New Brunswick originally. I left for university, and by the end of my degree, I had decided to remain. At the time, the government was growing more conservative, and one of their great bugaboos was the number of people moving out — their population was essentially in free-fall.

Granted, the population wasn’t exactly huge to begin with. It had declined from 738,133 in 1996, to 729,498 in 2001 — a loss of 1.2%. It stagnated through 2006 — 729,997. The government started making noises about enticing emigrants, about stabilizing the job market and doing something about its flagging tech sector; there was a big to-do about this decline, to be sure. And the population began to swell again, to 751,171 in 2011.

In late 2013, another population decline — a mere 1000 person shortfall — caused another huge stir, such that the “Progressive” Conservative legislature under leader David Alward lamented the possibility of only seeing his grandchildren through Skype.

In the wake of that first scare, followed by the more recent revelation that outmigration is skyrocketing, it’s no surprise that the conservative New Brunswick political scene voted for the “Medical Services Payment Act”, Regulation 84-20, which had a bomb in it for abortion services. Now, throughout the province, abortions are no longer funded by the government as mandated by Health Canada, unless certified by TWO doctors as being “medically necessary”. How else are you going to swell your numbers except to force women to give birth?

As a result of this abrogation of women’s right to bodily autonomy, the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton — founded by the legendary Dr. Henry Morgentaler himself — is forced to close.

The rules of the clinic were set up such that nobody who needed abortion services would be turned away under any circumstances, and because the government stiffed them on the bills and they took a huge loss last year, they have to close up shop.

Back in 2009, Carl Urquhart, a Conservative MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly, the Canadian equivalent of a congressman) suggested with regard to the population decline that women should be making more babies, a statement he posted on Facebook that he’d later walked back. He was especially chastised for this in light of the province’s growing teenage pregnancy problem.

That’s about as transparent a reasoning as you can get for Conservatives’ anti-choice efforts. It was a refreshing moment of honesty from that party.

And this huge success in the fight to control what people can and cannot do with their reproductive organs comes just shy of a year after Dr. Henry Morgentaler — founder of the clinic — died of a heart attack. Morgentaler’s efforts practically single-handedly won the fight for safe, legal abortion nation-wide in 1988 with his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, where they overturned the whole of the Canadian abortion law as unconstitutional. The man was a lion for women’s rights, human rights, and reproductive freedom. And his legacy is being rent before our eyes.

Women can still theoretically get abortions in hospitals — providing they get two doctors to sign off on the “medically necessary” waiver — but as this map shows, access to abortion didn’t come with its newfound legality. When your government tightly controls the demand for babies, you can force the supply by restricting access to any choice but becoming a baby-factory.

You might understandably make the mistake that the “demand” is actually for abortions, but then you’d be misunderstanding the directionality of these laws. In the fight for women’s bodily autonomy, the uterus is actually the supply, and the government apparently gets to make the demands.

For what it’s worth, here’s the state of the struggle for abortion rights through Canada. You’ll note that almost no place in Canada actually has access to an abortion clinic or hospital within a reasonable travel time, and that the gestation limits are terribly restrictive in a number of cases — some as low as 12 weeks, like New Brunswick. Many provinces have absolutely no access to abortions, medical or otherwise.

This fight is hardly won, despite it being unconstitutional to restrict abortions, and despite it being both legal and defined explicitly by Health Canada.

If only this was a real Canadian Heritage Moment

It’s high-enough quality that it should be. I wonder if Canada will ever commission new ones, or if we’ll just keep seeing the Winnie-The-Pooh one over and over again. Not that I should complain, since there’s a few that are about women’s suffrage and the systemic repression of women in education that still also get circulation. But still — we should celebrate our more recent human rights victories too, right?

Skepticon: Not my Canadian pride!

Debbie Goddard fired a shot across Canada’s bow, viciously savaging us during her talk at Skepticon where she related her deconversion. She said — I am horrified to even have to type this; someone fetch my couch! — that we’re “not really foreign.”

More specifically, she related her experience visiting Oslo, where she was in “for the first time in a really foreign country, not like Canada”.

The GALL. The unmitigated NERVE!!! What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a Canadian! I cannot stand for this. No Canadian could. Now, on behalf of all of Canada, I am forced to apologize!

Wait, no, not apologize. Explain. Prepare yourselves, I’m about to Cansplain all over this.
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River City Ransom: Underground kickstarter

Holy shitting fuck, you guys have to see this. There’s a kickstarter by some indie devs by the name of Conatus Creative, with a not insignificant amount of Canadian developers, has the official license for an honest-to-goodness sequel to the king of 8-bit fighters, River City Ransom.

Their goal is met for Apple, Linux and Windows development, but they have flex goals for consoles. And you could get your name in the game — or your likeness, or your favorite quote — by funding at one of their higher tiers.

I totally wish I had the dosh to throw at this right now. I cannot wait to see this game. The Scott Pilgrim homage was good, but it wasn’t quite all I was hoping a modern RCR would be. This, on the other hand, would be 24 hour gameathon fodder.

(If you don’t know what the original was, here’s a great review, proving the vlogger, PixellatedMemories, eerily prescient by the end.)

Hat tip to David Rolfe who knew me well enough to know this was right up my alley.

Michael Enright: Atheists, you’re not being silenced, so stop talking about it!

A reader forwarded me this via email as a sort of quick-bloggy bit of material, I suspect at least in part to get me blog just to prove I’m still alive. So, here we are!

Michael Enright, of CBC’s venerable The Sunday Edition, has decided to take on one group that’s really overreaching, that’s already gotten all the attention it deserves, that’s been given all the deference it could want and yet still keeps grasping for more: atheists. Seriously, can you think of another group that’s already won all its campaigns to be allowed to exist in peace and yet keeps, you know, talking about how horrible it is to be them, to have to play second-fiddle to all the overprivileged people in our society? Nope, none, just atheists!

He starts out by electing Richard Dawkins as our pope.

If the atheists of the world could ever organize themselves into a non-religious church, their first Pope would undoubtedly be Richard Dawkins.

Yeah, off to a GREAT start.
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Sesame Street: Sons Of Poetry

I have never seen Sons of Anarchy but if it’s anything like Sesame Street’s offering, I’ll watch it all.

I love moo.

Hey, did I ever tell you that there was about one sketch per episode of Sesame Street that was specifically made for Canada, to fulfill the “Canadian content” prerequisite on some stations? We also got a spinoff called Sesame Park, with a polar bear named Basil.

Tell Canadian senators not to pass “Pope Day” bill!

Theobromine of CFI Canada, regular commenter here and elsewhere on FtB, passed along this change.org petition asking the Canadian government to reconsider the private member bill which has passed the House of Commons on its third reading, and is now apparently in the Senate. The bill would honour Pope John Paul II, who attempted to intervene with Chretien and gay marriage, who spent his 25 years as pope furthering the Catholic causes of undermining human rights worldwide, who misspent those same 25 years doing absolutely zero for the children being abused under his watch, with a designated day of celebration in his name.

Bill C-266 is a Private Member’s Bill, sponsored by Wladyslaw Lizon (Mississauga East—Cooksville). It recently passed third reading in the House of Commons, and is currently before the Senate (more information here).

By signing this petition to oppose Bill C-266, you are showing your commitment to the principles of human rights for all, regardless of religion, sexual orientation, and gender. An email will be sent to Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella, and James Cowan, leader of the opposition in the Senate. We encourage you to contact other members of the Senate, by phone, email, or post – contact information is here.

You can find a record of how MPs voted on this bill here.   We encourage you to thank your MP for voting “NAY” or to protest your MP’s “YEA” vote; MPs’ contact information is here.

To:
Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate
Honourable James S. Cowan, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate
Honourable James S. Cowan, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

The designation of a day for Canada to officially recognize Pope John Paul II is inconsistent with the goals and values established and promoted by the Government of Canada.
While John Paul II was a charismatic figure, his record as leader of the Catholic Church is full of scandal and poor management. Barbara Blaine, head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) group, points out, “In more than 25 years as the most powerful religious figure on the planet, John Paul II did almost nothing to safeguard kids.”
Pope John Paul vigorously supported the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception, abortion and homosexuality. He personally intervened to advise Jean Chretien against introducing legislation to allow same-sex marriage. His edicts against condom use undermined worldwide public health efforts to control the spread of AIDS.
For these reasons, I ask you to refuse to pass Bill C-266, the bill that would that establish April 2nd as Pope John Paul II Day in Canada.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

I can’t stress enough how odious and antithetical to the causes of humanitarianism and charity and every positive trait the worldwide community knows of Canada as a country. Honouring the past Pope would undermine everything we claim to hold dear as Canadian citizens. Go vote. I’m doing so, as a genuinely concerned Canadian citizen who dearly wants my nation to uphold my values, even if I’m not living in the country any more.

I signed the following:

Everything Pope John Paul II stood for is antithetical to Canadian values. His views on so-called moral issues like abortion, homosexuality and AIDS were anti-science, anti-reality, and anathema to more enlightened views on how society should interact ethically. I see no reason, except as a sop to religious sentiments, why a “Pope Day” would in any way be a good fit for Canada or for Canadians. I think honouring people for their stances against basic human rights and civil liberties is blinkered, and the MPs who voted for this should be ashamed of themselves.