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.

David Silverman’s “Darwin Was Wrong” Moment

Surely New Scientist’s terrible choice in creating the “Darwin Was Wrong” cover happened not so long ago that the skeptical community has forgotten the sturm und drang that rightly came after it. And yet, here we are.

To explain: the science rag’s cover was designed to tease an article wherein the phylogenetic “tree” shape is explained to be less accurate than the more web-like structure with speciation and cross-pollination that we now understand to be the case today. So, Darwin was wrong, yes — but he was not wrong about evolution. And yet to this day, you will find creationists who use that misleading cover to suggest that evolution did not happen, therefore God. Despite being technically correct, the messaging was so poor as to cause splash damage, and atheists and skeptics were pretty mad despite the right-on-a-technicality nature of the problem.

So it’s honestly surprising to me that so many people are so bent out of shape over David Silverman’s poor messaging very recently at CPAC — no, not the people who are upset that what he said caused splash damage to women and was worth criticizing. I mean, the people who are bent out of shape over the CRITICISMS of such.
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Last-second sanity from Texas on abortion restriction law!

Well this is some heartening news.

Less than 24 hours before new abortion regulations were set to take effect in Texas, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Monday blocked implementation of one provision challenged by abortion providers and partially blocked a second provision, ruling that they could place an undue burden on women and are therefore unconstitutional.

In his opinion, Yeakel wrote that a provision of House Bill 2 that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility “places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her.”

Yeah, considering most abortion doctors have to come in from out of state, no kidding it’s an undue burden on women. But that’s how the religious want it — rights for clumps of cells who could potentially become religious, and no rights for these clumps of cells’ incubators.

Nice that something that’s clearly unconstitutional is getting slapped down as such.

Update: Well never mind then. A conservative judge just reinstated the unconstitutional crap and now over a dozen facilities will have to close.

Vintage 90s anti-“socialism” healthcare fearmongering

Any of this sound familiar? There sure is a lot of pushback against everyone getting healthcare in your country for some strange reason. And it seems to be coming from the same anti-humanistic religious sources.

Surely Jesus would be against healing the sick without first making a profit, amirite? The only truly American health care rationing is the kind that makes sure you can only get health care if you can pay out of pocket!

Found by Everything Is Terrible.

Canadian abortion rights doctor Morgentaler dead at 90

Doctor Henlek “Henry” Morgentaler, Polish-born Canadian immigrant, has died of a heart attack on May 29th, 2013. He was a Nazi prison camp survivor, and became a physician and family planning doctor in Montreal in 1955. He presented a brief to the House of Commons in 1967 about illegal abortions, arguing that women had the right to safe, legal ones. He eventually began performing abortions in 1968. He was physically assaulted and jailed in Canada numerous times for his advocacy, but ultimately vindicated by society.
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Canadian birth control recall — for placebos instead of real pills

Here’s one of those screw-ups whose impact would be significantly dampened if it wasn’t covered up by the drug corps responsible. Users of Alysena-28, by Canadian drug company Apotex, should check their pills’ batch number.

Apotex says one batch of the Alysena-28 may contain two weeks of placebo sugar pills instead of one, adding the error can reduce the effectiveness of the pills and raises the possibility of unplanned pregnancy.

The company informed wholesalers and retailers Friday, but did not inform women who are taking the pill.

The code on the recalled packages is LF01899A. The bad packages were distributed in all provinces except Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Emphasis mine.
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Giving my very lifeblood for skepticism at #SkepTech

Oh man, SkepTech was a blast this weekend. Maybe a bit TOO jam-packed with epicness, though; such that I ended up missing several panels just getting food or, say, giving blood.

Yesterday I gave blood for the first time ever. It’s something I’ve always meant to do, but every time there was a blood drive right there in my face to remind me, I had been sick recently, or had just gotten a tattoo retouch done, so I couldn’t. But this time, at SkepTech, I had the opportunity I’d been waiting for, so I took it.

But it was also called to my attention that there were many at the convention who could not, nor could ever, under the current regulations.

(Potential trigger warnings for pictures of my blood)
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Has a grad student invented the instant wound cure?

If this is true — and I have to admit more than a little skepticism about this, given the just-so story near the end — it could be the single biggest medical breakthrough in decades. You know how in Mass Effect, characters can take life-threatening damage and after one little button-press, they’re right back in the fight? Bullet wounds, rockets, whatever — just slap on your medi-gel dispenser button and your armor seals up the wound and lets you keep fighting.

A grad student has supposedly taken that Mass Effect equivalent of a magic healing potion, Medi-Gel, and turned it into a reality.

It is a synthetic version of the extracellular matrix (ECM) that holds our cells together and tells them what to do in the event of a bleeding injury, instructing them to get clotting. It also binds together with the damaged ECM cells of the patient, working with them to form a seal over the area of the wound.

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IQ test exposes the myth that is ‘g’

The idea that there’s a single scalar value that measures anything like “general intelligence” (“g”), commonly known as “IQ” or “intelligence quotient”, has been pretty much blown out of the water by this comprehensive study by the University of Western Ontario’s Brain and Mind Institute.

Our attempt to answer [the question of how to quantify relative intelligence] dates back more than five years, when Roger [Highfield] encountered work that I had conducted with Adrian [Hampshire] at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge on a reliable way to carry out cognitive tests online so we could monitor rehabilitation after brain injury, the effect of smart drug trials and so on.

Roger wondered if we could use this test to carry out a mass intelligence test. Drawing on earlier data from brain scans, Adrian and I came up with a series of tests which we knew would trigger activity in as much of the brain’s anatomy as possible, combining the fewest tasks to cover the broadest range of cognitive skills.

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Getting a Mirena IUD

Jodi Thibeault is a skeptic, a feminist, an atheist, and most importantly, a human being. Her vocation is ass-kickery; her hobby is vineyard management.

Yesterday I live tweeted about my experience getting an IUD placed inside my uterus. In case you missed it or aren’t following me I’m putting all of the tweets here plus some extra details and info.

I have been having quite a few problems with birth control in the last year, each kind not working out for one reason or another. Jason and I aren’t interested in having children but not quite so sure we want to take the next permanent step. So we’ve opted to push that decision back until I’m 30 years old with a grace period of 5 years in case at 30 we’re still thinking ‘I really just don’t know.’ So now I have an IUD which hopefully will work well and I can keep it for the 5 years it’s meant for.

The website for the IUD describes it as thus:

What is MIRENA®?

MIRENA® is an intrauterine system which prevents pregnancy by slowly releasing small amounts of a synthetic sex hormone known as levonorgestrel into the uterus. “Intrauterine” means within the uterus.

Levonorgestrel is a hormone commonly used in combination with oral contraceptives (the “Pill”) and is similar to progesterone, a sex hormone produced naturally by the body.

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