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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UN classifies lack of abortion access as a form of torture

PolicyMic reports:

Last year, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Reproductive Rights, Anand Grover, broke major ground by demanding the removal, without delay, of all barriers with regard to reproductive access globally, as well as granted access to contraception. In his report, Grover declared denial of access to abortion as discriminatory. Coupled with the new report from the Special Rapporteur on Torture, women’s rights activists worldwide are cheering.

In his report, Méndez, too, holds that denial of reproductive justice is discrimination on the basis of gender and denial of that right can cause “tremendous and lasting physical and emotional suffering” to women. According to the Special Rapporteur’s report, such violations include:

Abusive treatment and humiliation in institutional settings; involuntary sterilization; denial of legally available health services such as abortion and post-abortion care; forced abortions and sterilizations; female genital mutilation; violations of medical secrecy and confidentiality in health-care settings, such as denunciations of women by medical personnel when evidence of illegal abortion is found; and the practice of attempting to obtain confessions as a condition of potentially life-saving medical treatment after abortion.

I absolutely agree that every aspect condemned as torture would, if done to a man under apposite circumstances, count as torture — as cruel and unusual punishment, as discriminatory. That it takes the United Nations to declare it such suggests to me that people do not realize this fact; that people do not realize this fact suggests further that the people claiming “patriarchy is a lie” are incapable of seeing torture of women as actual torture, because the evidence is right there in their faces that these torturous circumstances exist only for and disadvantage only women, and that men are using the fact of women’s ability to become pregnant to control them utterly.

Does this declaration mean we can frog-march people attempting to restrict abortion access in, say, Texas and elsewhere, off to The Hague? A guy can dream…

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.

Lila Rose, anti-abortionist, tries to steal Malala Yousafzai’s activist cred

If you ever decide to unironically compare yourself to a civil rights activist who has risked everything and (almost) lost it all while fighting for, say, a woman’s right to be educated, and your cause is as patently uncivil as preventing women from choosing what to do with their bodies, expect to get laughed at and mocked. A lot.

Especially the moreso when the person you’re comparing yourself to got shot in the head for wanting the right to intellectual autonomy, with a bullet grazing her brain and coming within millimetres of killing her, and you’ve never seen real danger in your entire goddamn life and yet you’re fighting for a cluster of cells less than a millimetre across to have more rights over a woman’s bodily autonomy than the woman herself. All because you did a guerilla video campaign for Live Action, undercutting Planned Parenthood, which is as feminist an organization as has ever gotten national traction. Slow fucking clap.

I bet she didn’t ever say “Yousafzai” because she doesn’t know how. I bet, in fact, she knows almost nothing about Malala Yousafzai or her fight, except what someone told her would make good speech fodder.

Found at Right Wing Watch.

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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Thoughts on Savita

Savita Halappanavar, an Indian woman living in Ireland, was refused an abortion during a complicated miscarriage at 17 weeks because the fetus — unviable though it was — still had a heartbeat. When abortion was the only recourse to save the mother’s life, the doctors refused, telling her and her husband “this is a Catholic country”. The abortion was finally performed after the baby died two whole days later, but it was too late for Savita. As a direct result of that delay, she died of septicemia. She would have survived if the pregnancy had been terminated at the first sign of complication. Hell, she could have been saved if doctors had simply prioritized the heartbeat of the viable human being over the unviable one.

People around these parts have vented their frustrations already. Brianne reinforces the fact that atheism intersects reproductive rights (and thus human rights — reproductive freedom is not only a feminist ideal, but a human rights one!). Ophelia lays the blame for the needless death squarely at the feet of Catholicism. Zinnia decries the theocratic dystopian nightmare the country has evidently become. Avicenna wonders why the country is so faithful despite the innumerable Catholic pedophilia and abuse scandals in the country. Dana points out that the Catholics ignored one entity with a heartbeat in favour of another, for no ready reason. But Stephanie nails that reason — the doctors, being good Catholics, let Savita die because she was failing at her one duty: making babies.

I barely have anything I can add to this collective howl of outrage except, maybe, a bitter and jaded sigh. And a request of adherents.

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United Nations: “Access to contraception is a human right”

Via Think Progress and CBS, the UN has explicitly called family planning a human right for the first time.

“Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development,” Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the fund, said in a written statement. “Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labor-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”

The report effectively declares that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights.

This comes hot on the heels of a scientific study of the affects of denying abortion. As it turns out, the longitudinal study found that women who are denied abortions are three times more likely to end up in poverty two years later, and that there are no mental health consequences associated with having an abortion as compared to carrying a baby to term.
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Republicans’ Greatest Hits: The Rape Album

While Republicans point the fingers at all sorts of ridiculous scapegoats for Mittens’ crushing defeat (303/332? to 206, depending on Florida’s outcome!), from Hurricane Sandy, to Chris Christie, to Black Panther voter intimidation, to the oncoming End Times, there’s a few very real reasons Obama won. One of those reasons is Republicans’ war on women.

Protecting blastocysts from evil murderous doctors is surely a greater priority than protecting women’s bodily autonomy and self-direction. Surely bodies have ways of shutting down legitimate rape pregnancies (like a uterine on-off switch?), don’t they? And if they don’t, that’s because God wants you to to have those babies. Never mind that God might have allowed humans to develop contraception and abortion in the first place so we could carry out his will without it seeming supernatural. If we like it, God did it; if we don’t, it’s humans being sinful. If rape happens, that’s God’s will, but the rapist is a sinner for doing God’s will. Legitimate medical procedures to protect a woman’s bodily autonomy are murder, but being forced by the government to carry a rape baby to term? Well that’s just a gift from God — a consolation prize. Sorry about your rape, here’s nine months of agony and eighteen years of financial and emotional dependence.

The contortions you have to go through to make sense of this worldview are simply mind-boggling. These people all need to be drummed out of office. Every last one of them. None of ‘em are fit to serve me french fries, much less manipulate the levers of power.

Via The David Pakman Show, whom I’d never heard of before I saw this video.

Paul Ryan’s new Old Spice ad

I’m doing an overnight tonight for work. Yes, tonight. Saturday night into Sunday morning. When I should be adjusting the time on my various clocks and catching up on sleep. Lucky me.

So, click this image to behold what a Paul Ryan Old Spice ad might look like. Via the Mansplaining Ryan tumblr.

"Hello, ladies. Look at your abortion rights. Now, look at me. Look back at your abortion rights. Your abortion rights are now beans. Look down. Now I'm Jack Kennedy.

Ryan Spice turns your abortion rights into a hill of beans. I’m on a horse.

It’d be funny if it weren’t so true.