Anti-abortion or anti-contraception: pick one

One of my favourite bits of trivia about Christianity specifically is that the teachings attributed to Jesus say far more against hypocrisy than they do about sex. This, of course, does not seem to faze his ‘followers’ whose anti-sex crusade seems to be taking notes directly from Orwell (who are we kidding? They’ve never read Orwell). While the weird pre-occupation of the religious with sex is well-understood, this does not seem to dissuade the throngs of pious outrage from trying to interfere every time someone drops trou.

While we here in the north agonize with our southern cousins over the disgraceful erosion of that most sacred American ideal – the separation of church from state – a little known fact is that Canada has its own religious right that is intentionally mimicking the tactics of the “Moral Majority”. A bit of background before I launch into this news tidbit. More than a decade following the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade that found anti-abortion laws unconstitutional in the USA, Canada’s Supreme Court made its own finding that no laws could be passed against abortion in Canada the current abortion laws were similarly illegal (thanks to ibis3 for the correction). While Roe v. Wade was couched in the right of privacy enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment, Canada’s court was a bit more explicit. It was ruled that anti-abortion laws violated the security of the person, as laid out in our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Most of this legalese is unimportant, particularly to those that don’t live in the USA or Canada, but bear with me.

Abortion has been, since then, a relative non-issue in Canada. Nobody has really brought a substantive case against abortion rights, and we don’t have nutjobs running doctors out of town (at least not any that make the news – if I’m wrong someone please tell me). However, the religious right – emboldened by a recently-elected majority government – have decided that if it’s fixed, break it:

The Conservative government has been apathetic about abortion and should be more moderate, Conservative MP Brad Trost says. On Wednesday, he said the government’s decision to provide funding to the International Planned Parenthood Federation for sex education and contraception programs has reopened the abortion debate. The Saskatchewan MP is opposed to abortion and opposes funding for Planned Parenthood because the group provides abortions where the service is legal. Speaking to CBC’s Evan Solomon, host ofPower & Politics, Trost said the government should “take a position that’s at least moderate, rather than the extreme left position that we’re taking.”

I’d like to enter a ‘moderate’ proposal to the Hon. Mr. Trost: how about men aren’t allowed to talk about abortion anymore? Whether you’re against it, or you’re for it, why don’t the penis-owners on both sides of the argument just sit it out and let the ladies chat? Of course this proposal will never fly with the anti-choice crowd (I intentionally avoid the also-Orwellian term “pro-life” for reasons I will make clear shortly), because they know that without the patriarchy flapping their gums, they will be represented by a woefully small number of women who will jump the fence as soon as they have to make their own choice.

So Mr. Trost has planted his flag firmly in the territory of “anti-abortion”. Fair game to him. There are many of those who view each abortion as a tragedy. I am not among those many – I am perfectly at easy with being “pro-abortion”, having been sufficiently convinced that a child is better off in a family that wants it rather than one presented with a “whoops, shit” situation.* There is a slight problem with his position, though, aside from the gall it takes to tell women what they are and are not allowed to do with their reproductive organs. You see, Mr. Trost, there is an organization out there that is seriously committed – far more so than you – to reducing the number of abortions worldwide. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called Planned Parenthood:

Canadian funding for contraception programs will help cut the number of abortions in developing countries, a spokesman for International Planned Parenthood said Thursday. The International Planned Parenthood Federation is hitting back at a Conservative MP who’s urging the government to cut the group’s funding, pointing to new research that shows cutting contraception programs leads to more abortions.


A spokesman for International Planned Parenthood said research shows how much those programs are needed. “If Brad Trost’s position were taken up and that funding was removed entirely, and those family planning programs had to be scrapped, then that leaves women very vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy,” Paul Bell said. “All the research shows that, regardless of the situation in a country, a woman, if she finds herself in a position where she needs an abortion, she will have an abortion, whether it’s safe or unsafe.”

Folks like the Hon. Mr. Trost seem to forget that “just keep your damn legs closed” is often not an option in the places that need Planned Parenthood’s services the most. Even if it were an option, it’s not a very reliable one. What has been demonstrated to work is empowering women (and their partners) to make informed choices about sex and making available the resources the allow sex to be safe. You may not like it. The thought of people just… fucking… whoever they want… with the lights on, no less… repulsive, I know. It’s a bitter pill to swallow (cue faint chuckling), but it is what works to reduce abortion rates.

So, Mr. Trost and the rest of his god-bothering constituents must decide: are they more grossed out by people enjoying sex than they are morally opposed to what they themselves characterize as child murder? Funding Planned Parenthood programs has measured success in reducing abortion rates in the countries they serve – defunding them would increase the number of abortions seen in those countries. Not only would the numbers increase, but so would the number of infections, other morbidity, and mortality associated with illicit abortions (which flies directly in the face of the label “pro-life” – told you I’d get there). Can the anti-choice crowd recognize the hypocrisy inherent in their own position, or will they continue to stand athwart their widening chasm of self-contradiction until they are swallowed whole by it?

Anyone feel like taking bets?

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*I am aware of the fact that many abortions are conducted for reasons other than simply not wanting the child – in many cases there are serious risks to maternal and fetal health. However, even if all abortions were done solely for the sake of convenience (which is the anti-choice doggerel), I am resolute in my position.


  1. kennypo65 says

    I’ve been saying that very thing for years. I’m a guy, I can’t get pregnant. Because I will never have to face that choice, who cares what my opinion is.

  2. Crommunist says

    I’m sure women appreciate men having their backs, rather than ostentatiously staying out of the fight. That being said, in the interest of fairness if the men on the anti- side shut up, I’ll be happy to as well. As long as they keep butting in, then I’m going to continue tearing them new assholes… with no epidural.

  3. says

    I think you hit on an excellent point that the anti-abortionists are not willing to recognize: we all want fewer abortions. While I am a staunch believer in the right to abortion, I certainly don’t think it’s the ideal form of birth control. We all win when unwanted pregnancies are avoided in the first place. When I hear simultaneous arguments to criminalize abortions and to restrict access to birth control, I always get “Every Sperm Is Sacred” stuck in my head. And that’s just silly.

    I’m sad to see Canada backsliding on this issue.

  4. Retired Prodigy Bill says

    I read Sam Harris’s “Lying” recently, and it brought up something I’ve seen before and still don’t understand: medical decisions for women (who are not incapacitated) being made by men. Doctors telling husbands the real diagnosis and lying to the woman. I’ve seen other stories of, in the 1980s, a husbands permission being “needed” to perform a hysterectomy. (And not an emergency procedure where the woman was not conscious or lucid.)

    I don’t want my medical decisions being made by anyone except me, and as much as I fantasize about the forced sterilization of individuals I know who are jerks and/or incompetent, to protect my own rights I support the rights of everyone else.

    I currently live in one of the most benighted regions of North America: Mississippi. Highest teen pregnancy rates, highest teen STD rates, abstinence only education, and the person responsible for the abstinence only curriculum at the state capital blames teen pregnancies on “rock and roll and rap music.”

    Next month a plebiscite will amend the state constitution to define “person” as sperm meets egg. Never mind that, as far as I know, there is no way of determining that sperm has met egg until the zygote attaches. That the use of various forms of birth control (the pill, morning after pill and IUDs) would then have to be seen as instruments of homicide. That any miscarriage would, in equity, have to be investigated as an unintended death. Never mind the torts that could arise from pregnant women drinking or smoking. Never mind forcing victims of rape, including incest, to carry children to term. Forcing women to carry to term babies that will live only a short while, or will live with long term quality of life disabilities. Or that doctors can (and may legally be required) to veto any procedure that might be necessary to a pregnant woman’s life if it jeopardizes a zygote or fetus.

    Beware the camel putting his nose in the tent, Canada. Your current abortion ruling isn’t radical or left wing, it is sensible. Fight for it.

  5. says

    Just a couple of corrections:

    * The Supreme Court didn’t rule that there could be no legislation concerning abortion at all, only that the law in place at that time was too onerous and failed to protect a woman’s right to security of person. There were a couple of attempts to pass a new abortion law following the SC decision, but they failed. No government since has wanted to construct a new law, since it would be extremely controversial, even within the parties themselves–in Canada the forced-birthers and the pro-choicers are not split down party lines.

    * There have been attacks on abortion doctors in Canada, mostly in the 80s and 90s. The Morgentaler Clinic in Toronto was firebombed in 1992.

  6. says

    You beat me to it.

    One other big issue in canada is access to abortion, which is typically limited to major cities. Also, as health is a provincial matter, I’m not sure if every province covers it.

  7. says

    I do believe every province covers it as long as procedure is done in a hospital, and most provinces cover abortions done in clinics as well. As you say, access can be a real problem in rural and northern areas (as well as PEI). There’s also a problem finding doctors who can perform late-term abortions. I believe that Canadian women are sometimes? often? sent to the States for 3rd trimester abortions. Which would be more of a problem now that Dr. Tiller isn’t with us anymore.

  8. says

    Of course, I mean that women seeking late-term abortions are sometimes/often sent to the States to get the procedure, not that women often get late-term abortions. In fact, even though there are no laws in Canada about when a legal abortion can be obtained, nearly all abortions are performed in the first trimester. In other words, when a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy she usually wants to do it soon after finding out she’s pregnant. She doesn’t wait around for seven months and then get off her ass before getting to a doctor.* Just in case any of you people who support legislating term limits are hanging around.

    *Not that it would be anybody’s business but hers, no matter how long she waits or what her reasons are

  9. Crommunist says

    Ah, the comments section, in which my ignorance on any number of topics is laid bare. I love every minute of it. You folks make me smarter.

  10. cassmorrison says

    I have to ask if access in Canada for abortions are any different than access for other medical procedures. I live in a small town and know my local access is horrible but I will be referred to the nearest large center for a procedure.

    As for late term abortions; what does that mean to you? Doctors here seem willing enough to lcoally schedule a c-section or induce labour if the fetus is developed enough. In the case of an emergency, doctors will emergency transport the women to a hospital in a larger center that can give care.

    The hypocrisy of people like Trost is he’s not willing to provide resources to avoid pregnancies nor is he willing to have his health care dictated by public opinion. Even if you voted Conservative it is as likely to be for economic policy (with metrics and auditing) as it is to mandate some ridiculous religious agenda.

  11. Retired Prodigy Bill says

    I sometimes think the sharpest divide between theists and atheists isn’t about the existence of gods, but about embracing or fearing the concept that there is always something new to know, some way to improve our understanding.

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    Canadian abortion providers who have been shot at or stabbed (none fatally) include Dr. Garson Romalis (Vancouver, 1994), Dr. Hugh Short (Ontario, 1995), and Dr. Jack Fainman (Manitoba, 1997).

    Throughout the ’90s, Canadian anti-choicers ran a campaign to turn “Remembrance Day” (intended as a commemoration of WWI veterans and victims, observed now in the US as Veterans Day) into a fetus-fetish holiday, marked by terrorism against abortion providers.

  13. Crommunist says

    As far as I understand in both the USA and Canada, abortions after the second trimester are only possible if there is an imminent threat to the life of the woman. These kinds of circumstances are so rare as to make it legitimate to exclude them from the debate. It would be a very strange set of affairs indeed to see someone go through 7 months of pregnancy and then decide to want to abort. I have friends who are, or have recently been pregnant. They didn’t enjoy it so much.

  14. Beauzeaux says

    The problem with abortion being illegal/unavailable is that women will continue to have abortions — dangerous, back-alley abortions.
    I had an illegal abortion in the early sixties. A middle-aged Black lady in south-central Los Angeles, bless her, initiated the process. Over the next couple of days, the pregnancy terminated. I was lucky. She knew what she was doing.

    But I promise you, I would have taken any risk to rid myself of this unwanted pregnancy. It wasn’t a case of oh-dear-an-unplanned-bundle-from heaven. No. Not even close. I guess the anti-abortion crowd would call it a termination of convenience. (I was otherwise young and healthy.) This is why I support abortion rights unconditionally. It is NONE OF MY BUSINESS why a woman wants an abortion. And it’s nobody else’s business either.
    Abortions will happen. The only question is whether they’ll be safe and legal or dangerous and illegal.

  15. says

    Technically, there is no such mandate in Canada. Late-term abortions are not restricted to “therapeutic” ones. Doctors act within the ethical guidelines set out by regulatory bodies. If a doctor deems it to be in the best interest of their patient, that’s all that matters, afaik. There’s no arbitrary law or regulation that prohibits it. That being said, if a woman is carrying far into a pregnancy, it’s most likely a wanted pregnancy and she’s having an abortion for therapeutic reasons. The thing is, that’s between her and her doctor, not the criminal justice system to judge.

  16. fastlane says

    I saw this on a shirt that I need to get…

    “If the fetus you are defending turns out to be gay, will you still fight for their rights?”

    Of course, the right wing nutters 1) don’t want anything to do with actually supporting them after they’re born, and 2) think that homo sex is a choice, so they won’t rethink their positions for even a second. *sigh*

  17. Crommunist says

    Wow. Thank you for sharing your story here.

    That’s the most galling piece about the abortion debate – it’s treated by many (including, it seems, by me) as a political or ideological issue, when it really isn’t. It’s a health issue. Health issues are private and profoundly meaningful, and should not be distracted by demagoguery. Thanks for reminding me of this.

  18. says

    I would guess access is about the same for any procedure regularly carried out in a hospital setting. The thing is, from what I understand, first trimester abortions (the most common ones) can easily be safely performed in out-patient clinics. It would be great if we can get more trained doctors to do the procedure in clinics in rural areas.

    A c-section or induced labour is generally meant to result in a live birth. A late-term abortion is not (though I believe the actual medical procedures available are pretty much the same at a late stage of foetal development).

    Standard disclaimer: I have no medical education or training and do not work in the health field.

  19. lem says

    I worked for a hospital that provided abortions in Ontario for several years. While there weren’t doctors being run out of town or explicitly threatened with violence, picketers routinely showed up outside the hospital and at the home of the doctor who performed the procedures. This environment made it very difficult to find physicians to fill in when our doc was on vacation, and although our doc was well into his 70s when I left there, no one was stepping up to fill his shoes when he eventually retires (or, as was frequently joked, died with some unfortunate woman in stirrups in front of him). This particular hospital was serving a geographically vast area, and we already frequently had to refer people to hospitals in larger cities, I don’t know what will happen to all those women when he’s no longer there.

  20. Tisha Irwin says

    That’s why “pro-life” is such a misnomer for these people. They value an innocent fetus’s “life” far more than they value a baby who’s been born to a desperately poor woman, or the sinful slut who got herself pregnant, or a doctor’s, or a criminal’s …

  21. ema says

    The technical skill set needed for D&X is different than the one for NSVDs or C/Ss. And like with any surgical procedure, you need at least a few hundred procedures under your belt to be proficient. Because there just aren’t that many patients in need of D&Xs, performing the procedure is considered a specialist skill even among Ob/Gyns.

  22. Thylacine says

    My grandmother gave herself an abortion with a knitting needle. It was during the war and there was no money to feed another mouth. She very nearly died of septicaemia.
    It is offensive that in 2011 women are still being forced into this type of situation in some places rather than having access to safe medical care and the right to make autonomous decisions regarding their own bodies.
    Abortion [I am pretty sure you mean the anti-choice movement? – Crommunist] is a form of slut shaming and control of female sexuality, nothing else. If this were not true, anti abortionists would be putting their money into researching the very high rate of natural abortions that occur before a woman has any indication she is pregnant. but no, I don’t see any of them interested in that.

  23. Crommunist says

    It certainly seems to spring exclusively from a mindset that women should not be in control of their own bodies. Yes, it is draped in the “defense of lil’ innocent babbys” disguise, but the selective outrage over issues, and the number of things that they don’t seem to care about does indeed belie their stated interests.

  24. Crommunist says

    Aha! I was wondering if you were going to survive the transition to the new site.

    Ray Comfort is the worst kind of liar – the kind who uses recycled arguments after he’s already admitted that they are invalid. I have nothing but contempt for him and his pretensions at relevance, regardless of what medium he chooses to express them in. 180 is probably the most offensive thing he’s ever produced, but not by much. It’s a half-hour Godwin, designed to compare the termination of a pregnancy with the wholesale slaughter of millions of people. The fact that he exploits the ignorance of people who clearly haven’t thought much about the issue is not persuasive to me, and I’m disappointed that you were taken in by it. I honestly hoped you were smarter than that.

    The fact that you would call this dreck your favourite movie suggests either incredibly bad taste in film, or that you simply haven’t seen any good movies. Do yourself a favour – watch “The Last Temptation of Christ“. Brilliant film that explores the life of Christ from a non-canonical perspective. Willem Dafoe is his usual transcendent self in it.

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