Ottawa Columnist Argues for Forced Sterilization

From Dr. Gifford-Jones of the Ottawa Sun: Should women who deliver FAS children be sterilized?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: No no no no NO what the fuck is wrong with people.

Seriously, Canada. First there was the story about medical students performing pelvic exams on unconscious women without consent – and weeks later, I’m still shocked and horrified at that – and now this? I used to think we had a pretty good track record when it came to women’s bodily autonomy and reproductive rights. And granted, I’m not at all familiar with the Ottawa Sun, but judging by its name and the fact that it looks strikingly similar to the Toronto Sun (a newspaper whose front page headline a few days ago announced that Tiger Woods has “no balls” – stay classy, Toronto Sun) I’m guessing that it’s not the most respectable publication. Nevertheless, the fact that something like this could be published at all – and in the “health and fitness” section, no less – is sickening.

I’m not going to argue that alcohol consumption can’t cause complications in a pregnancy, although, as Lisa Wade of Sociological Images points out, the risk of Fetal Alcohol Symdrone is a lot lower than most of us are led to believe, and is influenced by a number of factors, including malnutrition, poverty and even genetics. Women who are most liklely to deliver FAS babies, therefore, are women who have a very poor quality of life, and whose alcohol addiction is so severe that they cannot stop drinking heavily for even nine months. These women need help; instead, Dr. Gifford-Jones of the Ottawa Sun believes they should be forcibly sterilized. Here I thought we needed to address the socioeconomic factors behind issues like poverty and addiction; apparently all we really have to do is blame (and punish) the women who are most affected!

I guess my feeble lady-brain has been so clouded with feminist ideology that I forgot that women’s bodies are public property, and that some of us don’t deserve reproductive choice. It’s no coincidence that those women, according to Gifford-Jones, are mostly poor First Nations and Inuit women (who have higher rates of alcoholism, and therefore of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). Low-income women of colour are perceived as public property anyway. This is just the next step. At least Gifford-Jones is honest about misogyny, though. The last paragraph of the article pretty much says it all:

Many argue that individual rights prevent sterilization of these women. But surely there must be legislators who believe that an innocent fetus has more rights that an alcohol-sodden mother. For babies’ sake, legislation should end this tragedy.

Fetuses having more rights than women: totally okay, apparently. And here I was, thinking I was a human being or something. Ugh.

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Comments

  • hypatia  On March 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    “Seriously, Canada.”

    Because we all know one columnist represents the views of over 33 million Canadians.

    • Brett K  On March 2, 2010 at 2:07 pm

      Of course not. I apologize for the phrasing – my intention wasn’t to express any kind of anti-Canadian sentiment. But I know that I, as a Canadian feminist, often look at the debates that occur in the US over things like healthcare and reproductive choice and feel a bit smug, as though Canada were some kind of bastion of equality and justice. The fact is, we have a decent track record when it comes to these things, but there are still a lot of people, like this columnist and the medical students performing nonconsensual pelvic exams, who don’t respect women’s bodily autonomy. These people may not reflect the opinions of the majority, but it wasn’t that long ago that things like forced sterilization were part of Canadian laws (until the 1970s in Alberta, for example), so it remains important to hold people accountable for ideas like those expressed in this column.

Trackbacks

  • By links for 2010-03-01 « Embololalia on March 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    […] Ottawa Columnist Argues for Forced Sterilization « Radical Bookworm I’m not going to argue that alcohol consumption can’t cause complications in a pregnancy, although, as Lisa Wade of Sociological Images points out, the risk of Fetal Alcohol Symdrone is a lot lower than most of us are led to believe, and is influenced by a number of factors, including malnutrition, poverty and even genetics. Women who are most liklely to deliver FAS babies, therefore, are women who have a very poor quality of life, and whose alcohol addiction is so severe that they cannot stop drinking heavily for even nine months. These women need help; instead, Dr. Gifford-Jones of the Ottawa Sun believes they should be forcibly sterilized. Here I thought we needed to address the socioeconomic factors behind issues like poverty and addiction; apparently all we really have to do is blame (and punish) the women who are most affected! (tags: race reproductiverights pregnancy canada gender) […]

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