An Open Letter to Stephen Harper

Mr. Prime Minister,

What, exactly, are you trying to achieve? I suspect that your goal is not to be seen as a misogynist or a bully, or to alienate any voter who happens to have a uterus – which is too bad, really, because if that was the case, you’d be wildly successful. Is this some kind of show of power? Are you trying to sneak your religious beliefs into policy decisions without anyone noticing? Or did you really just want to tell the women of the developing world to drop dead? Whatever your intention, Mr. Harper, you’re not doing yourself, or your party, any favours.

Let’s start with the basics: According to a Conservative party spokesman, “Canada’s contribution to maternal and child health may include family planning. However, Canada’s contribution will not include funding abortion.” [source] First off, may include family planning? Maternal and child health are nearly impossible without family planning of some kind. Women’s ability to take care of ourselves and our families depends on our ability to control our fertility. Second (and listen closely, Mr. Harper, because I get the feeling you weren’t paying attention the first 500 or so times you were told this), abortion is family planning. It’s not a separate category. Like contraception, it allows women to decide whether to have children. I think what your MPs were trying to say is that Canada’s contribution will involve the types of family planning that you approve of, and that aren’t too expensive, and that don’t upset your delicate conservative sensibilities.

Abortion is a last resort. It’s used only when something has gone wrong, when other methods have failed, or weren’t available in the first place. No one – least of all low-income women in the developing world – is having abortions just for fun. We have abortions because it is absolutely necessary, for us or for our families. When abortion is legally, geographically or financially inaccessible, women die. This is what you have committed yourself to. You and your party are allowing women to die because a necessary medical procedure doesn’t sit right with your ideology. I hope you’re proud of yourselves.

I doubt that Senator Ruth had your blessing when she told Canadian women’s groups to “shut the fuck up” about abortion, lest you and your cronies turn this into an Issue, but she was right, wasn’t she? After all, you folks do have a pretty nasty history of cutting funding to anyone who speaks out against you – including fourteen women’s groups that had the nerve to get worked up about you thinking that women’s rights are optional. The message was clear: shut up, or we’ll shut you up for good.

You know what? I dare you. Make this an election issue. Ignatieff would love that. Your stance on reproductive rights has held you back from gaining a majority in Parliament so far, and if you push it any further, you won’t even have a government. Personally, I’d be fine with that.

You know this, of course, which is why you’ve always stopped short of an attack on Canadian women’s reproductive rights, and which is why you’re cutting funding left and right instead of engaging in any sort of debate. Senator Ruth, for all her lack of tact or compassion, was right about another thing: this isn’t about Canadian women’s health. It’s about the health of women who are far less fortunate, and far more vulnerable. Unfortunately, it turns out that women don’t just get angry when our own rights are being violated. We get angry about human rights violations, like, all the time! Even when the people affected are in other countries! You made this an issue, and the Canadian people are going to hold you accountable.

As a Canadian, I’m ashamed to have a prime minister who thinks women matter less than the contents of our uterus. I’m ashamed to have a government that thinks it can intimidate women into submission. I’m ashamed that, with Canada’s reputation for humanitarian work, you think that it’s acceptable to pick and choose the types of medical care that disadvantaged women are allowed to receive. This is a disgrace. Feminists around the world are beginning to hear about it, and you continue to dig yourself deeper and deeper.

If there’s one thing I can promise you, Mr. Harper, it’s that we will absolutely not shut the fuck up.

Brett K

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  • Bakka  On May 9, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Yes, I agree. F-him. What does he even know about these issues? Experience is counted in job applications, so why is it not counted more in terms of making these policies?

  • CanNurse  On May 11, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Absolutely EXCELLENT letter to the PM! He has NO medical knowledge, NO health care knowledge, NO knowledge of Working in Developing Countries – and, SO very obviously – NO KNOWLEDGE OF WOMEN AT ALL! (Sorry about the caps! I’m upset!) How dare he abuse his power as PM by using his personal Theocratic evangelical beliefs to condemn women & their children to death. Oh. Wait. That’s right. They’re just living human beings. It’s the fetuses BEFORE they’re born that he evidently “cares” about. BLECH!!
    Thanks so much for this. I’m sharing it!

  • Chris  On May 28, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I read this open letter this morning before heading out the door to work. I’m so glad I did! We women will hold him accountable and I commend you for taking this stance! Hallelujah sister!


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