Tag Archives: Reproductive Rights

Anti-Choicers Think Botched Abortions Are Awesome

By now I’m sure most of you have read this awful story, about a 13-year-old girl who was hospitalized after self-inducing an abortion with a pencil. The 30-year-old abuser whom news stories insist on calling her “boyfriend” has since been arrested on charges of rape and “concealing the death of a child”.

Everything about this story is absolutely horrifying. As Jill at Feministe points out, it is an awful reminder of just how far we still have to go before abortion is really safe and accessible for everyone. I can only hope that this girl will make a full recovery and live a long, happy life free of abuse and unwanted media attention. I also hope that the other girls and women who find themselves in similar situations have better access to reproductive health care, and to supportive families and communities, and don’t have to take such desperate and dangerous risks in order to maintain some semblance of bodily autonomy.

Not so for Bryan Kemper. This so-called “pro-life” activist wants to remind us that, while rape is bad and stuff, this girl is still an evil baby killer:

“I am sure this story probably has most people wanting to vomit and cry at the same time as their hearts break for this little girl. I would also guess however that many of those same people would not even bat an eye if her method of killing her child had been a RU 486 prescription from the local Planned Parenthood,” Kemper said.

“I would goes as far as saying many would praise her for making such a brave choice,” he added. “The method of killing the child should not matter.”

Apparently, all of us pro-choice folk think that rape is totally okay as long as rape victims have safe abortions (because don’t forget, being pro-choice means you think that everyone should have abortions all the time). I mean, if we really cared about this kid, we’d want her to be forced to undergo nine months of pregnancy and risk her life giving birth to her rapist’s child, right? Right?

And it doesn’t stop there:

“If the girl had gone to Planned Parenthood he would probably still be raping her as I doubt they would have turned him in,” Kemper explained.

Like, this girl had had a regular, safe abortion and hadn’t had to go to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, her rapist would never have been arrested! That’s right: lack of access to reproductive healthcare stops rapists.

Hey, I have a better idea. How about we stop fucking condoning rape and making excuses for rapists and telling women what we can and cannot do with our bodies? That would involve acknowleding that women matter more than the contents of our uteri, though, and I don’t see the “pro-life” crowd adopting that idea anytime soon.

Listen, if I worked at a Planned Parenthood, and a 13-year-old girl came in after being impregnated by a 30-year-old man, of course I’d want to find the child rapist piece of shit who had been abusing her, and have said child rapist locked up for the rest of his pathetic worthless life. But the fact is that this girl probably didn’t get a safe abortion precisely because she was afraid of her abuser being reported to the police. If patients’ confidentiality isn’t respected – even when those patients are obviously experiencing abuse – the most vulnerable members of the population will avoid seeking care when they need it, and many will die or suffer permanent damage as a result. Abuse is complicated, and it cannot be prevented by infringing on people’s privacy, or by denying their rights. Even when those people are children.

I’d go on, but Jill says it much better than I ever could:

We fail girls all the time. We put girls in impossible, heart-wrenching positions. We give girls little autonomy and few options, and then we’re surprised when they act like animals caught in traps.

Predators like Michael James Lisk, her “boyfriend,” are entirely responsible for the crimes they commit. But this girl needed a safety net, and she did not have one.

ETA: Apparently Pennsylvania, where this took place, has a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions. Yet another example of how these laws only put girls at greater risk. (So yes, Jill Stanek, this is your fucking fault.)


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

This Just In: Conservative Government Hates Women, No Longer Feels Like Being Subtle About It

Fuck you, Stephen Harper.

(Yes, I’m still around; I’ve just been crazy busy these last couple of weeks and haven’t had much to write about. I promise I will eventually get back to writing posts whose contents are longer than their titles.)

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.

The Abuses of History

The story of racism and eugenics, in the United States and elsewhere, is a story that needs to be told. Moreover, it is a story that needs to be told by feminists, because it is a story that was and still is written on our bodies, and one which continues to have implications for the way we understand reproductive choice. It was through women’s bodies, and our sexuality, that race as we understand it was constructed. It was through repeated violations of our bodily integrity – whether forced sterilization and forced abortion or forced birth – that eugenicist experiments were carried out. It is a story with repercussions that continue into the present, with racist politicians attempting to coercively or forcibly sterilize low-income women, and it is a disturbing reminder of what can happen when women’s fertility is perceived as a political tool rather than something that we have a right to control.

Which is why I am so disturbed by the recent anti-choice campaign that has proclaimed black children an “endangered species” due to abortion. I won’t post a picture of the billboard here; honestly, I can’t stand to look at it any more. This campaign takes the story of racism and eugenics – a horrifying, yet crucially important story, for women in particular – and uses it to further an anti-woman agenda, and from what I’ve seen, their co-option of this narrative has been frighteningly effective.

It’s no coincidence that, in trying to market the anti-choice message to the Black community, these anti-choicers talk about “children” rather than women. It’s so easy to shift the abortion debate onto fetuses and forget about women entirely. Because the fact is that safe, legal abortion SAVES WOMEN’S LIVES. Margaret Sanger’s racist and eugenicist beliefs cannot and should not be erased from the history of Planned Parenthood, of the reproductive justice movement, or of the United States more broadly, but this does not change the fact that Planned Parenthood performs much-needed services, services that allow women not only to survive, but to choose the kinds of lives we want to live. Thanks to organizations like Planned Parenthood, women’s lives are no longer dictated by our uteri. Reproductive choice grants us control over our bodies and, to some extent, our lives – something that is crucial for all people, but particularly to people who are systemically marginalized, excluded and oppressed by capitalist and patriarchal society.

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Scott Roeder Found Guilty of Murdering Dr. George Tiller

Via CNN.com: Scott Roeder, the anti-choicer who murdered Dr. George Tiller last May, has been found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, with a chance of parole after 25 years.

I’m relieved that the jury made the decision to uphold the law and didn’t show Roeder any leniency, and I’m glad that this man is off the streets and unable to harm anyone else. Ultimately, though, I can’t bring myself to feel any satisfaction or joy. I’d be happy if Dr. Tiller hadn’t been killed. I’d be happy if I didn’t know that there are thousands more anti-choice activists out there, many of whom are capable of doing the same thing Roeder did. I’d be happy if people weren’t still celebrating this horriffic crime. I’d be happy if there were more than two doctors left providing this essential service to women, and if those doctors weren’t being continually harassed and threatened.

I’m incredibly saddened by all this rhetoric surrounding the trial, and abortion in general, that acts as if abortion is something that occurs between doctors, legislators and fetuses. As if the women who actually make these difficult but necessary decisions were just an afterthought. As if killing doctors and passing anti-choice laws would actually stop abortions from occurring, rather than forcing women to risk their lives to terminate unwanted pregnancies. Dr. Tiller knew this. He said himself that abortion is a matter of survival for women, and he worked and knowingly risked his life to ensure women’s right to survive. I can only hope there are more people out there who are brave enough to follow his example.