Post-conversation with Ray Boughen, MP for Palliser

the regina mom received a call from her Member of Parliament, Ray Boughen, this afternoon.  He said it was in response to her call about two University of Regina international students facing deportation but she had not, in fact, called.  She had emailed but didn’t press that fact with him.  In hindsight she suspects he must be feeling some heat over the issue since it hit the front page of the local daily.  When asked about his silence over it he said it is not his place to speak to that issue, that the Speaker, MP for Regina Qu’Appelle, Andrew Scheer, has spoken to it. He said he waits for his turn to speak and will be speaking on Aboriginal issues next week.

That led to a conversation about democratic process, the lack of political will for democratic process, followed by a tirade on trm‘s part.  She began with the lack of a national childcare strategy, filled the middle with the lack of support for single parent women and increased poverty in Canada and ended with a few stats on the increased numbers of people using food banks. That’s about when he accused trm of being a partisan and she defended herself claiming her feminist activism of more than 25 years and her being a mother of two young adults as the basis for her statements.  But still, he tried to dismiss her concerns as being partisan ones. trm suggested that he should read her blog.

When he attempted to blame the SK NDP government for the social problems she had mentioned, trm really let loose, informing him that yes, from time-to-time she has supported the NDP but did not support Roy and the boyz and their debt and deficit-cutting measures.  She also reminded him that she is a writer and as such, a researcher, one who bases her words on what she reads in books and on fact-based evidence.  His response was that we’re using different facts in our discussion.

So she switched her tune to the China-Canada FIPA and compared it to the FTA with the USA, mentioning how the former locks us in for 31 years and the latter allows us to give 6 months notice if we choose to break the agreement.

By that time he was really bumbling and went back to the earlier piece about democracy so trm mentioned Motion 312 about which he seemed to have no clue, suggesting it was a Bill, obviously not hearing what trm was saying. She reminded him that it was a Motion put forward by MP Stephen Woodworth as an attempt to reopen the abortion debate and noted that he supported it in spite of what his colleague, MP Gordon O’Connor, had said. He couldn’t recall what O’Connor had said so trm suggested he look it up on YouTube.  He said he didn’t have time so perhaps trm could tell him.  She did. Then he proceeded to parrot Woodsworth, saying that it wasn’t about reopening the abortion debate, blah-blah-blah. trm laughed and reminded him that he really needed to read her blog.

Seeing that she was on a bit of a role, trm then brought up the other F-word, fascism. She noted that even the right-wing Liberal, Michael Ignatieff, is using that word these days. He bumbled some more and wouldn’t listen, kept interrupting her and soon thereafter she told him this conversation was a waste of her time and his and hung up. As she pulled the receiver from her ear she could hear him saying another call was coming in and he had to go. A likely story. There were no phones ringing off the hook in the background; he said that to save face.

Though there’s much more that went on in the conversation, trm knows without a doubt that she has a useless excuse for a representative in Ottawa and maintains her adoption of MP for Churchill, Niki Ashton, as her MP.

Opening a space for women

the regina mom posted this on Ryan Meili’s ideas page, in response to a call for ideas about building gender equity in SK.  Ryan is the candidate trm is supporting in the SK NDP Leadership race.  She is overwhelmed by and grateful for the positive support the idea is receiving.

—–

OPENING A SPACE FOR WOMEN

 

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the Saskatchewan women’s movement was a force to be reckoned with. Feminist organizations within the province had built a solid base from which to act and continue to build.

The Saskatchewan Women’s Agenda* was the result of an intense, two-year, participatory process that brought more than 50 Saskatchewan women’s organizations together to determine what women needed to live full and equitable lives in this province. The Agenda addressed a broad range of issues, established goals and directed our work and the work we hoped to see a new government take on.

But then came the feminist backlash. As a result, debt reduction gave way to creating a better world for women. Most feminist organizations faced slashed budgets from federal and provincial sources. Some groups folded. Others managed to hold onto shoestring funding and find other sources and stay alive.

Feminists in Saskatchewan have not come together in a real and meaningful way since the mid 1990’s. Key organizers within the women’s movement have left the province or worse, passed on. Generational change is afoot in the organizations that managed to stay afloat and a key piece of our Saskatchewan women’s history, the Saskatchewan Women’s Agenda, is difficult to find, let alone study and pass on.

In mid-October, Niki Ashton, Member of Parliament for Churchill and Opposition Critic for Women, hosted the Women’s Forum des Femmes which brought together a diverse community of women from across the country. Ms Ashton created a “space for women to share experiences, ideas, and shape collective plans for re-igniting the women’s movement in Canada.” Women who hadn’t connected since the 90’s were able to share their stories, many heart-breaking and anger-making, to reconnect with sisters in the struggle, to re-invigorate each other and younger feminists taking leadership in the movement and yes, to re-ignite the Canadian women’s movement grounded in wisdom, a passion for change and a commitment to make a better world.

This is what the Saskatchewan women’s movement needs. Ms Ashton’s model can be easily adapted to the provincial level. The new Leader of the Saskatchewan NDP can make it happen. He can make it happen because he knows we are better together.

Respectfully submitted,

23OCT2012
Bernadette Wagner
@thereginamom
http://thereginamom.com 

*Note that I will upload the Saskatchewan Women’s Agenda as soon as a scanned copy is available.

A woman’s work is never done

the regina mom is in Ottawa, visiting her offspring.  She’s taken in a poetry reading, witnessed the horrors of Question Period in the House of Commons, and visited with some friends.  And today, before she flies back to her Prairie home, she will be part of a national Women’s Forum hosted by her adopted Member of Parliament, Niki Ashton, the Opposition Critic for Women.  The good folks at rabble.ca will provide live coverage of the event.

Ms Ashton has been an excellent in her post as Critic, taking an energetic and leading role in defeating the anti-choice Motion 312 in the House of Commons.

Women across the country continue to take action to ensure that abortion services are available across the country.  This Saturday, October 20, is Reproductive Justice Day. Events are planned in several major centres.  Here is the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada‘s news release in full.
http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/press/ARCC-CDAC-release-oct18-12-english.pdf

For immediate release                                                                                         October 18, 2012

Access to Abortion Needs to Be Improved Now

Oct. 20 National Day for Reproductive Justice Highlights Access Gaps in Maritimes and Across Canada for Abortion and Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

NATIONAL  –  A coalition of groups and individuals across the country is calling upon governments across Canada to take immediate steps to improve access to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in neglected regions of Canada – particularly the Maritimes, the North, rural areas, and on First Nations reserves.

“It’s time to change the debate by talking about how to improve access to healthcare, not restrict it like some anti-choice Members of Parliament want to do,” said Joyce Arthur, Executive Director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC), the group leading the ad hoc coalition behind the Oct 20 day.

“On October 20, we are demanding that governments across the country start ensuring that abortion care and sexual and reproductive health services are available and accessible to every person who needs them, including women, youth, transgendered persons, and men. We also need to reduce unwanted pregnancy, the main cause of abortion, by making contraception widely available and covered by Medicare.”

At the top of the ad hoc coalition’s list of demands is fully-funded abortion services on request in Prince Edward Island. [see page 3 of this release, or http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/action/RJ-day-demands.pdf] “PEI is the only province still violating the law by failing to provide any abortion care inside its borders, forcing women to travel to Halifax or Fredericton for care,” said Arthur. “This creates real hardship and injustice for women, especially those who are young, low-income, aboriginal, and immigrant.” Last November, a research project conducted by Dr. Colleen MacQuarrie at UPEI found that many women have even tried to do dangerous self-abortions on themselves.

Some PEI women are able to arrange an abortion in Halifax paid for by the PEI government, but the process can be time-consuming and difficult to navigate for many women. Many more women end up paying around $800 to have an abortion at the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton NB. They are forced to pay out of pocket because New Brunswick refuses to fund the clinic, even though Health Canada in 1995 mandated full funding for abortion care at both hospitals and private clinics.

“Abortion is a simple procedure that doesn’t require a lot of resources to provide, so the PEI government has no excuse to not provide it on the Island,” said Arthur. “Our message to PEI Premier Robert Ghiz and Health Minister Doug Currie is: Enough! Women in Prince Edward Island have the same rights as women in other provinces. You should be ashamed of yourselves for needlessly risking the health and lives of PEI women in deference to a so-called ‘pro-life’ ideology. Stop hurting and punishing women and start helping them instead!”

Other leading groups in the ad hoc coalition for the Oct 20 Reproductive Justice Day include the PEI Reproductive Rights Organization (PRRO), and the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics (OCAC).

  • The flagship event for the national day takes place in Charlottetown, with a kick-off press conference on Friday Oct 19 (12:15pm, Room 125, Royalty Centre, 40 Enman Crescent, Charlottetown), and a march and “Action Station” event on Oct 20
    (1-4pm, Rochford Square & Murphy’s Community Centre).
  • Another signature event for the national day takes place in Toronto on Oct 20 – a rally from 1-3pm at Old City Hall, 60 Queen Street West.

#####

For the list of demands for the Oct. 20 National Day for Reproductive Justice, see: http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/action/RJ-day-demands.pdf.

See our website: http://oct20rjday.wordpress.com  for more information on reproductive justice and the October 20 day, as well as details on events across the country.

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

Canada’s only national political pro-choice advocacy group

POB 2663, Station Main, Vancouver, BC, V6B 3W3  •  info@arcc-cdac.ca  •  http://www.arcc-cdac.ca

For all my sisters

the regina mom gives thanks this weekend for all the women who work to make this world a better place, be that in the world at large, in the home and community or within herself.

 

There’s a global war on women.

 

Even though we women make up 52 per cent of the global population and we own only one per cent of the land, we survive.

 

Even though climate change impacts women around the world more harshly (try gathering wood, food, water in a drought zone or flood zone every day), we survive.

 

Even though we earn 73 per cent the wages of men and are over-represented in part-time, low-pay jobs, and even though the world economies once counted us as chattel and told us our work was not work, we survive.

 

Even though cooking, cleaning and caregiving, the three Cs of women’s work, are worth between $234 and $374 billion in labour that remains unpaid, and even though we never received the national childcare program we were promised and yet we still find time to fill the gaps when governments offload services onto communities and families, we survive.

 

Even though, right here in Saskatchewan, one child in five — a full 20 per cent — live without adequate food, shelter and clothing, and even though more than 43,000 of our children live in poverty and 60 per cent of children living in households headed by a lone woman live in poverty, and children around the world continue to live in deep poverty, we survive.

 

Even though governments dismally fail to acknowledge our inequality, respect our issues — or even hear our voices — and instead, privatize economic decision-making, grant corporations more rights and less taxes, doctor documents, cut funding to programs, close doors to our organizations, oppose same sex marriages, peel back our reproductive rights, ignore our human rights, spurn and deride us, tell us to “go slowly,” that we’re “too radical” and dismiss us as “dumb bitches” or “Feminazis,” we survive.

 

Even though violence against us is epidemic the world over — we are assaulted emotionally, psychologically, physically, sexually — even though 50 per cent of us will experience violence to our person in our lifetime and we have sisters, daughters, grand-daughters who are treated as illegal goods to be trafficked and sold into sexual slavery, and even though we are stoned to death, gunned down, disappeared or murdered, we survive.

 

Even though we live our lives in the global war waged against us right here and right now, as it has for centuries — even though we die daily, we survive.

 

We survive because we are strong.

 

We are strong because we are one community. We are one community with a diverse population: women of colour, Indigenous, Métis women, who have immigrated, emigrated, who are refugees, who are urban, rural, peasant, homeless women, are mothers, grandmothers, child-free, who are sex workers, waged workers, volunteer workers, who are lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, are religious, atheist, agnostic, spiritual, women with disabilities, healing powers, visions, who are older, younger, middle-aged…

 

We survive because we are coming to know the power of diversity, to know our power as women. And we know that our time to wield power is at hand.  Watch us.

 

c. Bernadette Wagner

#NDP ‘extremely concerned’ Kenney supports #M312

the regina mom‘s adopted MP, Niki Ashton, speaks what the regina mom‘s Conservative MP will not.

NDP ‘extremely concerned’ Kenney supports ‘abortion’ debate | CTV News.

“What irks so many Canadians,” Ashton said, “is the fact that they believed Stephen Harper, but what they’re seeing … doesn’t reflect what they heard from the prime minister.”

Suggesting that the ruling Conservatives have used private member’s bills to propel their party’s agenda in the past, Ashton suggested Woodworth’s motion should never have gotten this far.

Ashton said the fact it has, indicates the ruling Conservatives aren’t as averse to the debate as they’ve suggested.

“Here we have a senior cabinet minister … we know that is close to the prime minister, who has clearly said that he will be supporting this motion. If that doesn’t challenge the statement that this government isn’t willing to reopen the debate I don’t know what does.”

UPDATE: LeadNow.ca is raising immediate funds to place an ad in Wednesday’s Ottawa Citizen.  Please contribute if you are able!

Women have always been workers

The following piece appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine. Sadly, the situation for women and unpaid work has become worse, not better. Right wing governments in Saskatchewan and Canada continue to dump unpaid work on communities and families and women in an attempt to rationalize cuts on social spending.

—–

Women’s” Work: Unnoticed, Unrecognized, Unpaid

A discussion about labour is incomplete without some acknowledgment of the unpaid work performed by women. The traditional work women do, the three Cs – cooking, cleaning, caring – continue to be largely ignored thanks to long-standing sexist definitions of work. It’s almost as though the work women do to keep families healthy and functional, to move the economy through its cycles, and to make the world a somewhat caring and nurturing place really doesn’t matter. Capital, after more than three centuries of greed continues to pressure governments to create conditions for increased profitmaking, conditions which do not benefit women and which increase women’s unpaid work. Even the small gains of recent years are under constant attack by both capital and governments. Women’s groups know that if women are to reach a point of equality with men in this country, or anywhere in the world for that matter, then women’s unpaid work must be honoured in very real ways. Women carry on.

Defining Work

Societal definitions of paid work are based on sexist definitions established centuries ago. When our monetary system developed women were chattel; the work women performed preparing meals, cleaning homes, and raising children was not remunerated. As a result, it was excluded from economic records and, as the economic system developed, their work continued — and continues — to be excluded.

The economic value of the unpaid work women do is huge and must be acknowledged. According to Manitoba’s United Nations Platform for Action Committee (UNPAC) Canadian women’s unpaid work is an amount equivalent to as much as 41% of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product. The time women spend doing voluntary/community labour and household labour in Canada, according to a pilot study in Nova Scotia, is the equivalent of 571,000 full-year, full-time jobs. Even Statistics Canada (StatsCan) suggests a number anywhere from $234 to $374 billion worth of unpaid work is performed by women each year. Globally, the amount skyrockets to 11 trillion dollars, just a fraction more than what we know the US has spent on its illegal invasion of Iraq.

Decades of research and lobbying by women’s equality-seeking groups and others has had minimal impact. Governments are loathe to address the issue. Only recently did StatsCan begin gathering information about women’s unpaid work and that gathering is not thorough. The research documents only three areas of unpaid work: housework, childcare, and senior care. The time women spend building their communities — serving meals at a fowl supper, serving as a board member at the childcare centre, or volunteering at the women’s shelter — is not included in the numbers. Still, all is not lost. Researchers have developed ways to use the data that is gathered to make points about what is not. The gaps and absenses have proven useful in critiquing policy and for envisioning new policies.

Global Capital at Work

It is global capital that benefits from women’s unpaid work. As capital seeks increased profits, governments increasingly bend to the corporate lobby, adhering to neo-liberal and neo-conservative economic policies, downsizing or privatizing programs that seek to re-dress imbalances. Women bear the brunt of this greed.

Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government, when it took power in BC, almost immediately dismantled one of the most progressive elements of the its provincial government, the Women’s Department. What little remained of it was rolled into the Community Services Department. In effect, all funding to all of B.C.’s women’s shelters ceased and the amount unpaid work by women as well as the incidents of poverty among women increased.

In Saskatchewan, Calvert’s NDP government almost annihilated the Women’s Secretariat in its purge of policy analysts a few years ago. An immediate public outcry from Saskatchewan women forced the creation of a Status of Women Office (SWO). It was placed within the Department of Labour which, according to the Assistant Deputy Minister at the time, was “completely unable to absorb” it. The strategy moved many feminist researchers and analysts out of policy areas and, in some cases, out of government completely which could be part of a ploy to remove the last of Keynesian analysis from the bureaucracy. Indeed, in January 2007 the Saskatchewan government received great praise and front page headlines courtesy the Fraser Institute for completely reversing 50 years of economic policy. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that programs to enhance the lives of women in Saskatchewan ended or that the province’s child poverty rate is among the highest in the country.

Similarly, Status of Women Canada (SWC), recently attacked by the New Conservative Government of Canada impacts women’s unpaid work. The job cuts, funding restrictions, and removal of the word equality from funding guidelines will mean that research work formerly conducted by paid staff within SWC and within SWC-funded organizations will either not be conducted or will be done by volunteers. Without the research and lobbying the door is open for global capital to gain more ground.

It’s as though governments of the day believe that cutting funding and support makes the need for the service nonexistent. But smaller communities of people – women – fill the gaps..

A Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) report about the privatization of public services urges that women “not be made to bear the greatest costs of declining labour market conditions — less unionization, lower wages, fewer benefits, weaker workplace rights, more precarious employment, uncertain work hours.” Women should not be forced to take on more unpaid work when public services erode and men must “take more responsibility in the home.” This would have the effect of allowing women to “become more engaged in community organizing and political action in order to lobby for more and better public services.” Trade unions could play an important role alongside women’s and social justice groups in “building broad community-based coalitions” in opposition to privatization and in actively promoting “the improvement of public services in order to promote greater social and economic equality.”

The obvious economic impact on women – the continued cycle of poverty – is compounded by psycho-social implications on women and their children which result in chronic illness, early death, poor children, poor school performance. That means higher societal costs for healthcare. The National Crime Prevention Council of Canada suggests that poor school performance is the “best and most stable predictor of adult involvement in criminal activity.” And that means higher educational and criminal justice costs.

Women’s Response

All the attacks on women’s lives and the double-duty days haven’t stopped women from organizing for change. Over the past decade or more, women’s response has been building locally and globally. Organizations such as UNPAC, the Feminist Alliance For International Action (FAFIA) and the Global Women’s Strike (GWS) have come into being to demand accountability from the governments on the commitments made to women under international human rights treaties and agreements, including the Beijing Platform for Action (PFA) and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The World Women’s March in 2000 brought forth The Feminist Dozen, 13 items that the federal government must address to reduce women’s poverty in this country.

The World Women’s March Feminist Dozen

Women in Canada Call on the Federal Government to:

  1. Restore federal funding to health care and enforce the rules against the privatization of our health care system, beginning with Alberta.
  2. Spend an additional 1% of the budget on social housing.
  3. Set up the promised national child-care fund, starting with an immediate contribution of $2 billion.
  4. Increase Old Age Security payments to provide older women with a decent standard of living.
  5. Use the surplus from the Employment Insurance Fund to increase benefits, provide longer payment periods and improve access, as well as improve maternity and family benefits.
  6. Support women’s organizing for equality and democracy by:
    • allocating $50 million to front-line, independent, feminist, women-controlled groups committed to ending violence against women, such as women’s centres, rape crisis centres and women’s shelters;
    • recognizing and funding the three autonomous national Aboriginal women’s organisations to ensure full participation in all significant public policy decisions as well as providing adequate funding to Aboriginal women’s services, including shelters, in all rural, remote and urban Aboriginal communities;
    • funding a national meeting of lesbians to discuss and prioritise areas for legislative and public policy reform;
    • providing $30 million in core funding for equality-seeking women’s organizations, which represents only $2.00 for every woman and girl child in Canada – our Fair Share
  7. Fund consultations with a wide range of women’s equality-seeking organizations prior to all legislative reform of relevance to women’s security and equality rights, beginning with the Criminal Code and ensure access for women from marginalized communities.
  8. Implement a progressive immigration reform to provide domestic workers with full immigration status on arrival, abolish the “head tax” on all immigrants and include persecution on the basis of gender and sexual orientation as grounds for claiming refugee status.
  9. Contribute to the elimination of poverty around the world by supporting the cancellation of the debts of the 53 poorest countries and increasing Canada’s international development aid to 0.7% of the Gross National Product
  10. Adopt national standards which guarantee the right to welfare for everyone in need and ban workfare.
  11. Recognize the ongoing exclusion of women with disabilities from economic, political and social life and take the essential first step of ensuring and funding full access for women with disabilities to all consultations on issues of relevance to women.
  12. Establish a national system of grants based on need, not merit, to enable access to post-secondary education and reduce student debt.
  13. Adopt proactive pay equity legislation.

 

To date, not one of the recommendations has been fully implemented.

GWS is an organization of women from more than 60 countries, working to improve conditions for women, worldwide. Their first stated demand is “Payment for all caring work – in wages, pensions, land & other resources. What is more valuable than raising children & caring for others? Invest in life & welfare, not military budgets or prisons.”

Nearly 1.2 billion hours of women’s time each year is spent on fundamental work that goes unnoticed, unrecognized, and undervalued, thanks to archaic definitions of paid work. Public programs and services that seek to redress imbalances are under constant attack by global capital. Programs that support necessary public services for women and children are dismantled, never to appear again, or reappear as watered-down versions of what they once were. Women work harder and suffer greater hardships as a result. Still, women carry on with their work and with resisting oppression. Only constant and continued pressure from all sectors of society will ensure equity is reached.

Legitimate what?

Over the past couple of days, the regina mom has read a number of pieces, some humourous, in response to a statement by US Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee from Missouri,  regarding the medieval concept of legitimate rape.

How long has this no-pregnancy-in-rape theory been around?
“The idea that rape victims cannot get pregnant has long roots,” says Vanessa Heggie at Britain’s The Guardian. Think 13th century. One of the earliest British legal texts — Fleta, from about 1290 — has this familiar-sounding clause: “If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.” Samuel Farr’s Elements of Medical Jurisprudence, a treatise from 1785 (second edition 1814), elaborates: “For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”

What’s the medical underpinning of this theory?
From medieval times until the 19th century, doctors and laypeople alike widely believed that women only conceived if they had an orgasm, since the presumed female “seed” — needed to complement the male sperm to achieve pregnancy — was thought be secreted only during sexual climax. “By logical extension, then,” says Heggie, “if a woman became pregnant, she must have experienced orgasm, and therefore could not have been the victim of an ‘absolute rape’.”

Interestingly, and in stark contrast to what the right wing nut jobs (RWNJ) in the US have been saying, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon recently shared their findings into a hormone that’s present in semen. They now believe it “nudges a woman’s body to ovulate.”

In a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Saskatoon-based researchers and their colleagues in Chile went sleuthing in llamas and cows for the identity of a seminal fluid protein they’d previously found sends a signal to a female’s brain. That signal prompts the female brain to release hormones that stimulate ovulation.

Veterinary biomedical sciences Prof. Gregg Adams, who is with the university’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says he expected to find a brand new protein in the seminal fluid. Much to their surprise, they found this poorly-understood protein (called ovulation-inducing factor or OIF) is the same molecule as an old friend in the nervous system that’s critical for normal neuron function.

the regina mom cannot wait to see how the RWNJs respond to this piece of legitimate science!

#M312’s birth into Parliament and a personal response

the regina mom knows that Mr. Harper clearly stated, numerous times, that a Conservative government would not re-open the abortion debate. Yet, on Thursday, April 26, she watched Members of Parliament debate Motion 312, which ultimately seeks personhood rights for fetuses which would enable the re-criminalization of abortion, as well as deny the constitutional rights of all pregnant women.  In other words, it is yet another backdoor attack on women’s Charter rights.

And, the regina mom knows that the Prime Minister is not a stupid man, well, not unless power has gone to his head, that is. He must have known that Motion 312 was an attack on women’s rights. And, contrary to what some in the mainstream media and elsewhere have said, there are at least a couple of ways the Harper government could have stopped the abortion debate from being re-opened.

The blogger, Dr. Dawg, has clearly described how the Prime Minister and the all-party Subcommittee on Private Members’ Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs could have stopped Motion 312 from making it to the floor of the House of Commons.  Basically, there was not political will within either the Conservative Party to either further investigate it or stop it.  And so it proceeded.

A harsher way of stopping it could have been for the Prime Minister to expel MP Stephen Woodworth from the CPC caucus when he first got wind of Motion 312. Doing so would have sent a very strong message to Canadians, a message which would have indicated that he really meant what he said when he said, “No debate.” But the Prime Minister did not do that.  He lacked the conviction to demonstrate that strength.

Granted, when under pressure in the House of Commons he did say that he would oppose Motion 312. That, to the regina mom, was a small relief.  She was a tad more relieved when the government whip, MP Gordon O’Connor, Minister of State, spoke very eloquently against Motion 312.

Perhaps the greatest relief to the regina mom came when she was reduced to tears.  Perhaps it was not relief, but sadness, anger, appreciation, respect or perhaps a mixture of all.  But when  Niki Ashton, the NDP Critic for Women, delivered her speech in opposition to the motion the regina mom‘s tears started to roll. Perhaps upstaged by O’Connor on some points, Ms Ashton spoke to the heart of the issue for the regina mom.

The reality is that the issue of abortion was settled in 1988. In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law, ruling that it was unconstitutional. The justices found that the law violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because it infringed on a woman’s right to life, liberty and security of person. That was 1988, almost 25 years ago, a generation ago.

This decision came about after years of work from women who, from across the country, sent the message that women ought to have the right to choose, that women ought to have the right to decide their future, that women ought to have the ability to define their destiny.

That fight also took place in the House of Commons. Our leader in 1987, Audrey McLaughlin, spoke out clearly, saying:

—limiting the right to the “personal care and control of one’s body” is a violation of a most “basic and fundamental right”, that of “reproductive choice.

As Ms. McLaughlin and others have pointed out, abortions, if they are not performed legally in medical facilities under the direction of a physician, will happen in much less favourable circumstances. As ugly as it may seem, women must not be forced to return to those ugly circumstances of using coat hangers, vacuum cleaners or putting themselves in the hands of quacks. “It is an ugly reality”, Ms. McLaughlin said, “but it is a reality.”

There were caravans, protests, lobby meetings, speeches and debates, and the issue was settled in 1988. When Canadians have been asked, time and time again a majority have supported a woman’s right to choose. Here we are in 2012, seeing the government reopen the debate on abortion. It has not been truthful about it either. Time and time again the Prime Minister and members of his party have said that they will not reopen the abortion debate. The Prime Minister declared:

As long as I am prime minister we are not opening the abortion debate…The government will not bring forward any such legislation and any such legislation that is brought forward will be defeated as long as I am prime minister.

That comes from an article in the Globe and Mail, from Wednesday, December 21, 2011.

An article written around that same time quoted the Prime Minister as saying, “As long as I’m prime minister we are not reopening the abortion debate”.

This is the Conservative Party’s Trojan horse agenda. During an election, and even here in the House of Commons, the Conservatives tell Canadians one thing. Then, as a minority government and now as a majority government, we see what they truly mean.

If the Prime Minister did not want a woman’s right to choose to be debated, we would not be here tonight. What is interesting is the Conservatives felt the need to tell Canadians something else so those same Canadians would vote for them. They waited until they won a majority to then uncover their hidden agenda.

Indeed, the hidden agenda is hidden no more.  the regina mom saw it right here on her computer screen.  She watched Members of Parliament debate a motion about abortion, a motion that was introduced by a Conservative Member of Parliament.  Perhaps it could be called the No Debate Debate.

Radical Handmaids

Today, on Parliament Hill, the Radical Handmaids  gather in opposition to Motion 312, the anti-choice motion that seeks to redefine when human life begins. The Motion will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday.

The Handmaids’ action, based on Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is sure to be an interesting one.

Sporting red garments and “Flying Nun” hats in an allusion to Margaret Atwood’s classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the Handmaids are protesting Bill M-312 as a regressive attack on women.

 

“The Handmaid’s Tale shouldn’t be an instruction manual,” said one young woman, who identified herself only as “OfStephen” (“Woodworth or Harper, take your pick”).

 

In Atwood’s novel, set in a futuristic America transformed by religious fundamentalists into the Republic of Gilead, women are judged by whether or not they are capable of bearing children and, if fertile, are enslaved to men of the ruling elite who forcibly impregnate them.

 

“We’re watching what’s going on in the United States with the war on women and we know the Conservatives are trying to sneak it up here,” said another OfStephen, standing in front of a display of brightly-coloured knitted uteruses.

Supporters across the country have been sending the Handmaids knitted wombs and vulvas, using patterns available on the Internet. When they have enough, the Handmaids say they will deliver the woolly parts to any MPs who vote in favour of Woodworth’s bill.

 

“If they want to control our uteruses so badly, they can have a womb of their own,” said OfStephen.

the regina mom applauds the Handmaids on their radical action.  Oh, if only she could be there to join in! (Read their full news release here.)

It’s a war on women

the regina mom collects links and writes blogposts.  She had it in mind to do a series around abortion because Motion 312 will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday.  Not surprisingly, the links she’s collected do in fact have to do with abortion.  What has become exceedingly clear is that there is not only an attack on women’s reproductive rights in North American, but one that is global.

 

Many of you will already know about many of the ridiculous pieces of legislation passed or being considered in the USA.  17atHeart has compiled a list of links to pieces of anti-woman legislation in the US states.  Read it if you’d like to know a little more about how bizarre it is.  Life begins at conception?  Hullo?  the regina mom posts it here because it provides a window to what Canadian women could face should the anti-choice faction in the House of Commons have their way with us.

 

Women in the Ukraine are also seeing their right to reproductive choice attacked.  In response to the apparent collusion between the church and the state in preparing a draft law that would restrict abortions, some brave feminists of the group Femen climbed the bell tower of St. Sophia’s cathedral in Kiev. They barricaded themselves in, bared their breasts, dropped a black banner saying, STOP, and rang the bells to assure attention to their action.

 

Femen’s slogan is “We came, we undressed, we conquered.” The group specialises in topless activism, supporting women’s rights and fighting prostitution and trafficking and it travels widely, recently appearing in Davos, Milan and Minsk.

 

There’s an interesting map of the world which gives a glance at the world’s abortion laws. and the restrictions, if any, in each country.  Interestingly, however, even though abortion is legal in South Africa, unsafe abortions are on the rise there.  Dr. Mhlanga, an abortion rights advocate there, claims that’s because

 

the society remains patriarchal and religiously conservative. Many health workers will not provide abortion care because it conflicts with their religious views, and those who are willing to provide care often are stigmatized and marginalized by their co-workers and managers.

 

The story goes on to give some hope that religious zealots can indeed change. Mhlanga is one of the most ardent abortion rights activists in the country, but he used to be opposed to abortion.

 

Mhlanga himself was once a self-described “ardent born-again Christian with conservative views about sex and women.” In the early 1980s, however, he witnessed the death of a colleague who suffered complications from an incomplete abortion. He attended her funeral and there saw the four-year-old son she had left behind. That moment was his turning point. He felt that no child should ever be left motherless as the result of an unsafe abortion, and he began doing research and getting active on the abortion issue. At the time, South African law required women seeking abortions to get signatures from three doctors—none of whom could work in the same facility. That effectively kept many women from getting legal abortions, especially poor women in rural areas where there were few, if any, doctors.

 

Perhaps the ProLife (sic) caucus in the House of Commons would be interested in speaking with Mr. Mhlanga before insisting that we regress to a time where women died from unsafe abortions.

 

I know.  It’s wishful thinking, especially since the Harper Conservative government has slashed yet more funding to women’s health initiatives. The Women’s Health Contribution Program provided financial support for information and services across the country.

 

And then there’s the previously mentioned Motion 312.  Go read what the Canadian Labour Congress has to say about it.  Then, print out a copy of the petition opposing the motion, pack it in your purse or pocket and pull it out whenever you meet up with other people.  Invite them to sign it.  Once you have 25 signatures, send it to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.  The folks there will forward it to a prochoice Member of Parliament who will, in turn, present it to the House of Commons.