This week is a big week for reproductive choice advocates; the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is being celebrated at MoveOn.org with a push-back against 2011 being the year of (overt) War on Women in the United States. Last year was the year a record number of anti-abortion, anti-woman laws were passed, everything from invasive and unneccesary ultrasound laws to laws on parental consent. HR 358, called by many women's rights activists the Let Women Die Act, was passed in the House of Representatives. This bill would allow doctors to 'excersise their conscience' and not provide a life saving abortion to a woman in need. There are many many other awful things rolled up into HR 358, you can read about them at that link. I hope I don't need to remind anyone reading that abortion is a safe, LEGAL medical procedure both in the US and Canada and is protected (supposedly) by our right to privacy, safety and bodily integrity. (2012 isn't shaping up to be a great year to be an abortion provider either-check out Rachel Maddow's story from the other night for a new and horrifying chapter in abortion provider harassment.)
Personally, I'm prochoice. I believe in women. I trust women to make their own choices. I don't have to like or agree with their choices but I do have to respect those choices. I know that it's absolutely none of my business what a woman does with her own body, whether that has to do with pregnancy, fat, clothing, make-up or anything else. It's HER body, not mine, and that means, as a fully autonomous being, she gets to do what she wants. Women are not second class citizens. However, after a year like 2011, where even in Canada the spectre of reopening the abortion debate has loomed several times, I wonder about that. Harper doesn't need to reopen the abortion debate; he has a majority in the House of Commons. He can simply introduce the legislation and make it pass by virtue of the numbers. He can tell the Senate, our House of sober second thought, to pass it because many of the senators owe their positions to him. There wouldn't be a debate and very suddenly, my right to safety and bodily integrity is gone. If I can't say no to a pregnancy, that means I can never really say yes to one either. Me, and literally half the population of my country, would not have the same rights as the other half. Such legislation, if ever passed, would go right to the Supreme Court and very likely found to be unconstitutional, but still, while it's being debated, my rights are gone.
In the USA, Roe v. Wade is the landmark legislation that said a woman's right to privacy is of paramount importance and that the State has no right to bar her from abortion. In Canada in 1988, the Supreme Court declared that:
- "The right to liberty... guarantees a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting his or her private life. ... The decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision and in a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual must be paramount to that of the state."
If you want to help this week and push back against the anti-abortion right wing extremists who are trying to put women back in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant, please visit the link to MoveOn.org's Online March and pop over to the Silver Ribbon Campaign. One in three women in North America gets an abortion. One in three North American women are not murderers. We're not morally loose or sluts or crazy or anything else the extremists say. We're just making the best decision that we can, a tough and private decision, according to our own lives and situations. Abortion needs to stay safe, legal and accessible for every woman. It's our fundamental right and one I fear we are in danger of losing.