The attack on a woman’s right to choose has never been more concerted or more vicious. More than 15 American states have – or are pushing for – restrictions on abortion. It is well understood that their holy grail is overturning Roe v. Wade which provides a fundamental “right to privacy” protecting a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion.
In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the 1969 abortion laws were unconstitutional and struck them down. Conservative governments to date have not wanted to reopen the debate. But as today’s Conservatives march towards the October 2019 election, they are reaching out to their socially conservative base. Recently in Ontario, a rookie member of provincial parliament addressed an anti-abortion rally saying he pledged to make abortion “unthinkable.” Several Conservative MPPs were at his side. The Premier did not discipline them.
Naturally, Facebook and Twitter blew up, as they say. I noticed a Facebook post indicating how people who were pro-choice could support their sisters in Alabama. That state recently passed the most Draconian law of all: an outright ban that would make providing an abortion a felony punishable by prison.
Here is a comment about the post that caught my attention:
Cease having unprotected sex left, right and centre, thus being a gutter rat. Educate yourself wrt [sic] fertility.
Of course, there was a flurry of rebuttal comments, none of which was understood by the “gutter rat” commentator.
It sent me back to my early days working for Toronto Public Health when I was assigned to a Planned Parenthood sexual health clinic.
A woman came in to ask for an abortion referral. My job as a counsellor was to explore the decision with her so that she would be absolutely clear in her choice.
She said she wanted the baby.
Then she explained that her husband would not allow her to use any form of birth control; and that the last time she had gotten pregnant, he had thrown her down the stairs. She miscarried. She wanted this baby, but her pregnancy put her at risk.
In the end, she did have the abortion; and we directed her to services to assist her in leaving an abusive situation. But I used that case study many times in the classroom when students would use a similar argument as the one above: you made your bed by spreading your legs; now lie in it.
Over the years, I learned more counselling skills, so that when I was in the presence of a deeply religious woman, we could talk about her vision of God. If she saw her deity as loving and compassionate, it helped her make a decision with which she could be comfortable.
Women choose to end a pregnancy for many reasons. What is important is that they are clear with themselves and comfortable with their decision. Some women left the clinic without having made that decision and said they would return to discuss it further. Some women decided they would continue the pregnancy having explored how to make that work; and a very few chose adoption.
When my diaphragm failed me nearly 40 years ago, we already had two young children, had just committed to a mortgage and then unexpectedly lost our jobs. But it was not just the threat of economic hardship that influenced my decision to end the pregnancy. I knew that I was not capable of loving a third child with the same ardour and energy as I could give to the other two, the younger of whom was a year and a half. I discussed it with my husband, but it was my decision.
Margaret Atwood’s handmaids are popping up everywhere as symbols of the slippery slope towards theistic fascism. We are in the midst of a battle for our lives – not just control over our bodies, but the basic tenet that sexism is the underpinning of a war on women.
Our bodies, our lives.