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Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

Canada: The Civilized Outlaw. Canadian pro-choice slogans: “Keep Your Laws Off My Body!” “This Uterus Is Not Government Property!” “Free Abortion on Demand!” “No New Law!”. Abortion law history. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau passed liberalized abortion law in 1969.

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Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

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  1. Canada:The Civilized Outlaw Canadian pro-choice slogans: • “Keep Your Laws Off My Body!” • “This Uterus Is Not Government Property!” • “Free Abortion on Demand!” • “No New Law!” Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  2. Abortion law history • Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau passed liberalized abortion law in 1969. • Committee of doctors approvedhospital abortions if woman’s life or health in danger. • Resulted in poor and unequal access for women, arbitrary obstacles, and delays. • 1968 to 1988 – Dr. Henry Morgentaler performed illegal abortions, opened clinics, arrested many times. • He was acquitted by juries four times, but a judge sentenced him to jail anyway. Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  3. Supreme Court ruling • Jan. 28, 1988 – Supreme Court of Canada repealed the abortion law. • The Court said abortion is a constitutional right based on women’s: • “security of the person” • “right to life” • personal “liberty” • “freedom of conscience” • Court did not cite women’s “right to equality”, but later court decisions on abortion did. Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  4. Access improves With no legal restrictions: • Abortion services are managed under the Canada Health Act. • Abortion is “medically required” and funded. • Abortion services are less isolated from mainstream medicine. • Many doctors integrate abortion into their general practice. • Many new abortion clinics – over 35% of abortions now done in clinics. • High public support for abortion rights. Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  5. Abortion availability • In 1988, Canadian Medical Association recommended abortion on request up to 20 weeks after conception. • Today, abortions on request performed to 22 weeks LMP (last menstrual period). • Abortions available to 24 weeks LMP for genetic abnormalities, desperate social circumstances, and to protect maternal health. • Abortions available after 24 weeks LMP for lethal genetic abnormalities, and for compelling maternal health reasons. Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  6. Abortion statistics • 106,400 abortions in 2001 • 15.6 abortions per 1000 women (15-44) • 32 abortions per 100 live births • 90% by 12 weeks gestation, 98% by 16 weeks • About 30% of all Canadian women have at least one abortion in her lifetime • About 75% of all women use contraception (not counting abstinence) • Maternal mortality rate of 0.01%, probably lowest in the world Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  7. Still some problems… • About 80% of hospitals don’t perform abortions. • Several private abortion clinics still not fully funded. • Anti-abortion harassment and violence • Anti-abortion misinformation and “counselling” centres • Some hospitals have: • long waiting lists • requirement for doctor referrals or approvals • quotas or gestational limits • anti-abortion staff who misinform or judge Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  8. Judicial protections • Women’s equality guaranteed under Canada’s constitution. • Canadian courts have consistently protected women’s right to abortion. • Many court cases by anti-choice protesters have failed to give rights to fetuses. • Fetuses are not legal persons until they completely exit from birth canal, alive. • Male partners cannot force a woman to have a baby. Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  9. The trouble with laws • Restrictions against abortion are leftover artifacts from the days of criminal abortion. • They institutionalize the stigma of abortion. • They stop abortion from being fully integrated into the healthcare system. • They breed hypocrisy and disrespect for the law. • Laws against abortion are fundamentally unjust: • They reduce access in various ways • They violate the human rights of women Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  10. Laws restrict access by… • Creating arbitrary obstacles and delays • Marginalizing abortion services • Isolating abortion providers outside the medical mainstream • Shifting focus away from basic healthcare • Disrespecting professional medical judgment made in the patient’s best interests • Threatening health workers with prosecution • Making abortion a political target for legislators, anti-abortion lobbyists, and extremists Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  11. Laws hurt women by… • Violating women’s equality rights, because only women can get pregnant • Affecting disadvantaged women the most • Rejecting women's moral reasoning • Distrusting women to make their own decisions about their lives • Protecting fetuses instead of pregnant women • Punishing women for having sex for pleasure • Punishing women for “shirking” motherhood Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  12. Patriarchal assumptions • Motherhood is a woman’s highest calling. • All women should be (and want to be) mothers. • Women must sacrifice themselves to raise kids. • Women must endure the discomfort and pain of pregnancy and childbirth without complaint. • Women who have abortions are “bad” or “victims.” • Women are irresponsible - or too emotional. They need direction and guidance like children. • Women who have abortions suffer psychologically (at least they should). • To “protect” women, we must restrict abortion. Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  13. Outdated traditions Laws against abortion rely on tradition: • Pro-natalism – and preference for birth over abortion. • Right to have babies is unquestioned and unrestricted, but abortion is frowned upon. • Children are treated like possessions of parents, instead of individuals with rights. • Church, God, and Bible are anti-abortion. But Why?! Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

  14. Solutions? • Guarantee women’s equality in constitution. • Lobby government against abortion laws. • Collect evidence of laws’ harms, inform politicians. Find plaintiffs, challenge laws in court. • Empower women in society (change public policies). • Change patriarchal attitudes about women and motherhood (write, publish, speak). • Change rhetoric: Abortion is a moral and positive choice. It liberates women, saves lives, and protects families. Abortion is not a “necessary evil.” • Prioritize childcare and child-rearing as a universal concern, not a “woman’s issue.” Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

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