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Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

Canada: The Civilized Outlaw

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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 Supreme Court ruling • Jan. 28, 1988 – Supreme Court of Canada repealed the abortion law.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