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Stop the Tories from criminalizing choice

Laura Kaminker

February 22, 2013

Wladyslaw Lizon, Member of Parliament for Mississauga Cooksville East (my own riding), is back in the news. The Conservative MP has teamed up with two of his fellow backbenchers in an attack on Canadian women's reproductive rights.

The last time Lizon surfaced, he had "alerted" Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney that a Mississauga woman had worn a niqab during a citizenship ceremony. Thanks to Lizon and Kenney, face veils are now banned from those ceremonies. This man is anti-choice in more ways than one.

More recently, Lizon, Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon—Wanuskewin), and Leon Benoit (Vegreville—Wainwright) demanded that the RCMP investigate all later-term abortions performed in Canada over the last decade. According to these MPs, the doctors who performed these procedures should be charged with homicide.

The three MPs claim that there were 490 later-term terminations performed in Canada between the years 2000 and 2009. Where did the men get this 490 number? From an anti-choice blog. Where did the blog get the number? They made it up. They took published statistics about abortion in Canada, and extrapolated from there. The blog claims that these procedures involve a live delivery. Their basis for that claim: anti-choice propaganda. They really have no idea how many of later-term abortions were performed, nor do they know the medical details of those procedures.

Let's be clear on exactly what's happening here. Later-term abortion is the perfect wedge issue for the anti-choice minority to drive into the pro-choice majority, in order to begin reducing Canadian women's access to abortion. Many people who are moderately pro-choice regard abortion as acceptable only in the first trimester of pregnancy. After that, the woman is showing. A fetal heartbeat might be present. The procedure itself is more complicated and presents a greater risk to the woman.

Second and even third trimester abortions aren't pretty. But they are necessary.

Women who choose to terminate later-term pregnancies are usually in desperate circumstances. They are carrying nonviable fetuses - the fetus is dead, or would die immediately after birth. Or the fetus may be healthy, but the continued pregnancy puts the woman's own life in grave danger.

Women who terminate later-term pregnancies are usually mourning the loss of a wanted baby. Some women in these situations choose to carry the pregnancy to term, even knowing their fetus is dead or will live for only minutes. That's their choice. But many women and their partners feel it's better - feel it's necessary to their sanity and their grief - to end the agony as soon as possible. Imagine what a safe, available procedure must mean to them.

(In the US, there is a third reason for later-term terminations: "chasing the funds". The woman wants a first-trimester procedure, but can't afford one. As she tries to scrape together the money, her pregnancy advances, which makes the procedure cost more, so she needs to find more money, so the pregnancy advances, and on it goes. I wrote a more in-depth piece about later-term abortions, and my small part in helping women obtain them, here: blog for choice day: providing a safe haven.)

This latest Conservative attack on women's reproductive rights must be seen in context of all the others. With Motion 312, MP Stephen Woodworth called for a Parliamentary committee to examine fetal personhood. With Motion 408, MP Mark Warawa seeks to ban sex-selective abortions, disingenuously couching his anti-choice bill in the language of women's rights. A few years back, MP Ken Epps tabled the "Unborn Victims of Crime Act": he claimed he was protecting victims of domestic violence, but we caught him revealing the truth. Now these MPs want the RCMP to charge doctors with homicide.

Through all this, Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeats that his government is not re-opening the abortion debate, a claim that by now has become almost laughably transparent.

Meanwhile, in Ontario, Conservative MPs are seeking to defund abortion services. Conservative leader Tim Hudak distances himself from this just as Harper does, but women's rights cannot depend on political theatre.

It's vitally important that we see these attempts to limit abortion rights and access for what they are - and that we beat back every single one. The vast majority of Canadians are pro-choice. But many people have mixed feelings about abortion in certain circumstances - be that sex selection or later term or anything else - and those are the areas that anti-choice forces use as their wedge, to begin chipping away at our rights. That steady chip-chip-chipping away results, eventually, in the situation we see in the US: a right to abortion that is virtually meaningless, that exists only on paper, only for the privileged few that can afford access.

Our reproductive choices do not need investigating. They do not need approval by Conservative MPs or the RCMP - or our neighbours - or anyone else. Whether or not we ourselves would choose abortion in whatever circumstances, we must denounce these anti-choice actions, loudly and publicly. A threat to any reproductive rights is a threat to all.
This is republished from We Move To Canada.

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