Sunday, January 22, 2006


Coathangers and backalleys

On the 30th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the night before the Canadian election, these events are not without their similiarities.

The Sun newspaper chain and a good friend over at have asked the question - how could anyone vote Liberal? There are only a few hours to go before the polls swing wide open for all Canadians - including prisoners - to mark an x beside their candidate / party of choice. I can say, however, that I still haven’t firmly made up my mind. It is down to either the NDP or Liberals.

That is right. I am thinking of voting Liberal. Why? The economy of the country is strong, unemployment is low, research and development spending is up. The Liberals know where the key to Canada's future lies and the Conservatives couldn't find it with Google map. I even agree with the gun registry - not the money spent on it, but the concept and think that all firearms should be banned.

Those are only a few of the economic reasons, but my decision will factor in social policy as well. The recent decisions to permit same-sex marriage and move to decimalize marijuana are huge steps forward for the country. We should move further by legalizing soft drugs - tax and regulate them. We could do the same for prostitution.

The Conservatives stance on social issues scares me. The Church has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. If two same sex individuals love each other and want to get married. Why stop them? The protection of the family (with the current 50% divorce rate) is laughable and the idea that marriage is for procreation is a bigger joke. Are two people that marry with no intention of having kids destined for a civil union? Civil unions imply a second class marriage. No Canadian deserves second rate treatment.

Neither the Liberal nor Conservative childcare policies are actually going to assist families in need. The Liberal plan has a marginal chance of some success but the Conservative plan is so tilted to the middle and upper-class it is a joke. In fact, like the Liberal 50/50 Tuition Plan, the Conservative childcare policy will actual make matter worse for low-income earners and add another brick to the welfare wall.

Also, the Conservative stance on abortion is troubling. Over 70% of their current MPs are Pro-Life and the leader, although stating policy, indicates that the government will not bring forward legislation but private members are free to do whatever they chose. Harper will not whip his caucus or cabinet and that means that Abortion could be made illegal again.

This isn't a stretch. Check the latest interview with Global National's Kevin Newman and Harper comments.

Newman: On the issue of abortion, will you pledge that there will be no legislation on abortion, there will never be a free vote in Parliament on that issue?

Harper: Never is a long time - read not this term. What I'm saying is I have no desire to see that issue debated in the near future. We're saying very clear in our platform we're not going to support or initiate abortion legislation and frankly I don't want this Parliament to have an abortion debate.

Newman: So to be clear, you support a woman's right to choose?

Harper: I've always said my views on the abortion issue are complex, I don't fall into any of the neat polar extremes on this issue.

Newman: Explain them then if they are complex.

Harper: No, I don't need to because I'm not proceeding with an abortion agenda.

This is one of the most loaded answers I have ever heard. I don't have to tell you what I think of an issue since we will not be moving such an issue. The issue is complex, but either you are Pro-Choice or Pro-Life. There is no third way.

So, back to my riding. Carolyn Bennett is taking on Peter Kent (C) and Paul Summerville (NDP). Bennett is a solid MP and is well respected on the issue of women's rights. She is a staunch promoter of women's health and that matters. She is working to make society better for both men and women.

I have a great deal of respect for Paul Summerville. He is a big believer that the productivity gap can be filled with increased investment in both infrastructure and post-secondary education - including research and development. He is correct on both counts.

Peter Kent, like his leader and party, seems content to tell me that the Conservative party will make Ottawa more accountable and be more responsible with my money. Good points, but neither of those will make the country more productive. Neither will his constant reminder that the majority media outlets are biased. He will not be elected to make the Globe or the Star more fair and balanced.

Maybe Prime Minister Harper can replace the Gun Registry with a Coat Hanger Registry.

UPDATE - Reason number 415 why Harper keeps getting pressed on the issue of abortion. His good Christian footsoliders want to lead the charge to the alleys.

Dude, I want to thank-you for your hard work on this blog over the duration of the campaign. You've done a hell of a job.

Let's keep Harper to task.
For all it is a loaded answer, it was a loaded question.

I’m sure my position on abortion is just as complex as Harper’s.

Personally, I believe that abortion should not be used as an alternative form of birth control. In an age of sexually transmitted diseases, we need to teach our children to be responsible, socially and sexually. In doing so successfully, we will prevent the vast majority of unplanned pregnancies.

Although our public school system teach many of these lessons, the primary responsibility still lies with parents. We provide, through the examples of our lives, the moral and ethical foundations for our children’s lives. As parents, we are molding the future of Canada.

If a woman chooses to act irresponsibly, why should health care dollars be spent to erase her mistakes, so to speak. If she is unwilling or unable to raise a child for whatever reason, there are many couples who would be delighted to adopt the infant.

Does this mean I don’t support a woman’s right to choose? No, it means I want women to choose to be act responsibly and if they choose not to do so, they should accept the consequences.

That being said, no woman should be forced to bear a child who was conceived as the result of a sexual assault. To do so would be victimizing her again.
F & B

The problem with Harper saying his position on abortion is complex is that it is condescending to Canadian citizens who deserve to know the future PM’s position on the issue. As Morgentaler put it, this isn’t a women’s issues, it’s an issue for everyone who loves women. To say that a position is complex is to give the most evasive answer possible. The question is: do you agree with abortion? Not, to what degree do you agree with abortion. Some feel that they are unsure about what to do with the ‘issue’ of abortion because women get raped and when they are subjected to this ultimate state of victimization, then and only then is it right for them to have an abortion. Well fence-sitters, if this is your position then you agree with abortion.

Some are worried that abortion will be used as a form of birth control. I have heard of a few cases where women have had more than one abortion, but these are rare and often over-stated because of their rarity. The truth is that abortion is painful, abortions are not easy to access and if a woman wants a decent and dignified abortion she will be paying out of pocket. Abortion clinics are not funded by the federal government, hospital abortions are funded. Hospital abortions are more invasive (usually a general anesthetic), lack emotional counseling and only about 1/3 of hospitals in Canada offer them, which means rural women have to travel to have the procedure. Several provinces (including Quebec) have deemed abortions medically unnecessary, and though this violates the Canada Health Act and federal transfer payments have been withheld from these provinces, women have to pay for their abortions. So why is the general public caught up in a woman’s right to choose? If she is raped and the patriarchal medical/law system decide she has been raped enough (because rape is a disputable subject according to the Canadian judiciary system) she can have an abortion, but for her to simply exercise her own judgment is not enough.

Canada does need to move towards a sexual health promotion model (suggested in the Romanow report (2002)) but this will take time. Considering the conservative state of sexual health education in Canada, how are young people supposed to learn about sexual health if the nurses can not even discuss sex specifically. Looking at a plastic penis and uterus is not sexual education, it’s anatomy, and it doesn’t teach kids (or adults in some cases) how to have safe sex. Girls are not taught about the invasiveness of abortions or how hard they are to access in Canada- and boys are not told that their partner may have to pay out of pocket.

I am also insulted by the comment that implies that abortions are not worthy of tax dollars. As a nurse, I see overweight people having heart surgery and knee replacements, smokers with lung cancer and drinkers with liver cancer. Does engaging in high risk behavior mean that you should not be covered under the Canada Health Act? If this is what is being implied I would be interested in how this could take place without violating the CHA.

The gray area of the abortion debate is not a tricky one to negotiate, you either agree or disagree. To say your answer is complex is insulting women’s intelligence. Paul Martin didn’t get away with it with his military adds how does Harper get away with it with abortion?
I want to address the comments made regarding "if a woman chooses to act irresponsibly, why should the health care dollars be spent to erase her mistakes, so to speak”. First off, to imply that a woman is acting irresponsible if she chooses to have an abortion is outrageous and is none of your business. Second, you might want to expand your thought process, as there are many circumstances that are the deciding factors as to whether or not a woman chooses to have an abortion. For example, if a woman is violently sexually assaulted and from this sexual assault she becomes pregnant (which I see you have mentioned). Is it irresponsible to want to terminate an unwanted and violent pregnancy? No. Clearly, you have no concept of what it is to be a woman, nor are you aware of the violence that women face daily by men. A statement that claims women are irresponsible is irresponsible itself. Maybe men need to teach their sons to be responsible and nonsexist and teach them about the moral and ethical foundations of a woman's body and her right to choose--not a man's right to dictate what a woman can or cannot do with her own body. It is a woman’s right to maintain sovereignty over her own body, a right that is attacked every day by men and especially by Conservative men. This is why I am voting Liberal and this is why if Harper’s Conservatives are elected, a woman’s autonomy is and will be threatened.
I agree with the_q - you've done a good job over the campaign. And your point about the Conservative Childcare policy is one that has not been made strongly enough by the other parties.
I'm not familiar with the Caledon institute but they have a good assesment of the childcare policy here.
I'd like to know why Mr Harper is always asked the abortion question. Are Mr Martin's opinions on the issue "perfectly clearer"? Considering we don't even have an abortion law on the books in this country makes every federal leader a hypocrite since Morgentaler.

Does Martin support partial-birth abortions? Does he support abortions fully covered by the Canada Health Act? How does he resolve his beliefs (if he has any) while still being a member of the Catholic Church? You might have your own opinions to these questions; I'm still waiting to hear Mr Martin's.

The fact is, the abortion issue IS complex and any politician who tells you otherwise is either lying or simple-minded. Mr Harper's policy on having no policy on abortion is no different than any Liberal government since Trudeau. He wants to get elected, the public support isn't behind him, and he's not going to open up the issue. Why should he be singled out as the spawn of Satan?

As for Femilib being "insulted" at another's opinion that abortions should not be paid for by taxpayer's dollars, keep in mind that it might be insulting to others that they are compelled to fund what they might perceive to be an immoral act.

Morgentaler was corret in saying that this is an issue for everyone who loves women.

Consider, perhaps, that this is also an issue for anyone who loves unborn children.

Generalizations work both ways.
More reasons not to vote Liberal here.

Shaky has reiterated what I was trying to emphasize (very inarticulately) when I wrote my comment: Martin is outgoing, Harper is incoming. Anyone who thinks otherwise is in for a surprise. Like him or lump him, he is new and I am trying to assess which side of the two merged parties his views come from. Perhaps they are a 'complex' combination of the two, but I fail to think that answering a question by saying your opinion is complex and then not giving a concrete answer is any answer at all.

Of course his view is complex, all of our views are complex and they are shaped by our life experience and in many cases religion, but one must elaborate on their position. Abortion is a passionate topic for those on both sides of the debate, and being diplomatic to one group is often seen as condescending to the other. Harper needs to be open, and honest. This is what he has promised and this is what people are going to expect.

I won’t be voting Conservative, though I know many people who will be, and it has become quite evident that Harper is the new PM. I am just trying to understand his comments and hold him accountable. Isn’t that the idea that has pushed his campaign?

feminurse, I think we're not all that far apart. If it comes down to a black & white position, I agree abortion is appropriate in some circumstances but, as I stated, I don't feel it should be used as an alternative form of birth control.

Sexual education is definitely necessary but I don't agree the public school system is conservative in their teaching methods. I feel it is the parent's responsibility to provide sexual education. Unfortunately, many parents struggle to discuss these issues so it ends up falling to the schools to provide what they can and most teachers aren't more eager to discuss it that parents. Perhaps we need to make sexual education teaching as much of a specialty as sciences or calculus.

Incidentally, I feel it is just as important, if not moreso, to educate young men as it is to educate young women. It does, after all, take two to tango, so to speak.

femilib, your post is rife with false assumptions. I did not say a woman was acting irresponsibly by seeking an abortion; I said if a woman chooses to act irresponsibly and, as a result, became pregnant, that is her business and she needs to deal with it. If she chooses to seek an abortion, that makes it the government's business. Apparently, I needed to spell things out more clearly.

To say it is none of my business how my tax dollars (in the form of health care) are spent is completely wrong. I don't hand over blank cheques to strangers and neither should you. I have a voice in how my tax dollars are spent and today is the day when I'm heard.

It is interesting you suggest I expand my thinking but then later observe that I did, in fact, already mention the thought you brought up. Yes, it is completely wrong to force a woman to bear a child of rape. I thought I was clear on that but you started out assuming I wouldn’t say it. Mind you, that didn’t stop you from spewing your accusations.

You stated I have no idea what it is to be a woman (true enough since I'm a man) nor am I aware of the violence that women face daily by men. I would like to know what you base that assumption on? How dare you accuse me of being ignorant simply because I don't agree with your feminist rhetoric! All you know of me is the few words which I've posted on this blog. For you to extrapolate that into such an accusation is ridiculous.

femilib, do you enjoy accusing men of being violent and oppressive? Is it because most guys start squirming as soon as those kinds of accusations start flying around? You might want to examine your own motivations.

I'm sorry to break this to you but not all men are violent oppressors and not all women are victims.

As for whether you vote Liberal or not, that's your choice. Some folks have likened Canada's relationship to the Liberal Party in recent years to an abusive relationship. No matter how arrogant, corrupt or dishonest the Liberals are, Canadians are afraid to reject them. Perhaps, in this election, we'll break up this relationship before it destroys us all.
I totally agree that more sexual education is needed, but know from personal experience that there is no budget to move towards a slightly more progressive train of thought (in the classroom). Nurse educators hardly have time to discuss the basics let alone the intricacies. I also agree that education is uber-necessary for males and females- kids need to be taught early on that they are responsible for decisions.

These exchanges are all further proof that abortion is a heated debate and we all have passionate, personal and moral ideas about whether abortion is or is not permissible under any circumstances.

I think a cheers to Shaky is in order because he actually presents these issues that create dialogue and get people thinking about others political opinions. Also cheers to all the other bloggers who have kept the election excitement alive with the daily banter.

feminurse, I think the reason abortion becomes such a flashpoint issue is that it is a figurehead for so many other issues relating to "sexual politics" for lack of a better expression.

For what it's worth, I'm not upset about being challenged on my opinions. I think an honest dialogue will improve everyone's perspective. I'm not intimidated by femilib's bluster as my conscience is clear.

Isn't it a shame that school boards and governments take such a short-sighted view of sexual education? Especially since, as I said, many parents aren't comfortable talking about sex.

I've already had "that talk" with both my son and my daughter and I will provide frequent reminders as necessary now they're both in the teenage years. It's my duty as a parent to teach responsibility.

In a perfect world, there would be no need for abortions. If men and women made the choice to be sexually responsible, this discussion would be almost moot. We don't live in a perfect world and people don't always act responsibly.
Fair and balanced: it seems as though you are confused with private/public divide. From your statement, it would appear as though you are aligning a woman's body with the state. It is these types of alignments, which make women's autonomy over their bodies at risk. If we are going to follow through with this private/public divide then a woman's choice with what she wants to do with her body is in fact private; therefore, you have no say. Also, do not forget that not all provinces cover the cost of abortion. In response to the comment about accusing men of being oppressors, I am only stating the fact that women are victimized by male violence every day. I was never suggesting you were an "oppressor" or a man who commits violent acts towards women. Maybe you have pointed out the huge issue with violence against squirm away...very defeatist. Oh and the "rhetoric" I use is from facts. You cannot avoid them. I would also like to know where you found stats defending your statement that women use abortion as a form of birth control or is this an over assumption? I am sorry if you feel that I have attacked you based on your comments but is it not fair to suggest that you too are doing the same?
I made no reference to statistics regarding abortion being used as birth control. I merely stated my personal opinion (and described it as such)... nothing more.

I'm talking ethics and morals, not stats. If you want to play the stats game, fly at it but don’t expect me to do your research for you!

I have no confusion about public versus private. For example: if I, as a conservative man, decide to have horns grafted onto my head (perfectly appropriate since men are inherently evil according to some feminists) and I convince a doctor this was appropriate, would the operation be a matter of public or private interest? Should the taxpayers, through medicare, be responsible for my choice?

According to your logic, this is my body and my private choice, therefore you have no say! Taxpayers, open your wallets and give me that blank cheque!!

Blanket statements like “women are victimized by male violence every day” are exactly the kind of rhetoric I’m talking about.

Men are victimized by female violence every day; it is every bit as much a fact as your assertion.

The key difference? Men don’t report being assaulted... but it happens.

So how did violence become male?

When Kelly Ellard held Reena Virk’s head underwater after kicking her so hard that she left footwear impressions in Virk’s body, was Ellard suddenly transformed into a male? Were the group of girls who helped Ellard viciously beat Virk before the drowning also transformed into males?

Women can be just as cruel, vicious and violent as any man. Violence defies gender. Violence is wrong, whether it’s males or females who are the assailants.

Yes, there are more reported incidents of men assaulting women than vice versa. Instead of wasting time and energy pointing fingers and screaming accusations, why don’t feminists try seeking solutions?

Perhaps feminists like using such accusations to intimidate males. Does that strike you as a morally sound position? Is that any less bullying than a male puffing out his chest and talking tough?

I don't know anything about you, femilib, but if you've had the misfortune of never meeting a male who isn't violent, I am truly sorry for you. Some of us are actually quite nice. I've been married for a long time and I'm raising my son and my daughter to be responsible citizens who will respect their spouses. It is my responsibility and my way of honouring my parents who did the same thing for me.

You see, conservatives can be just as civilized and progressive as liberals. I notice very few people had the courage to wade into this argument. I wonder what conclusions I could draw from that?

I'm glad you decided to reply, femilib and I hope you give my words some thoughtful consideration.
F & B

Feminism is not monolithic. There are pro-life feminists, sex-positive feminists, radical feminists (the ones you frequently reference), christian feminists, post-modern feminists, third wave feminists, anarcha feminists, liberal feminists...and the list goes on.
My point is not to impress you on my knowledge of feminism but to just lend some insight into a very misunderstood political ideology (it is one!).

Like liberals, and conservatives you can not paint us all with the same brush.

But f&b you were one of the only people involved in this discussion, so that is impressive. As femlib said, not shying away from these discussions is very important for all people- women and men

F&B I never said I was a feminist so I am confused as to why you are labeling me as such. Is it because I am discussing women's issues? I would like to know what you think constitutes one being a feminist and why you think I am one. I am no longer discussing abortion, as it seems pointless at this point to carry on dialogue regarding this topic. I am baffled by your not wanting to recognize that violence against women does occur daily obviously you have not been affected by it...lucky you!
As for your question, why don't feminists try to seek solutions? The answers to this question are very complex but if you paid any attention what-so-ever to the topic you would know that many women and feminists have put forth policies in order to seek solutions; however, solutions are hard to come by when men still attack women. Why don't you provide a solution? I would love to hear your suggestions.
In addition, I want to let you know that I have been with my male partner for almost two years and have many male friends. I am well aware that there are many great men out there but I also know that there are those who are not. I hope your daughter does not experience any male violence. It appears as though you think I am attacking you and your character and I am not. I am only pointing out what you should already know and if you do not you should consider doing some reading on the topic. I think your opinion might change.
feminurse, I’ve encountered a couple of different varieties of feminists but some of ones you listed a unfamiliar to me. You’re right- I don’t normally divide feminism into so many ideologies.

Strangely enough, I haven’t had any real problems with feminists, radical or otherwise. Once the radicals realize that I’m not intimidated by rhetoric, genuine dialogue can take place. I do put great value in dialogue... or had you guessed that?

This written format is empty of any intonation or nonverbal communication and, as such, is incomplete. Unfortunately, that’s what we’re stuck with.

femilib, I haven’t called you a feminist, radical or otherwise. I said you were using feminist rhetoric. I wouldn’t presume to make such judgments about you since all I know of you is the few words we’ve exchanged here.

That being said, femilib, may I ask why you chose your user-name? What impression were you trying to make??

Before we leave the abortion issue behind, let me make one last observation. From a “black & white” perspective, I would be “pro-choice” because I don’t take issue with the medical procedure of abortion where appropriate. I don’t think abortions should be used as an alternative method of birth control. I would rather see people being sexually responsible. Is that such a bad thing?

As for my position regarding violence, it may come as a bit of a surprise to you but my position has changed and evolved. I used to think men were the source of violence. I am no longer that naive.

I’ve spent most of my adult life dealing with victims of assault, sexual assault, domestic violence and other similar tragedies. What I have learned is that violence is neither a male issue nor a female issue. Without going into a long involved discussion about power/control dynamics, let me reassure you that I have been paying attention.

Blaming men exclusively for violence is shortsighted and counterproductive. Blanket statements about “male violence” are designed to evoke an emotional reaction doesn’t do anything to impact the problems but it makes for great fundraising and agenda control which is why the Andrea Dworkins of this world like to use this kind of tactic.

Policies designed with the premise that men are the exclusive problem are fundamentally flawed. As a result, their effectiveness is limited. Solutions? There are no blanket solutions either. Being able to engage in this kind of discussion is a great start.

If our conversation provokes anyone to rethink how they look at others in a more positive light, we’ve made magic.

femilib, even if you were attacking my character (as it appeared in your first post) it doesn't matter to me. You're a faceless set of script on a blog. So am I. See, we have something in common, after all!!

Try, if you can, to set aside your preconceived notions and think about violence as a process rather than an impulse. You may find your opinion might change.
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