Monday, January 28, 2008

Voting for choice.

Twenty years ago the Supreme Court of Canada resolved what should have been the final dispute over abortion when it issued the decision in the case of R v Morgentaler.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, would never again go to jail for performing a safe medical procedure on any woman requesting it.

Section 251 of the Criminal Code of Canada was rendered void.
Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman's body and thus an infringement of security of the person. A second breach of the right to security of the person occurs independently as a result of the delay in obtaining therapeutic abortions caused by the mandatory procedures of s. 251 which results in a higher probability of complications and greater risk. The harm to the psychological integrity of women seeking abortions was also clearly established.
And women, after over a century long struggle, had won another small measure of freedom.

Henry Morgentaler stands as figure who defied the established male-dominated order and won. He stood against the carnage created by laws which did not prevent abortion - they simply made abortion dangerous.

This is not really about abortion however. This is about freedom. This is about one-half of a population enduring subjugation, limits on their rights, abuse and restrictions imposed by a constructed standard that cannot hope to survive.

Amanda Marcotte once told me, "... a system based on oppressing half the human race is what you might call "unsustainable". "

To say the least. In fact, it is destructive. Any society which imposes limits on half its population is limiting the potential of the whole. And a society which places any kind of unique limit on its women is only doing it to maintain male dominion - expensive male dominion.

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, it has been women fighting for freedom from the male dominance of society which has brought about most of the positive changes we take for granted today. Most young people today would not accept that women in this country at one time were not allowed to vote, were not allowed to own property and were, in fact, considered "minors" under the governance of their husbands with no more rights than their own children.

A simple observation is that the majority of those who oppose a woman's right to make her own decisions regarding her own body are men. The majority of voices in western governments opposing health initiatives for young girls which would protect them in adulthood are, you've got it, men.


Dominance. And it isn't sustainable.

Too often, when women actually do achieve something nearing equality in some aspect of life, it is framed by a male demand for compliance. True equality always falls a little short of the mark.

Look at make-up of the Canadian federal government ministry. At last count there were 28 ministers in cabinet and 5 outside cabinet. Six are women.

This same government has made a meal out of wreaking havoc on the ability of women to advance to an equal standing in this country. Three things stand out.

The defunding of Status of Women Canada was a clear assault on the advancement of women in social, business and political forums.

The cutting-off of funds to women's shelters and sexual assault crisis centres. Believe it or not, some of the current political leadership considers these operations have the effect of eroding families. The fact that they were there to deal with the results of already eroded families didn't prevent the Canadian government from ending financial grants.

Perhaps the worst though, is the statement made with the scrapping of a national child-care agreement with the provinces. It has long been understood that comprehensive child-care arrangement would unleash the power of women and the contribution they can make to economic, academic and social advancement. Despite that, the current federal government took a route which was deliberately fashioned to crush the ability of women with young children to advance beyond the front porch.

The current federal government is quick to proclaim that women have achieved equality and that they clearly do not constitute a "minority" group.

No. They haven't. And, no, they don't.

One might expect that a thinking politician could read that particular formula and come up with a different answer and different policies than they have so far.

But they haven't.

So, when I get the slightest indication from a politician that they would cause government to revisit a woman's right to dominion over her own body, I dismiss them. Losing my vote is only the start of it.

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