This is a rewrite of an earlier article. We have to keep on saying these things. It is pathetic, but necessary.
I was born late in 1963. In 1969 contraception and abortion stopped being illegal in Canada. In 1983 spousal rape became illegal in Canada.
So in the spring of 1963 when my father raped my mother the assault was perfectly legal. She had no access to contraceptives. She had little or no access to reproductive health services and certainly not an abortion. This, despite the fact that she was living in astonishing poverty with a drunken abusive rapist and already had two nearly grown daughters.
In fact, gynecological neglect contributed to decades of health problems for my mother, which significantly worsened the misery of her later years.
That being said, OHIP started in 1966 so she was more fortunate than her mother who, without healthcare and birth control had a life of near-annual miscarriages that took a heavy toll on her health. And even so they both had it easier than my father’s mother who had an unknowable number of miscarriages as well as some-teen surviving children by a physically abusive man who once hung his heavily pregnant wife out a second story window and would try to, in my aunt Virginia’s words, “beat the French out of her.”
Antiabortionists like to frame their cause in terms of protecting babies. But blastocysts and embryos and fetuses are no more babies than babies are adults. And blastocysts and embryos and fetuses cannot be persons in fact. Such as it is, “pro-life” campaigners cannot be acting as they are to protect the unborn, because unborn “babies,” in the sense that they are proposing, are imaginary.
What is actually the case is that these people, or specifically the leaders who agitate them for their own purposes, are trying to undermine women’s access to reproductive health services. And they do this opportunistically out of a cynical disregard for the safety and well-being of women because abortion is an easy topic to get ignorant people angry about and angry people can be easily manipulated.
In order to have rights at all, to have “security of their person,” women must first have access to the contraceptive and gynecological services my mum and her mum and my dad’s bruised and beaten mother suffered without. There is no way around this. If anyone can be required to be pregnant, then they have no other liberty.
Already in the US, after the entirely disgusting and disingenuous SCOTUS ruling overturning Roe, states are acting to remove women’s freedom of movement and association by making it illegal to travel out of state to get a legal abortion. Women are being left dying for hours while doctors hesitate to save them by providing a medically necessary abortion for fear of being arrested and sent to jail for years. Therefore palliative care for pregnant women who are going to die without an abortion is becoming a growth industry. When a women dies from medical neglect because the state prevents her from getting an abortion, no part of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness is left to her.
And the reasoning behind the SCOTUS decision on Roe is not even legally valid, as was testified to by the recent Republican SCOTUS appointees when they were perjuring themselves before Congress during their confirmation hearings. And that same reasoning also has implications for interracial marriage decisions, same-sex marriage decisions, as well as decisions on contraception, with far reaching implications for the undermining of large swathes of human rights.
Attacks on women’s access to reproductive health services are attacks on personal liberty and justice in general, not just attacks on women’s health and women’s rights. Abortion bans are on the same road as contraception bans and disenfranchisement of women; as the decriminalization of spousal rape. As a return to an appalling age of suffering and abuse of which we should all be profoundly ashamed. There can be no tolerating these appalling policies. There can be no decent moral position that does not loudly condemn restrictions to women’s access to any reproductive health services.