C/O Colin Lloyd (Unsplash)

The overturning of Roe v. Wade sets a dangerous precedent for our society 

As you probably know, on June 24, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade. This decision effectively took away an individual’s right to an abortion in the US and cleared the way for individual states in the country to impose further bans and limitations on the procedure.  

In the weeks since the court’s decision was announced, I’ve been reading about Roe obsessively, falling down rabbit holes of articles and videos as I try to understand not only what happened and what this means, but also how it happened.  

Because it’s not an exaggeration to say this changes everything and I still can’t quite wrap my head around how we arrived here. Here, where instead of tackling the issues in front of us, like the climate crisis, we are returning to decisions — to human rights — we acknowledged and agreed on decades ago. Here, where the work and the world so many women, people of colour, queer folk and many others fought so hard for is being pulled apart at its foundations. Why are we retreading old ground instead of moving forward? 

Why are we retreading old ground instead of moving forward?

There are going to be far reaching consequences to this regression; not just in the United States and not just for individuals with uteruses.  

SCOTUS has set a very dangerous precedent with this decision, not only for rights in the US but also for rights around the world. They have shown that courts and lawmakers not only can but are also willing to reverse and rewrite these landmark moments, these hard won victories. SCOTUS have already made it clear they intend to go after gay rights, the right to contraception and even interracial marriage

And if SCOTUS does that, what’s to stop courts and lawmakers around the world, even in Canada, from doing the same?  

I want to make something extremely clear though — the decision to overturn Roe is not the result of a broken system. Their system is not broken. It was flawed to begin with because it was built to serve only a certain kind of people – cisgendered white, heterosexual men – and it is continuing to serve these people. 

I want to make something extremely clear though — the decision to overturn Roe is not the result of a broken system. Their system is not broken. It was flawed to begin with because it was built to serve only a certain kind of people – cisgendered white, heterosexual men – and it is continuing to serve these people. 

These people who have little to no understanding of reproductive health or the female body, nor the experiences of women, people of colour and queer folk and never mind the experiences of those at the intersections of these identities.  

This lack of understanding is clear in the laws they’re creating and supporting. For example, the Texas Heartbeat Act, which took effect in Sept. 2021, bans abortion after a heart beat has been detected, which typically occurs about six weeks into a pregnancy. Six weeks pregnant though, is two weeks late for one’s period and there are a multitude of reasons one might be late for their period, including stress and certain health issues. The window to seek an abortion is so narrow and now (as of July 13) with the overturning of Roe, abortion is banned entirely in Texas

This is why we need more women, more people of colour, more queer folk in positions of power. Because they have the experience and the understanding to create effective legislation that supports their own communities, to build stronger, better systems that serve these communities instead of leaving them behind. 

This is why we need more women, more people of colour, more queer folk in positions of power. Because they have the experience and the understanding to create effective legislation that supports their own communities, to build stronger, better systems that serve these communities instead of leaving them behind. 

But looking around me, this moment is full of examples of how we are moving backwards beyond just the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade: the homophobic sentiments and attacks on the queer community these past few weeks, SCOTUS also voting to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency during a climate emergency, the trucker convoy returning to Ottawa and so many more.   

This year it’s important to me the Silhouette covers how issues, big and small, are affecting our community. We are going to be seeing the consequences of the decision to overturn Roe for a long time and we at the Silhouette remain committed to covering these stories and informing you about how they are affecting our community here at home. 

Abortion clinic in New Brunswick faces potential closure as the government refuses to invest in clinical abortion services

In March 2020, roughly $140,000 was deducted from New Brunswick’s annual health transfer payments by the Canadian federal government. Yet in April, the temporary reimbursement of the same amount was provided to the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial decision to deduct money was a result of the province not subsidizing out-of-hospital abortions. The province has been criticized for not providing adequate abortion access.

Medicare from the province for abortions currently only covers three hospitals, two in Moncton and one in Bathurst. While Moncton is the most populated city of New Brunswick, all three hospitals are located at least 150 km away from Fredericton and Saint John, the two other most populated cities of the province.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has stood by his decision and refused to subsidize abortion costs for the province’s only private clinic offering abortion services, Clinic 554. However, Clinic 554 is a family medical practice and all other costs apart from abortion are covered by the province.

The federal government and other activists arguing against the province’s decision stated that New Brunswick is violating the Canada Health Act, Canada’s federal legislation for publicly funded health care insurance.

The Canada Health Act notes that provinces and territories should fulfill five criteria and two conditions. Of these criteria and conditions, accessibility is one of the criteria.

The act also states that provinces and territories should ensure there is no extra billing and user charges for insured health services. Violation of the act removes their entitlement to the full Canada Health Transfer.

In 2017, people from New Brunswick spent $140,216 out-of-pocket at a clinic when they were supposed to be covered by Medicare.

In 2017, people from New Brunswick spent $140,216 out-of-pocket at a clinic when they were supposed to be covered by Medicare.

Dr. Adrian Edgar runs Clinic 554, the only clinic that currently offers abortion services in New Brunswick and specializes in 2SLGBTQIA+ health care. Unlike the three hospitals, Clinic 554 is located in the city of Fredericton.

Edgar said that for those who do not have Medicare yet, such as international students or migrant workers, abortions at hospitals can cost roughly $2,400 to $2,700.

At Clinic 554, there is a $700 to $800 fee for each abortion service administered, but Edgar has been performing the service for free to those who can not afford the fee.

In September, Edgar said that the clinic itself subsidizes abortions for patients. However, the cost is no longer viable and therefore Edgar is forced to consider closing the clinic.

As of November, Clinic 554 is still open and continues to provide abortion services for patients. Edgar noted that the clinic has had to drastically reduce its services in the last year due to the lack of funds. The clinic no longer provides services relating to transgender health, routine family-practice care or addiction care.

A national civil liberties group known as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has now filed a legal notice in the first stage of a suit against the News Brunswick government.

“We gave the government the chance to do the right thing but sadly they have given us no other option,” said Michael Bryant, CCLA’s executive director and general counsel.

“We gave the government the chance to do the right thing but sadly they have given us no other option,” said Michael Bryant, CCLA’s executive director and general counsel.

Higgs had previously expressed that he is concerned that funding abortion services at Clinic 554 would set a precedent for further funding of other private clinics. Higgs suggested that if there is a lack of access, the solution should be to consider whether another hospital should offer abortion services.

The Student Health Education Centre, run by the McMaster Students Union, expressed their concern for this issue and wrote a letter to Higgs and New Brunswick’s Minister of Health, Dorothy Shepard.

“This limitation notably restricts access to safe, legal, sex-positive, trauma-informed and gender-celebratory abortion care from a group of qualified licensed medical professionals,” the letter stated.

The letter stated that although the lack of accessible abortion services is occuring in a different province than that of the university, there are many students from New Brunswick attending McMaster. This included Edgar, who was a 2010 McMaster graduate.

Responding to Higgs’ rationale that further accessibility should mean more hospitals rather than clinics offering abortion services, Sydney Cummings, coordinator of SHEC, said that she disagrees with this reasoning as clinics are often a preferred option for those seeking abortion services.

“I truthfully do not think that [investing more in abortion services in hospitals] would be very helpful to many of the folks that want or need this care . . . I don’t think that’s the answer personally,” Cummings said.

“I truthfully do not think that [investing more in abortion services in hospitals] would be very helpful to many of the folks that want or need this care . . . I don’t think that’s the answer personally,” Cummings said.

Cummings added that statistics show abortion clinics are necessary and have been providing a service that people use. In fact, statistics show that in recent years, the number of abortions done in clinics outnumbers those done in hospitals.

In 2018, statistics compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information showed that across Canada, 26,498 abortions were done in hospitals while 58,697 abortions were done in clinics.

Aside from a lack of abortion services in general, making hospitals the only option for abortions has been a concern especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to Global News, Edgar said that he believes funding private abortion clinics is important now more than ever to help limit travel and patient exposure to bacteria.

Edgar also said that reports have been filled out by many patients of his clinic, complaining about the lack of access to services during the pandemic. Edgar said that the clinic is sending these complaints to the ministry of health.

The urgency of the matter during a pandemic was also noted in SHEC’s letter.

“[I]t is unethical to send people to a hospital in the midst of a global pandemic when these procedures could easily be done safely in a lower-risk environment. Especially given the immunocompromised state of most pregnant persons,” the service wrote.

Cummings expressed that the need for abortion clinics lies in its ability to provide person-centred care. Hospitals across Canada are often overburdened and healthcare staff may not get the appropriate care-focused training that they need to provide abortion services.

Clinics can help ensure a greater level of care and understanding from the staff towards sensitive healthcare needs, such as abortions.

The decision for SHEC to reach out to the New Brunswick government and focus on this issue was largely because they heard of the important work that Clinic 554 does, said Cummings. The clinic is providing services for marginalized communities such as sex workers and members of the 2SLGTBQIA+ community.

Hearing that such an important resource is facing closure propelled the team to take further action.

“Forcing individuals from these [marginalized or oppressed] communities to seek out support from healthcare workers who don’t respect their identities is an act of indirect violence,” the service wrote in their letter.

Resources for abortion care: 
https://www.actioncanadashr.org/campaigns/call-access-line-1-888-642-2725 
https://choiceconnect.ca/
https://exhaleprovoice.org/after-abortion-talkline/

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By: Emily Smith

Coming out as a queer woman was a political experience for me. Intrinsically, our personal identities and experiences are political. When we are able to share our stories and create community, we come together to create social change. Recognizing this, I think it’s time to come out again in a very different way.

In July of 2010, I exercised my legal and inherent human right to choose and had an abortion. I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and my abortion took place around nine weeks. At the time I was in my first long-term relationship, which was both emotionally abusive and sexually coercive. I was struggling significantly with my mental health. My abortion was a painful decision in an unfortunate situation. It is something I have struggled with, though never regretted, for the past five and a half years.

In my four years at McMaster I’ve seen an increasing presence of pro-life propaganda on campus. Although I strongly believe in the right everyone has to an opinion, and by no means seek to eradicate groups on campus, I do think it’s important to recognize the inaccuracies and frankly emotionally manipulative tactics being used to stigmatize and marginalize the people in our community who have had abortions.

Recently I’ve seen some chalk writing on campus tarmac. One stated “your mother chose life.” I don’t know if my mother is pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, but I do know that I was a pregnancy that was planned, wanted, and prepared for. Had I been a pregnancy that was unwanted or unplanned would my mother have chosen differently? Would it have mattered? Her path would have been different, as would those around her. This tactic is frequently harnessed by pro-life groups and does not reflect the reality of choosing to have children. Pro-choice people have children on a regular basis, choosing choice.

Another quote stated that “the first inalienable human right is to life.” Many justice groups are rightfully up in arms from the moment a child is born about bodily autonomy. We protest the circumcision, cosmetic or surgical alteration, and piercing of infants. In all of these situations, we recognize that a basic human right all children should have is the right to choose what they will do with their bodies, and modifications should only be made when the individual is capable of making that decision. Yet somehow the importance of bodily autonomy diminishes when we start talking about abortion. When we allow women the ability to pierce their own ears but not to terminate a pregnancy, what are we telling women? That their bodies are their own but only to an extent. Women’s bodies are not public property. They are not walking incubators, and no one should have a say in what one person does with their own body.

Finally, a chalk message said “adoption is a loving alternative.” Adoption is a beautiful option for women who choose to carry their pregnancies but do not want to parent children, but it is an alternative to parenthood, not pregnancy. When we talk about adoption in the context of a substitute for abortion, adoption becomes a weapon in a misogynistic political agenda against women. Adoption should not be disrespected and used as a guilt tactic or presented a last ditch effort against abortion.

Every moment that this pro-life propaganda exists on our campus, more and more people are shamed, silenced and provided with false and manipulative information. Perhaps if accurate quotes were shared on sidewalks, accurate signs displayed in our student centre, or accurate pamphlets handed out on corners, we might see a marked change in how women who have had abortions navigate their university experience. If well-intentioned and productive information was being disseminated on campus our pro-life organizations would cease to exist.

When these quotes are publicly displayed the intention is clear. To silence, shame, and deny women spaces to talk openly about their abortions. When we fail to talk about abortion as a valuable and viable option for an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy we force women to see themselves as having shameful secrets. Most people can imagine what it’s like to carry with you a secret you cannot share without fear of disgust, rejection, or humiliation. There is a simple fix to this one: accept abortions.

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By: Jennifer La Grassa

In response to a vote passed by the U.S. Senate to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, America’s largest provider of women’s reproductive health services, legions of women have taken to social media to display their outrage and share their profoundly intimate and personal stories of abortion.

Amelia Bonow, an American activist and the co-creator of the hashtag, took to Twitter to share her personal story; she had an abortion at a Seattle Planned Parenthood in 2014, and the idea of her hashtag was to destabilize the stigma that surrounds women who have terminated pregnancies. Bonow called the senate’s vote to cut funding for Planned Parenthood an “attack on women’s physical autonomy,” and urged women to shout and share their stories despite the tremendous societal pressure to stay silent.

The hashtag was used more than 100,000 times in the 24 hours following its inception, and women from all over the globe shared their stories. Many of the tweets displayed the emotion surrounding an unwanted pregnancy and around the often difficult decision to have an abortion.

Some women spoke of being young and terrified, as well as unable to afford raising a child or about being in dangerous and abusive relationships that would be unfit for a baby. Bonow’s co-founder and fellow activist Lydia West stated that by cutting funding, the Senate is implying that “abortion is something to be whispered about.” Instead, they decided to shout.

Despite the four decades since abortion was legalized in the U.S., the topic is still extremely sensitive and Bonow has stated that she has received countless hate-fuelled tweets, as well as several death threats. The onslaught of hate, courtesy of pro-lifers, has produced #shoutyourabortion’s counterpart, #shoutyouradoption.

The majority of tweets containing #shoutyouradoption blatantly criticize the concept of abortion, and some specifically target women who have received an abortion, and in their eyes, committed murder.

The movement has swept social media, and Bonow hopes it will reach Senate, where the vote to cut funding can be reviewed. She refers to the defunding plan as a “misogynist crusade,” seeing as it will only truly and directly affect women and their own reproductive health. If Planned Parenthood is defunded, it’s absolutely terrifying to think of what might be next.

Randall Andrejciw
The Silhouette

 

Like many, I was shocked and disgusted when I saw the poster of a freshly aborted fetus that the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform displayed on the Lincoln Alexander Parkway during the evening rush hour on Sept. 17. The news that this group showed these pictures outside of Sherwood Secondary School on Sept. 25 – in view of a nearby elementary school – brought the same reaction. I suppose this means that the photos had their desired effect; it caused people to notice it and be shocked at the degree of violence that the fetus had suffered.

It is interesting, and somewhat backward, that this group and others use images of violent death to get their “pro-life” message across. Even within the pro-life community, the use of images of aborted fetuses has generated debate, some arguing that those images are the cold, dead truth. They say that pictures of death are the most effective way of communicating a pro-life message; that is, an abortion ban.

And herein lays the problem. The goal of the pro-life movement is not solely to ban abortion as it exists in our culture today, although the media would certainly have us believe that. The pro-life movement’s stated goal is to create a culture where human life, from conception to natural death, is recognized as the most fundamental human right and legally protected as such. Groups that use grisly images only confuse the message of the larger pro-life movement. They only put a negative spin on what should be a positive message.

But why is there so much emotional reaction to the pictures? After all, this is Canada, where the abortion debate was settled in 1988. The progressive side just bullies all opponents into submission and sometimes misleads the public in order to obtain their goal of a free and open society. If anything, photos of aborted fetuses should be shown by pro-choice groups as a trophy of their victory, to show what a progressive, open country they have singlehandedly shaped us into. Right?

I doubt it. Like it or not, the debate about abortion is far from settled. The emotional reactions inspired by the pictures of aborted fetuses at Sherwood and The Linc are a microcosm of Canadians’ feelings about abortion. An Ipsos Reid poll conducted in 2012 found that 62% of female respondents supported the introduction of a law that places limits on when a woman can have an abortion during her pregnancy. Dr. Henry Morgentaler saw “serious ethical problems” with late term abortions, saying that “we want to abort fetuses before they become babies.”  Justin Trudeau, whose father decriminalized abortion in Canada, tweeted “Now I’m getting guff from (abortion advocates) because I said I don’t like abortion. Does anyone who’s pro-choice, as I am, really LIKE abortion?”

Regardless of what position one takes, the abortion debate is one worth having. With every passing year, the decision to remove all abortion laws from Canada’s books appears more and more short-sighted and a reaction designed to placate pro-choice activists, who were more militant than their pro-life counterparts and got their way. The display of aborted fetuses, while ill-advised and not effective for pro-lifers, serves to stir up debate – a debate that many Canadians would prefer to be seen as settled, even though it is anything but.

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