Saturday, November 11, 2000

W5: Thanks for having the courage

Program name: W5
Air date/time: Nov. 5, 2000, 19:00

Dear Mr. McClure,
Thank you for producing a program about anti-choice "Pregnancy Centres" that use deceit to try to prevent or delay women from going for abortions.

The Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre and others like it harm women because they hide their anti-choice views and knowingly jeopardize the health of young women by delaying their access to appropriate services. Not only are late abortions more dangerous than early ones, legal abortion is safer than childbirth by a factor of 11 (for death; abortion is 100 times less likely to cause major abdominal surgery). False clinics are trying to force women into risk. This should be grounds for legal sanctions.

I used to be vaguely anti-choice until I actually started thinking about it. Then I realized that it doesn't matter if the fetus is a person: no person has the right to use my body against my will, even to save their life. If a woman is a moral being, she has the right to make that choice.

Even with consistent use of contraceptives, a woman has a substantial chance of contraceptive failure every several years. To find the chance of contraception working for several years, multiply the reliability rate by itself each year. If the reliability is 97%, then over two years it's 0.97 x 0.97 or 94%, and so on. Over a reproductive lifespan, it falls to about 40% -- and that's for the most reliable methods. For condoms or contraceptive foam, with their failure rates of 15% per year, pregnancy is almost inevitable.

So a woman doesn't have to be irresponsible to get pregnant. And if she were, is being irresponsible a good criterion for being a parent, especially a single parent? Deciding to have an abortion can be a responsible, even loving, decison about the needs of existing children and whether a prospective mother can provide the total care that a new baby needs.

And lest we forget, in the bad old days women died from illegal abortion. My mother had a stay in hospital back then. She told me of another young woman in the same hospital room. (This happened in Ontario.) That woman was treated with contempt by the nurses when she said that she was in increasing pain. The nurses told her that she was being a sissy and shoud be quiet. But she showed them: she died. When her fiance came with flowers that evening, he was baldly told that she was dead. My mother added, "That was a broken man."

For the women who died of bleeding or infection were not the only the victims of illegal abortion. The others were their husbands, lovers, parents, and children—for many of them already had children—that were left behind. When you remove abortion from health care, you can't avoid results like these.

I myself knew of a girl who lost her uterus at age 18 due to a late, illegal, and botched abortion. No, I didn't know her: I sang in the church choir with the doctor who did the abortion.

I did know girls in the 60s and 70s who married out of high school at 14 and 15 years of age. And in the 80s, the Progressive Conservatives passed a bill outlawing abortion. Within a week, a 20-year-old girl at the University of Waterloo bled to death trying to perform an abortion on herself. Imagine the desperation that she must have felt. Ironically, the bill was defeated in the Senate and never became law.

Many of the people who are opposed to abortion will never be pregnant. They idealize and value the fetus above the woman; they are willing to risk cutting down the oak tree to save the acorn. Others can use their wealth or position to avoid the laws. Canada's Attorney General, Francis Fox, was upholding laws against abortion whilst forging his lover's husband's signature so that she could get one. Talk about two-tier health care!

That's what these god-shouting moralists are trying to do: control women through pain and fear of death. We can't stop littering or speeding by passing laws. How are we going to stop abortion?

However unpleasant abortion might be, it is infinitely preferable to the consequences of not having it.

The people of Canada, through their laws and many opinion polls, have made it clear that his is a moral choice of women in consultation with their doctors. Let us leave it to them and eliminate those deceitful pregnancy centres from the scene of our heath care.


...and keep up the good work!

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