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A step backwards for reproductive rights

When I was pregnant with Emma, I started having regular contractions much earlier than I should have. I was worried I might be in early labour and went into the Labour and Delivery clinic at hospital where my prenatal care provider was and where I was due to have my baby. As I sat waiting for the doctor to come back with some information for me, a teenage girl and her mother approached the  check-in counter.

"She has an appointment for surgery," the mother said.

"Of course," said the nurse. "Can I have her provincial health card please?"

The mother handed over the girl's card and a few moments later, another nurse came out and led the girl and her mother away to a room.  Her parents didn't have to remortgage their house to pay for the procedure. She didn't have to push her way through protesters to go into a special clinic. She certainly didn't have to take what pennies she could scrape up and trust some person with a knife in a dingy motel. She could depend on the fact that the Canada Health Act and the provincial health care plans that stem from it allowed her access to a full range of choices, none of which would cost her money or risk her life.

It is our right.

But I see that right crumbling around us and it makes me scared for my daughter's generation and scared for all the women and girls who live in parts of the world where they do not have those same rights.

Abortion and health care reform in the United States

The United States passed historic health care legislation this week ensuring affordable access to health insurance for many people who were previously unable to get insurance. This is a huge step forward. But it comes with a huge step backwards for reproductive rights. Abortion is legal in the United States, but the current legislation may make it unaffordable and inaccessible to most women (you can sign a petition to the Democratic Party in support of reproductive rights here). In his post on the six big flaws that need fixing, Jon Walker wrote:
This bill is a massive rollback of a woman’s right to choose. It would take away the abortion coverage of millions of Americans. The system of exchanges and affordability tax credits could easily be modified to ensure federal funds are not used to pay for abortions, while still not taking away the ability of women and small businesses to buy insurance packages that cover abortion. Having an individual mandate that forces women to buy insurance, but also a law that prevents them from getting insurance that covers a legal medical procedure, is a disgusting abuse of women’s rights.

This is certainly only one of the many ways that the new legislation impacts women. Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check has an extremely comprehensive post that looks at the wins and losses for women's health in this health care bill and is well worth a thorough read.  She talks about issues like the right to pump breastmilk at work, support for postpartum depression, the elimination of pre-existing conditions, partial (but not complete) removal of gender rating, free preventive care, lack of coverage for immigrant women, and more.

Abortion and Canadian aid for maternal health in developing nations

At the same time as the United States was passing its historic legislation, the Canadian government was debating reproductive rights in its Parliament. No, not the reproductive rights of Canadians, which (for now) will stay intact. Rather, they were debating the details of Canada's aid package focusing on maternal and newborn health in developing nations. The Conservative government first said that the purpose of the plan was "to be able to save lives" but that it would not include any provisions for contraception or abortion.

The government obviously has a very skewed view of how exactly lives are saved in the world's poorest countries.  Lack of child spacing options and lack of access to safe abortions is what kills mothers and babies in those countries. Eventually they agreed to include birth control in the package, but said that it was out of the question for Canadian government aid to be used to fund abortions.

The opposition parties (which jointly hold a majority of the seats in the house) filed a motion "asking for the Government of Canada to commit to the position that Canada has held for 25 years, which is to defend women's right of access to the full range of reproductive health services overseas." According to the CBC article Contraception motion defeated, the absence of several pro-life Liberal Members of Parliament, as well as the votes against the motion by several Liberal Members of Parliament led to the defeat of the motion (side note: this looks bad for Liberal leader Ignatieff).

The fact that the Liberal party cannot keep their ranks together to vote on something important like this says a lot about the strength (or lack thereof) of the party and its leader. This makes me even more scared about the possibility of a future majority Conservative government, something which scares plastikgyrl too as she wrote in her post Reproductive Health Care Takes Big Hits in North American Politics This Week:
The Conservative picture of an international maternal health strategy leaves me worried about what happens should they ever get a majority government. If contraception and abortion are issues those in power do not want to fund/support internationally, how long would it be before the 1988 overturning of the abortion law is repealed? What about the contraception components of the omnibus bill passed by the Trudeau government in 1969? Will enough people in this country believe that such decisions are in the best interest of the women of this country?

Very scared.

What is women's health without reproductive rights?

Is it better to have health care while giving up reproductive rights? Yes and no. Certainly the health care legislation in the United States and Canada's aid to countries around the world helps many women who desperately need health care and do not need abortions. However, it also puts those women who do need abortions at a greater risk than they were at before. It is polarizing and sets dangerous precedents.  Can we rewind to two years ago when Dr. Henry Morgentaler received the Order of Canada? I liked that world view better.

Image credit: Steve Rhodes on flickr
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Reader Comments (92)

I fear for the daughter I am presently choosing to carry . I fear she won't have the rights I have had, or the choices I never took for granted, but wish I felt I could. I was lucky enough to spend the first 26 years of my life at home in Canada where I never questioned my rights nor had to add stress to any choices by worrying about the cost. Since becoming a mother and carrying a pregnancy to term I am more vehemently pro choice than ever- the stipulations in the healthcare reform regarding abortions really frighten me. Not to mention sadden me that yet again men are trading my rights and what I do with my body as a trading card for their agenda.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllie

I always love your posts Annie! This one certainly hits home because while many focused on the little positive about this new law, I was quite concerned with what it lacks and this post is a huge one. I don't have a daughter, but I do have a niece and I would hate for her to have to worry about her rights when she is old enough to become pregnant. It just makes me ill.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCathy


This is a great post. I'm in the U.S., but I, too, worry about the reproductive health of the generations of women after me and the women in countries that rely on USAID and other funding streams from the global north. The entire conceptualization of abortion as a service that can be withheld because of the moral dilemmas it causes funder nations just exudes privilege and judgment, and is unquestionably a death sentence for women in developing nations. It's heartbreaking to me that our memories are so short that we can't remember a time when complications of illegal abortion was the leading cause of maternal mortality in even the richest nation on the planet. Even more heartbreaking to see backsliding in Canada, a nation that I have always believed to be committed to functional gender equality. When I was a law student, I gasped to read the opinion in the landmark Morgentaler case, which squarely held that the right to abortion was seated in the right to gender equality under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- something the US court was unequipped to do when Roe was argued. I hate to think that our rhetoric is rubbing off on the rest of the world.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCourtroom Mama

This post is great, Annie and friends, but just a little bit naive, because although big legal changes follow a political agenda, there are many other things at play behind the scenes, things like passing a bill with some of the changes, as opposed to not passing anything, or keeping financial support from big business for re-election.

Also, abortions are very important, but if people have to choose between not being able to afford health insurance at all and being able to get good cover for cancer, but not abortions, what would they choose?

I hope this bill is a step in a chain of changes for the better and subsequent changes will cover abortions as well. I hope that the health insurance companies will adapt to this change and find a way to provide cover for abortions or to "gently influence" the government's next moves.

But maybe I'm just a hopeless optimist...

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFamily Matters

I think those who might have the chance to live because of limited access will be grateful. Put yourself in their "shoes."

However, I agree with Family Matters: I doubt that abortions will truly end up being restricted despite the language in the bill. Subsequent changes are sure to follow.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

Well said. I'm happy this small step was made in the U.S., but doing so at the expense of women's healthcare is a slap in the face. The fact our president and members of congress were willing to use women's reproductive rights as a political bargaining chip show they still don't think of women as full citizens.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

The good news in the US is that the so-called pro-life people are furious about the healthcare bill and say that it will actually end up extending coverage for abortions. Here's an article to that effect from the Washington Post, if you can stand wading through all the anti-choice vitriol. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/23/AR2010032302841.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
So all may not be lost.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChanna

My husband and I were yelling at the TV as we watched the Republicans, How can they care more for unborn children than they can for sick children? But once again abortion and women's rights take a back seat to their own (restrictive, backwards, anti-women, pro-religion) agenda. And we are Canadian. I too worry about how are rights are being eroded, Harper's evasion of even putting birth control in the foreign aid package until he was pressured into it was despicable. And now we are supposed to be grateful for him adding the one thing that affects women's health more than anything else? When I was in my twenties, fighting for women's rights I felt so optimistic and empowered and now I wonder if I was just naive...
(interesting to note that I had an anti-abortion commenter post on a few of my blog posts this morning even ones that had nothing to do with politics. I took them all down except the one in the birth control post. Made me all riled up even before I read your thoughtful article). They are everywhere...

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmma

"Also, abortions are very important, but if people have to choose between not being able to afford health insurance at all and being able to get good cover for cancer, but not abortions, what would they choose?"

You are absolutely right, but I don't think that it's naive to question why, exactly, is this a "choice" that people have to make? It's only a recent development that 1) abortion is even framed as a matter of health somehow superseded by a moral question, and 2) that the argument that one gets to pick and choose where their tax money goes has gained any traction at all. It makes no sense to me that women are asked to choose between reproductive health and "other types" of health, as though one weren't a subset of the other. I don't think ANY form of health care should be used as a bargaining chip. I don't believe that we actually need to choose to throw anyone under the bus for it to roll along. Because you're right, when given the false choice of choosing between women and EVERYONE ELSE, folks are going to choose "everyone else." The only ones who lose are women, who, for some reason, aren't deserving of comprehensive health care.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCourtroom Mama

I was surprised by todays post ... I wouldn't have thought I'd read about pro-choice here. ... not sure why ... hmm..

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkim


You didn't think I would be pro-choice? Or you didn't think I would write about reproductive rights?

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

no, i love that you write about everything ... :)

didn't think you'd be pro-choice ...
I think b/c of everything else seems so written towards safety/health best needs for babies ...

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkim

I love this post. I, too, am vehemently pro-choice. It surprises people, as I'm expecting my third child right now -- but I think the world is a better place when a girl/woman has control over decisions regarding her own health care. One of these choices is whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term, regardless of her reasoning. It always amazes me when people think that being "pro-kids" equals "anti-choice". I've been pro-choice since I was a young teen and I don't see that changing. I'd prefer to have government policies change instead.

I'm watching the news from the States apprehensively. There was a good discussion on CBC yesterday morning (The Current, IIRC) about this issue.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa


Yes, and one of my babies is a girl and I want the best for her. That means having access to reproductive rights.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Kim, reproductive rights IS about "safety/health best needs for babies." Even abortion, as much as some want to make that an ugly word, is a medical necessity. Sometimes things go wrong with a pregnancy, and a woman needs to have access to all treatment options, even if one of them means terminating a wanted pregnancy because that's what's best for the mother and the fetus would not survive either way.

"Pro-choice" is about so much more than abortion, but usually we end up talking about that one point and forget everything else that's involved in reproductive rights.

If we're talking about what's best for babies, wouldn't the mother's right to decide when (and with whom) she chooses to get pregnant be a big part of that? That's where reproductive rights, and "pro-choice," begin.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCriss

I continue to be amazed at a group that recoils at the thought of government control of ANYTHING, of ANY part of your PERSONAL LIFE yet feels it is their DUTY to tell you when you can or can't have babies (or use birth control, etc). It makes no sense.

I was reading about how now women who want abortion coverage through their insurance will have to write a separate check to go into a separate pool of money to provide that coverage. It's madness.

And yes, access to safe, legal abortion IS about safety and health for babies. History shows us that when legal abortion is not available, women will use other means. Means that lead to more deaths and damage to both babies and mothers. So in order to ensure the safety and health of mothers and babies, we need to have access to pregnancy prevention (sex ed, contraception) and copious information as to every woman's options, including legal and safe abortions.

When every child is a wanted child, I bet we'll find their health and safety both improve greatly.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

In addition to that, I'm sure that having an abortion is an extremely difficult thing for most girls and women and being put through administrative hell dealing with your insurance company on top of that is just unnecessarily evil.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I personally do not see how requiring millions of pro-life women (and men) to fund something they consider murder is a positive thing. The debate over abortion in the healthcare bill is not over denying the "right to abortion", but rather about who is required to pay for it. To many people, paying into a system that funds abortion is equivalent to aiding and abetting a sin. Do the opinions of these women not count?

Also, re: third world countries and child spacing, if the modern methods of natural family planning, like the "sympto-thermal method" were taught and practiced, along with ecological breastfeeding, women in developing nations could space their families as they desired without need for abortions or expensive contraception.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaman A Droit

I really enjoy this blog in general, but one aspect of this post (and, in fact, the broader discussions on this that I've come across in the media) bothered me, and that is the equation of the terms "reproductive rights", "family planning", "contraception", and "pro-choice" (pro-abortion). While I don't wish to judge anyone's opinions on these topics, they are not one and the same!!!! This applies anywhere, but doubly so when trying to help out in places where prevailing attitudes and beliefs may be different than those in the west.

For example, I believe in reproductive rights and family planning. A woman has the right to choose when to start or grow a family (and so when or whether to have sex), which includes the right to obtain the education needed to do this. Family planning is also not only a right, but often an obligation when resources are limited. Fertility awareness methods (e.g., sympto-thermal) are highly effective, and considered moral by most faiths that I know of; artificial methods are more often considered dodgey. Without getting into my views on artificial birth control and abortion, I do believe these need to be considered as separate issues. If a woman's religious beliefs are that artifical means of birth control are immoral, then handing a condom to her husband does not amount to supporting her reproductive rights!!

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIsabelle


The fact that different people have different beliefs, different opinions and different preferences is the reason that choice needs to be available. No one is going to force anyone to use a condom or force anyone to get an abortion, but those options should be available to people who wish to avail themselves of those options.

Church is against my beliefs, but I believe other people should have the option to go if they want to.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

The concern is that with this restriction that access to abortion care will be even more severely limited than it is already. The politicians that are behind this are openly anti choice and this is not even a masked attempt at restricting access, it's their crusade.

One of my biggest questions remains to be how this will effect women who loose wanted pregnancies and then require D&Cs will they be forced to deliver their dead babies vaginally? Will this be their only option, will it depend if they have written that extra check? It's not just about women looking to end unwanted pregnancies.

Also governments often ask tax payers to contribute to things they are moral opposed to - I am opposed to war and torture. I still have to pay for that...

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllie

What about the tax dollars I spend that go towards war, and killing innocent mothers and children as part of it? Where's my say in that? Should we make pro-war tax-payers submit separate checks to the IRS that can be used for funding wars? If I view the killing of people in war as a sin, can I be excused from paying those taxes?

As for family planning, part of what the pro-choice community is striving towards is to provide information about and access to ALL kinds of birth control options out there. As an example, I wasn't aware of IUDs as a legitimate option for birth control until after I had my son (some research is showing IUDs may be safe for women who haven't yet been pregnant, BTW). In the US we rely on condoms and birth control pills for most of our contraception-- two forms that are the most likely to invite user error. If more women used IUDs (which can also be much less expensive long-term) instead of BC pills, we'd probably have fewer unintended pregnancies. NFP (the sympto-thermal method) is also a good option for those who don't want to use hormonal methods and/or don't want to spend money on other contraception (I'm wary of recommending breastfeeding as a contraceptive as I exclusively breastfed my son for 6 months, then continued through his first birthday, but my period returned on a regular cycle starting 3 months post-partum, and know many other women with similar experiences).

And my problem is, it seems a majority of the men and women who decry abortion as murder (and thus not worthy of coverage) also seem to be against spreading this valuable information about family planning, or help fund these preventative methods.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Also, re: third world countries and child spacing, if the modern methods of natural family planning, like the “sympto-thermal method” were taught and practiced, along with ecological breastfeeding, women in developing nations could space their families as they desired without need for abortions or expensive contraception.

As someone who practiced both of those combined with withdrawal, I agree that these options have merit. But all three of these options rely on the other partner to be on-board. If the only contraception options that ANY women have access to are dependent on their male partners' willingness to respect the method and the woman using it, they're not going to be effective methods in any part of the world. Women in any nation can only have control over the spacing of their families if they have a say in their exposure to sperm AND if they're in control of what prevents fertilization/implantation/gestation in their own bodies.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterplastikgyrl

Doesn't natural family planning also require that your body be extremely regular? Can women with irregular cycles use this method at all?

Also, doesn't NFP require that you take your cervical temperature and fill out charts to track your ovulation? If you want to be accurate? Is all this equipment and the information on how to use it readily available to all women?

If we lived in a perfect world where all women had regular cycles and men always respected women and never raped them, then yes, we could rely on natural family planning.

If we also lived in a perfect world where there were no complications to any pregnancy ever, then we could live in a world without abortions. Until these things happen, we need to allow women that choice.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCriss

Let me say first I respect you, I respect your blog and I respect your perspective. That said I do not see how anyone NEEDS an abortion. And before you tell me about the times when it is "for the health of the mother" those are generally so early on (ectopic pregnancies) that they are not even technically considered abortions (even Catholic hospitals do those) or so late that the child can be taken out and go straight to the NICU. A woman who does not want a child does not NEED an abortion. A woman who cannot care for a child does not NEED an abortion. A woman who has a very young baby and is overwhelmed at the idea of having a baby does not NEED an abortion.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

Isabelle, my faith does not have a problem with birth control or abortion. Why do you want there to be laws that prevent me from living my live according to my faith?

If a woman's religious beliefs are that artificial means of birth control are immoral, and I offer her husband a condom, I am not infringing on that woman's rights at all. If THE HUSBAND *takes* the condom, and plans to *use* it with his wife, then the woman needs to talk to her husband about her moral beliefs, and the husband needs to respect his wife's beliefs. I support that woman's reproductive rights, but I also support every other woman's reproductive rights. This is why I want to make condoms AVAILABLE to anyone who wants them. This in no way means I, or anyone, will FORCE any woman or man to use condoms or any other form of birth control.

I know that when the "pro-life" side uses the word "life" they are not using the word they mean (clearly evidenced by the disregard for the mother's life, death threats from "pro-life" activists/terrorists, murder by these same people, etc.); but when the pro-choice side says "choice" that is what we mean. If you do not want to use a condom, we're not going to force you. We just want to offer it IF YOU WANT IT.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCriss

Marcy- from an ethics perspective, I personally think that you should not have to pay for war if you believe it is unjustified. In the world according to me, you wouldn't have to :). From a political science perspective, the waging of war is one of the basic purposes of a government, and indeed the reason for forming one in many cases, while abortion is not traditionally regarded as the sphere of the government. From an economic perspective, war is a even that effects all members of a society and cannot be carried out with economic support from those who are not in moral support of it. Each abortion is impactful on a much smaller number of individuals that each war, and while it may be expensive, could almost always be funded by the individuals directly involved in it.

I may have been unclear about the breastfeeding, and if so, I apologize, but I agree that by itself it cannot be relied on very long for some women, but that it should be used in conjunction with other natural family planning techniques. For some women though, breastfeeding alone would space children 2-3 years or more apart!

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaman A Droit

Please educate yourself on the reality of complications that can occur during pregnancy. Medically necessary abortions are not "only ectopic pregnancies;" that statement is naive at best and willfully ignorant at worst.

And what do you mean by "they are not even technically considered abortions (even Catholic hospitals do those)"? An abortion is an abortion. Once the egg is fertilized and implanted, it's considered a pregnancy. The fact that "even Catholic hospitals do those" does not say anything about the "technicality" of the abortion, but rather about the reality of abortion: IT IS A MEDICAL NECESSITY. My OB/GYN, a Catholic, working for a Baptist hospital, told me that if the tests showed chromosomal abnormalities in my fetus (I'm at 10 weeks), both she and the hospital would recommend an abortion, since the chances of the fetus surviving are so small. The Baptist hospital will gladly perform an abortion on an abnormal fetus after 12 weeks (when we take the test for the chromosomal abnormalities) -- are you saying aborting a second-trimester fetus isn't "tehcnically an abortion" just because a religious hospital says it's OK to do?

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCriss

Oh!! So if the baby might die anyway you are considering it "medically necessary" Well, then by all means are pregnancies should end in abortion because all people might get killed in a car accident. So, they are all medically necessary.

What I mean about ectopic pregnancies is that they do not fall under the same medical classification as an abortion. From a legal standpoint. Those would not be in jeapordy even if abortion were illegal.

Please I implore you to show me one case that is not an ectopic pregnancies and is literally medically necessary for the life of the mother.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

Very quick Google search found two examples in http://www.swimmingkangaroo.com/blog/2006/03/what-do-doctors-mean-by-medically.html" rel="nofollow">one article right away:

Dr. Papa deals specifically with high-risk pregnancies. Patients are referred to her by their OB-GYN's because of conditions that threaten the life or health of the mother or the baby. Dr. Papa discussed the case of one thirty-year-old woman, both of whose parents had a history of heart attacks. This woman, herself, had a heart attack in which her cardiac tissue was damaged. She desperately wanted to have her baby, but after careful examination and many diagnostic tests, Dr. Papa determined that she could not carry the child to viability without a high probability of her own death. Suddenly this poor woman and her husband were plummeted into a world where, instead of choosing baby names and nursery furniture, they were making a date to be admitted to the hospital for a medically necessary abortion.

Another woman was found to have severely enlarged arteries near the heart, a condition of which she was unaware before she became pregnant. She, too, underwent a medically necessary abortion even though she, too, really wanted to have her baby.

I'm sure I could find many more, but right now I have to go get dinner for my family. I have to more to say later about what "need" means and will be back later after the kids are in bed.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'm not going to go back-and-forth because I don't think anyone is going to change anyone's mind. But I do feel compelled to leave a response.

I am a pro-life Democrat. For me, that means that life is a precious creation and deserves special care from conception through natural death. I also oppose war and the atrocious loss of life that that entails. To me, this is a more consistent moral view than both the religious right (who oppose abortions but are maniacal warmongers) and pro-abortion Democrats (who are hypocrites).

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Well, thanks to this law, I am back to considering sterilization. I don't want kids, and I don't want to take birth control for the rest of my life assuming it still remains available. so it's either get myself sterilized or trust that any partner I take would actually use a condom. Since I'm not a trusting sort, it's the surgical option for me.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPoliticalguineapig

I believe you may have misunderstood my meaning. Criss, I did not say that I was seeking anti-abortion laws. In fact, if you read my post again you will see that I did not say anything against either abortion or birth control. I merely said that these issues cannot all be tied together as if they were one and the same. Birth control can exist without abortion. Family planning can exist without contraceptives. They don't necessarily need to, but they can.

One of the main problems with tying all of these issues together is that it can become an "all or nothing" kind of deal. An ultra-conservative region might reject a woman's education program on child spacing if we request that it include discussion of artificial contraceptives. A health care bill (referring to a theoretical one here, not necessarily the current one--I'm just not familiar enough with the details of the current one) that would benefit women might be struck down if it includes a clause on abortion.

If we forcefully tie all of these issues together, we risk ending up not being able to discuss any of them at all in some cases.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIsabelle

The information is relatively simple and the technique not difficult (all it really requires is a good thermometer- can take temps orally, btw-- and a place to record the info). And I believe it works ok for women who might have slightly irregular cycles, as long as they keep track of and record all 3 symptoms (cervical position and fluid along with basal body temp).

So it's a fine system that works for many women.

But it shouldn't be the only available option, by any means.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

I also just read a story of a mother who was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. Her choices were to 1) abort the child and start treatment right away (the fetus would not be able to survive the chemo anyway), or 2) continue with pregnancy and likely die from her cancer.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

Well, I suppose my question in those cases is how long could these women carry the babies? Did the pregnancies post problems as soon as they became pregnant? Or were these things (as is most often the case) where it is only the last few weeks of pregnancy that poses the true life threatening risk? If it poses a risk from day one then I suppose you have taught me something. And I am willing to admit that. However, if these women could have carried these babies to a few weeks of the end of their pregnancies and the babies could have been taken out and put in the NICU where (albeit with problems) they most likely would have lived then that would still be an unnecessary abortion as far as I can see.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

What's wonderful about NFP is that it works for women with irregular cycles. If you've learned to use it correctly, it doesn't matter if your cycle is 25 days or 37 days. When used correctly, NFP is extremely reliable. We used it to get pregnant and then we used it to not get pregnant. I never filled out a chart, and the fanciest equipment it required was a 10 dollar thermometer.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

You know, this is such a difficult topic, because there are so many layers of definitions behind the words pro-life and pro-choice. And honestly, I'm not sure I even know which term to apply to myself anymore. Being pregnant myself really tempered a lot of my feelings about pregnancy and abortion. And while I agree with Stephanie that life is a precious creation, and my religion teaches that life starts at conception, I also cannot agree with forcing a woman who has been raped to carry her attackers child, or making a woman carry a child when it puts her own life at risk.

That said, I understand why people say they don't want their tax dollars spent on abortions, but the truth is we get very little say in where our tax dollars go. I don't want my tax dollars spent on a subway system through my city, and the majority of the rest of the city are against it too. But it doesn't look like what we wants carries any weight, because plans are still moving forward. That would be like someone without children saying they don't want their tax dollars to go towards schools because they'll never use them, or someone without a car not wanting to support construction of roadways.

I agree with whomever said that we need to separate facets of the whole abortion issue before we can come to a solution. Because it's just too big of an issue to tackle at once.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I have a close friend who faced this choice. It is a reality.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay


I completely agree that there are many layers and that is why it is such a difficult decision. People who are pro-life seem to assume that pro-choice advocates support aborting fetuses at will under any circumstances and that they would terminate any unplanned pregnancy of their own. People who are pro-choice seem to assume pro-life advocates believe that abortion should not be allowed under any circumstances at all. Certainly there are people at the far ends of the spectrum, but I would like to believe that most people are somewhere in the middle.

(this is becoming no longer just a reply to Kayris, but a general comment on the whole discussion)

Personally, I have never experienced an unwanted pregnancy. That said, I have had sex at times when I was not ready to get pregnant and only used one form of birth control while doing so. If that form of birth control had failed, I could have found myself in the circumstances of having an unwanted pregnancy. My perspective now, as a woman in my thirties with two children in a stable relationship with stable finances, is that I would not have an abortion or give a baby up for adoption. I just cannot imagine doing either. Would my perspective have been different 17 years ago? Perhaps. If I had to choose, I think I would find having an early abortion less difficult than giving up a baby that I had carried for 9 months and birthed. Others may come to a different conclusion.

All that to say, I don't think it is my place, as a privileged woman, to dictate to other women and girls in difficult situations what is okay and not okay. I think we need to educate women and girls and men and boys more about sex, pregnancy, and contraception. We need to help them to avoid unwanted pregnancies and also work on issues like poverty and domestic violence, so that those babies that are brought into the world are being brought into a better place. But while we are doing that, we need to ensure that those women who find themselves in a desperate situation have a way to get out of it. The man can just run off. The woman is stuck with the consequences.

All that to say, I guess I see myself as both pro-life (I love babies, I cannot imagine having an abortion or giving one up), but also pro-choice (in that it is not my place to decide for anyone else or to judge their reasons).

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting


Okay, as promised I wanted to come back to the issue of NEED. Personally, I think the only person who can determine what is needed is the pregnant woman. She may want some advice from doctors, from clergy, from the guy who got her pregnant or from friends/family. But ultimately, armed with whatever advice and information she has collected, it is up to her to determine what is needed.

- She may need to terminate the pregnancy because carrying a baby to term would likely kill her
- She may need to terminate the pregnancy because the baby would be so severely disabled that she could not care for it
- She may need to terminate the pregnancy because she is in an abusive relationship and fears bringing a child into that (but knows that her abuser would never let her give the baby up)
- She may need to terminate the pregnancy because she knows that she could not give up the baby after carrying it and birthing it, but also knows that she does not have the resources to give a child a good life at this point in her own life (immaturity, financial situation, addiction, etc.)
- She may need to terminate the pregnancy because the pregnancy is the result of a rape

When we look only at medical necessity and ignore the larger picture of the girl or woman's life, we are only looking at one type of need. If you consider the whole woman, including her state of mind, and not just her physical ability to carry the baby to term, then a whole other spectrum of needs comes into play. Needs that I think are legitimate. Needs that will vary from woman to woman. What one person can soldier through, another may not be able to.

Personally, I think it is more important to ensure that this world is able to better care for the children that are born onto it, than to worry about, regulate, and legislate what a woman chooses to do with her own body.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well, as I said before I can respect your perspective but I also completely disagree with it. I think everyone deserves the right to live. I think that pretty much all of those situations you listed (aside from medical necessity and as I said before I have learned a little about that today - although, it really does not change my view because I have always said that I do not object to abortions in that case) are situations that the child deserves to live. And quite frankly this - She may need to terminate the pregnancy because she knows that she could not give up the baby after carrying it and birthing it, but also knows that she does not have the resources to give a child a good life at this point in her own life (immaturity, financial situation, addiction, etc.) - always seems like an incredibly selfish and ridiculous thing to me. To say I do not want this child but I do not want anyone else to have it and so I would rather it was dead is insane and selfish to me.
And plain and simple I do not believe it is a matter of a woman's body I think that baby is a person who deserves to live.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

I've never met anyone who is pro-abortion. I have, however, met people who are anti-choice.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Upstatemom, there are a number of adoptees who feel that abortion would have been less traumatic/kinder for *some* adoptees than adoption. Certainly, they do not speak (nor do they intend to) for all adoptees. There are a number of women who have placed children for adoption who feel that abortion is far less life-changing, traumatic and debilitating than adoption was. They do not speak for all first parents either. However, I think that suggesting that adoption (letting someone else have a child) is an alternative to abortion in the case of an unplanned pregnancy is confusing two separate issues. When somebody chooses to place a child for adoption, they've actually made two decisions: 1. to continue the pregnancy and 2. to place the child. Both of these have separate and difficult consequences. Both of them may have positive, but separate, consequences; but the decision to place the child comes long after deciding to continue the pregnancy. It has to be taken after the child is born, even if the intention to make that decision was there from early on.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

However, if these women could have carried these babies to a few weeks of the end of their pregnancies and the babies could have been taken out and put in the NICU where (albeit with problems) they most likely would have lived then that would still be an unnecessary abortion as far as I can see.

So you're advocating putting off potentially life-saving treatment of a woman until "viability" of the fetus, stressing her body out further with labour and delivery and/or surgery, and then expecting this woman whose health has been further compromised by the wait to care for a child who may have significant special needs? Are you also planning to provide this woman with home support to help with the 24/7 care of herself and this child? Are you also planning to provide financial support to compensate the fact that one of the parents (if there even is more than one parent) won't be able to work outside the home for an untold length of time due to said "problems?" And what of any already-existing children who also need their mother to care for them? Are their needs less important than this fetus? Your cavalier attitude about the seriousness of microprematurity is extremely problematic.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterplastikgyrl

It's only hypocritical if you believe that the fetus is equal to the woman carrying it.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterplastikgyrl

I'm not denying it is difficult. I am not denying that it is a continuous decision. I am not denying that no matter when a woman decides to give up a child she has to continue deciding to do so until after the adoption is final. I get that. But to say well, it would be too hard on ME to have a child out there that I am not raising is selfish. That child deserves to live. Have a good life or a bad life after that does not matter they deserve the right to live. I know there are adoptees out there who think they would have been better off if they had been aborted. Of course, that is easy to say. In reality they got a life and they can do with it what they will.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

First of all, I said when does the pregnancy actually put the fatal strain on her body. That makes a difference in determining if an abortion is truly in order to save the life of the mother. The conditions you put this baby in are very dramatic. I know women who have had babies at 28 weeks and aside from the NICU stay and the slight (as in 3m) developmental delay they are fine. Also, I NEVER said that this woman was required to take this child home. I said the child deserves life. Even if (s)he is going to have some issues. Even if they are severe. There is no reason that the woman must take the baby home or care for the baby if she chooses not to. Additionally, we do actually provide financial support in situations like these. The family gets disability because mom has to stay home to care for the baby. The baby gets medicare (which will pay for and in house nurse in these situations if necessary) because (s)he was born at a certain gestational period. So, if mom chooses to have the baby and bring (s)he home then there are services in place to help.

However, as I said before I do not actually object to abortions in the case of true medical need. I cannot say and neither can you if the women in the above cases could have made it until 28, 32, 34 or more weeks. We do not know. If they couldn't then fine. If they could then why not? Why not allow BOTH people to be saved?

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

I don't have a political party that I identify with. I suppose I more "right" than "left" but I do not consider myself either Republican or Democrat. But I wanted to add in addition to war the concept that always amazes me is that people can be pro-life and pro death penalty. That I do not get.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

Carrying the product of a rape for 9 months after the rape and then delivering it, whether or not that product will be given up for adoption or not, is 9 months of being continuously raped. I believe it is needlessly cruel and damaging to the rape victim to force her to continue that pregnancy by removing her right to choose. I believe it is also needlessly cruel for the child brought into the world as a product of violence.

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

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