It’s been a heck of a week in both Canadian and US politics.
(By the way, just in case anyone was confused by the inclusion of news and current events, I am still a woman.)
On Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon declared that the nation’s initiative to focus on maternal and newborn health in several low-resource countries would not include contraception: “It does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning. Indeed, the purpose of this is to be able to save lives.”
I don’t have to whip out the stats that show over and over again that women who have access to contraception and who have more control over child spacing have lower maternal mortality rates, SIGNIFICANTLY lower rates of death due to unsafe abortions, and the babies’ outcomes are much better as well. Many many people have done this for me already.
I also don’t have to compare the plan to George W Bush’s sanctions against organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation because they dared discuss abortion as a family planning option.
Thankfully, someone in the Conservative party did a little thinking between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday, and contraception is an option on the table. Abortion, however, is not up for discussion. Never ever did I think I’d see the day where I supported a statement that came from Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. When he stated over a month ago that abortion must be included in the G8 strategy, and acknowledged the role that access to safe and legal abortion plays in maternal health, I was hopeful.
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do not want to fund/support internationally, how long would it be before the 1988 overturning of the abortion law is repealed?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?
And then tonight, in the US, there was a partial victory. The highly-contested Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed. This sounds positive, right? Only if you ignore reproductive health care. President Obama publicly sacrificed the funding of abortion services (except, of course, for the “deserving” women who’ve been raped or victimized by incest, or if mom’s life is at risk) to ensure that the bill would have enough votes to pass through Congress.*
It’s amazing that 32 million individuals who do not currently have access to health care because they can’t afford it will finally be able to be insured. It’s great that insurers will no longer be able to exclude care for people with pre-existing conditions. But if any of those 32 million individuals are women or young women who are experiencing an unintended pregnancy, they’re completely shit out of luck. They’re also at risk of dying due to unsafe abortions, even in a country where abortion is legal, because they can’t afford to pay a reputable care provider to treat them.
Oh, also? Having an unintended pregnancy is a pre-existing condition, and y’all have not only just denied payment of federal funds to treat it, but you’ve also made it acceptable for every private insurer in the US to follow suit.
How is it possible that my daughter’s generation of women might have LESS access to appropriate sexual and reproductive health care if and when they need it than mine or my mother’s generations? This regressive stance on women’s health is terrifying. How much longer before Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale moves from speculative fiction to prophecy?
*It should be noted that legislation preventing federal monies being used to pay for abortion has already been on the books for years, so the sum legal change is nil in this regard, but the cowtowing to Bart Stupak and his gang of anti-choice colleagues was crappy, and promoted the growing anti-choice sentiment in the US.