Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reflections on the anniversary - and what's next!

So, the 21st anniversary of R v. Morgentaler. I hope you are all indulging in a mid-week glass of champagne to celebrate, yes? ;) I can't help but think that this time last year I was in Ottawa, meeting amazing pro-choice activists, making new friends, and staying in a hotel room that was bigger than my apartment. And now I am cold. Just...cold.

I felt so bad for the volunteer escorts yesterday. The weather was appalling - I was frozen just walking to the clinic in the morning. They got through it though, with a combination of toe warmers and determination. I'm really hoping that it doesn't get that cold again this winter, at least not on a Tuesday. Even the protesters didn't come out until near the end of the morning, and they were so bundled I could hardly tell which was which.

It was a good clinic, though. The protesters were not only late, they were quite subdued, so all the patients made it in with no problems.

So - who is excited for the US? President Obama (eeeeeee!) has been making all kinds of exciting moves in the last week or so. Not least of all closing Guantanamo! But more specifically, repro rights stuff like rescinding the Global Gag Rule and issuing this press release on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. So awesome!! This is actually just a little teaser for the piece I'm writing for the next issue of The Activist (the ARCC newsletter), on what President Obama means to the choice movement. I am very, very excited.

I have to also say, on a totally unrelated topic, that I have recently started gumbooting with some feminist friends, and it is awesome!! I just feel very positive about it and had to share. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Catching on to this "hope" business

So I decided to wait until today to blog for the week, because it's Blog for Choice day today. I know it's American (the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade), but I'm feeling somewhat generous of spirit towards America lately so I feel ok about partaking in this.

This year's question is: What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress?

First of all, let me say how awesome it is to be able to write President Obama. Again, I'm not American, but there's no denying that the decisions of the US government affect us, as they do the world. Maybe even more than the decisions of our own government, in some areas. And, idealistic as it sounds, I believe the struggles of American women for access to reproductive health care are our struggles too.

So my wish for the new US administration is that President Obama fulfills the promises he made to NARAL and Planned Parenthood during his campaign, and also that he is able to undo some of the damage done by the last administration - let's get rid of some ridiculous restrictions like making women look at ultrasounds, and parental notification laws.

Most of all, I hope President Obama is able to recognize that the abortion issue is a symptom of a larger problem. I hope he works on ensuring all children have good, comprehensive sex education. I hope he helps to make birth control free and easily accessible. I hope he puts more funding into support for single parents, daycare, prenatal care, afterschool programs. I hope Canada follows his good example.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I sure hope this new administration gets their act together and starts recognizing queer people as people. Right fucking now, please.

I am cautiously optimistic about President Obama. More optimistic than I am about our current idiot government.

Clinic on Tuesday was ok. The protesters have been very vocal lately. Maybe they know the province is going to lose their appeal, and Dr. M. is going to wipe the floor with them in court. I hope.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Case of Pedge

So yesterday's clinic was a trial run for my new three-shift system for the volunteers. It's just for the cold weather; instead of two shifts lasting an hour and a half each, I've divided it into three one-hour shifts. It means I need more escorts to be available each week, but it also means they don't have to stand out there for as long. And a half hour in the cold makes a big difference.

It seemed to work out, although three quarters of my early shift didn't show up so EO was there alone. Which definitely sucks. Unexplained absences come with the territory when coordinating volunteers, and I don't really get too hung up on it because it can happen to anyone. For the most part, the work they do is too valuable to make it really frustrating when they occasionally slip up.

I went with a couple colleagues to see the appeal yesterday - when the court granted Dr. Morgentaler standing last August to sue the province, the province appealed, so yesterday was the hearing. Or whatever you call it, I'm not that up on my law terms. It was actually streamed live on to the internet by the CBC (you can read more about that here), so that was kind of cool.

I could only stay for the first half of the hearing because I had to get to my other job, but as we were leaving during the lunch break, some journalists stopped us and asked for interviews. I'm not sure how they surmised that we were from the clinic (and ARCC), unless they recognized JB's face (or mine, I suppose). Regardless, I got to do a fun media-scrum-on-the-courthouse-steps interview, and CTV and Global both used my comments on the local news last night. There was also an article in CanWest, which you can read here.

The news (I can't remember which one) said that they would rule on it within a month, which would be awesome. I didn't get to see Henry's lawyer in action this time but I'm fairly confident that he'll be awarded standing. And then the trial....well it should be interesting, if we ever get to it. The wheels of justice turn pretty slowly.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Call to Action

Today's blog will not be about the clinic (although we did have a clinic - first one of the new year! Woot!). Instead, I have a special message to bring you from an Edmonton pro-choicer, which I received through ARCC (and yes, I have permission to post it here).

If you have suggestions for Stephanie, or offers of help, you can contact her at

I am a student at the University of Alberta, a feminist, and an avid and dedicated supporter of a woman's right to choose. With the revelation of a "secret" parliamentary committee trying to take away that right, and recent attempts to legally identify the fetus as a "person", I'm sure you'll agree that this issue continues to be very pressing and important, and that those who support a woman's right to choose must continue to be vigilant in protecting that right.

In Edmonton, the public transit service - the Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) - has chosen to sell advertising space, through Pattison advertising, to the Edmonton anti-choice group. The posters in the transit stations include gross distortions of the truth - for example, that 95% of women who have had abortions regret it (I would like to know where they get these stats from), and that the government of Canada allows women to abort at anytime during pregnancy, right up to the ninth month of gestation. I have written to my city councellors and have been told that the ETS contracts their advertising out and that nothing can be done and the posters will stay up. In other words, city council has passed the buck to ETS, who has, in turn, passed it on to Pattison. I do not believe or accept that anyone's hands are tied in this matter - the ETS chooses its advertiser, and Pattison chooses who it sells advertising space to. It was suggested to me that my only option is to buy advertising space to counter the anti-choice posters, and let the public "make their own decision." A publicly-funded bus/train stop is not the venue through which to debate or discuss such personal and private issue. Moreover, the debate was decided twenty years ago with the Morgentaler decision, so there is nothing to discuss.

I am writing because I am looking for support and advice in the battle against the anti-choice movement and their poster campaign in Edmonton. The following is my tentative plan of action:

-Write formal letters to city counsel, the ETS, and Pattison, and clearly cc a number of organizations in those letters, such as the ARCC, making it clear that this is not one individual complaining, but a collection of progressively-minded citizens and social justice groups who are willing and ready to take action against the city's apparent support of the anti-choice movement

-Contact companies/organizations that advertise through Pattison and exert pressure on these groups, which include the Government of Alberta and the University of Alberta, to not do business with a seemingly anti-choice advertiser

-Pressure the Student Union at the University of Alberta to boycott the ETS and cancel the U-Pass contract with ETS (the U-pass is a mandatory fee that registered students pay to use transit services throughout the academic year). This action can extend to other universities/colleges that have a similar contract with the ETS

-Start a city-wide poster/publicity campaign (not through Pattison!) questioning whether or not the City of Edmonton, the ETS, and Pattison are anti-choice, and if so, if progressively minded citizens want their tax dollars spent supporting a municipal government and transit service that places women as second class to fetuses, which, in my opinion, is tantamount to state-sanctioned misogyny.

I am asking for any help, direct or indirect, and suggestions you are willing to offer. Women's equality and autonomy in this country is tenuous at best, and it is clear that the current government is actively seeking to roll back the gains women have made in Canada. For this reason, I think that we need to continue to actively resist any and all attempts to undermine our rights. I am hoping that we can pool our resources and take a stand against the anti-choice movement - can you help?

Thank you,
Stephanie Fletcher