Tuesday, January 28, 2014

R U 4 Choice? (sorry, I had to)

It is the 26th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision. As always we should celebrate this milestone, but only for what it is; a milestone, not the journey's end. Just because abortion is legal in Canada does not mean any person can have one at the drop of a hat, or at all. Rich white people have always been able to get the health care they need; choice means nothing without access.

Health Canada has spent over a year considering whether or not RU-486 (mifepristone) should be available in Canada. RU-486 would allow people to have medical, as opposed to surgical, abortions, which require significantly less trouble for patients and doctors alike.

In many places across the country, access to surgical abortion is severely limited (to non-existent), and as always it is marginalized populations who suffer the consequences. Rural communities, folks who cannot afford to travel long distances, folks who cannot take time from work, etc. Abortion providers, too, are over-worked and clinics are often under-staffed, and still waiting lists build up. Being able to have an abortion in one's own home, in a less intrusive fashion, would make a huge difference to so many people.

Consider undocumented agricultural workers, some of whom are fired and consequentially deported if they become pregnant. Taking a day off to drive to the nearest urban centre for an abortion can be an insurmountable obstacle; a medical abortion could really change that.

I don't think RU-486 being available in Canada will really turn anything on its head on a national level, or make a dent in the overall attitude of the federal or provincial governments regarding bodily autonomy. But on an individual level it could change lives. It is harm reduction. There is no reason for Health Canada to continue sitting on something that is already being used safely in several other countries, and I hope they run out of excuses soon.

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