Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mini-Holidays and Rhetorical (Maybe) Questions

This morning I was out on the front lines once again - SL decided to send me outside with the other escorts. I can't decide if I like escorting or being at the front desk more; both definitely have their advantages. Outside, I feel as if I am doing something that is directly beneficial to the patients. I get to chat to my friends, and see more of what the protesters are up to. But inside, I get to organize stuff (my secret love) and I get paid (hey, it had to be said).

I have to say, it was rough outside in terms of the cold - I could only hack one shift. It was good though, the Saint John crew was there so I got to see ol' Earpiece Charlie and the gang face to face. They weren't too bad today, but there were a couple drivers who expressed some interest in telling the protesters where to go, so that's always fun. All in all, it was nice to be outside again. A change is as good as a holiday, or so they say.

I'm having an interesting internet experience at the moment. In my essay that I read at the Ottawa celebrations, I mentioned that two of my friends in New Brunswick were refused pap tests by their doctors. It was an anecdotal example that was part of a larger point I was making about limits on access to reproductive health care in the province. Anyway, last week I received an email from Pamela Pizarro, who writes for RH Reality Check. She wanted to know more about my friends' experiences. Well, I couldn't really tell her much, since it was secondhand information to begin with, and it really wasn't a big focus in my essay. Anyway, I told her what I could. Well, she ran with it, and this is the result.

Since that story ran, I've been getting emails from random people, wanting to know who these doctors are, why my friends were refused paps, how many doctors I think might be doing this same thing, etc. etc. Which is fine; I've just been emailing them back with what I basically wrote in the paragraph above: I don't know any more about it than what my friends have told me; it was not the main point of my essay, or even of that sentence of my essay; and even if I knew who the doctors were, I'm not about to risk my butt by calling them out on it based on secondhand evidence (as much as I do trust the friends in question). So that's that, right?

Well imagine my surprise when yesterday I saw this posted at Feministing (internet love of my life). I left a comment to say I didn't think it was as big a deal as the author of the piece was implying, but I don't think anyone paid attention. I'm a little worried that this concern over "NB doctors refusing to give pap tests" is completely unfounded, or at least founded on an offhand remark I made in my essay. I guess when people pick up something shocking like this, they run with it, and it's easy to get outraged over something that doesn't really exist.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing Pizarro or Feministing. Obviously my story was true and they thought it was something we should be concerned about. I'm just weirded out because I'm getting these emails and it wasn't even the point of my essay. I feel like the internet attention focused on this "crisis" that is almost definitely NOT a crisis, is kind of ironic considering the essay was actually about a crisis that really DOES exist - the insanely insufficient standard of health care in New Brunswick, particularly for women.

Am I being a bitch about this? What do you guys think?


Anonymous said...

Wow... that's quite an internet movement that you - accidentally - started...

Good job though if it stops doctors from using the "conscience clause" when it concerns tests that could save lives.

E said...

I think it makes sense that the "conscience clause" idea what the American bloggers latched on to -- it's difficult for your average American to wrap his or her head around Canadian politics in this much detail. To get the broader point you were making, an American would have to understand Canadian regional disparities, a little about the Constitution and the Canada Health Act, etc., etc.

I don't know where NB is on the "conscience clause" thing. I didn't have the impression that it was official, but I may be wrong there.

alison said...

I found my way here via Salon.com, and though I haven't read your essay I do think it's of concern that, as Salon explains it, doctors can and are refusing pap smears to single women. I'm glad that people have latched on to that particular non-point you made and I hope that the embarrassment, if not the stupidity if these doctors' decisions, will make them think again.

Also, I agree that Americans can easily relate to the conscience clause idea, as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists all over the country can refuse to perform abortions, prescribe or dispense birth control or the morning-after pill, etc, because they do have an official conscience clause loophole. But I think that people have latched onto this point simply because it is just so ludicrous that a medical doctor would refuse to perform a procedure that can detect cancer simply because s/he does not believe a single woman should be sexually active.

Anonymous said...

You're not being a bitch at all. From what I can glean, Pizzaro has jumped the gun without first confirming if there's actually a there there (ie, a widespread problem, rather than a couple of isolated incidents--although even if isolated, that shouldn't minimize the impact this had on your friends, and on other women in Fredericton who are being refused medical care because of some doctor's personal squick re: teh sex). And, as you note, she's misrepresented the overall thrust of your essay in the process.

BTW, have you given any thought to posting it in its entirety?

Anyway, enjoy your 15 minutes, Pedge, even if the broader point has been lost in the sturm und drang.

(Oh, and congrats for the Feministing, LGM and Pandagon links! ;-) Femisphere fame FTW!)

Anonymous said...

Hi! As one of the random people, I surely do appreciate you answering my e-mail.

I took what you said to heart (Pandagon and Shakesville also did a post bout it) and put up a poll to see how many, if any, folks could answer yes that they had been denied a pap smear for religious reasons.
I don't have a large readership but so far, all have answered no. It isn't scientific by any means, but it may just provide impetus for a scientific inquiry about it if I get any 'yes' answers.

I really believe that one is too many--it always starts with one, then picks up steam from there. As soon as the Far Right have a poster child for Liberal Oppression and Religious Intolerance of Christian Principles(tm), they make as much hay out of it as they can.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peggy,

Thank you for posting this clarification. Pamela, who as you know is Canadian herself, wrote about your thoughtful essay and chose to focus on what she believed to be a potentially harmful issue for women in NB. I don't think she inflated the story or wrote anything that was in anyway not true (which I know you are not saying).

Pamela consulted with Canadians for Choice to get a better idea of what conscience clauses in Canadian health care do and do not cover. The piece was not meant to be investigative in nature - only Pamela's take on the story and information you provided. She was extremely careful to lay out the facts - that in once case it seemed to be a receptionist who was creating a barrier to care.

Mattbastard, Pamela did not say that this was a "widespread problem" in Canada. She only related what she felt were the most particularly disturbing parts of Cooke's essay:

In her essay detailing her experience as an abortion clinic patient escort, she writes, “I have two close friends whose doctors will not even give them pap tests because it goes against the doctor’s religious beliefs.” Peggy lives in New Brunswick, one of the most repressive provinces in terms of reproductive policy. The provincial government continues to violate the Canada Health Act, by requiring women to seek approval from a doctor and a gynecologist in order to access publicly funded abortions. Abortions done at the private Morgentaler clinic are not funded.

I contacted Peggy to learn more about what was going on with the doctors refusing to perform pap smears and she responded by saying that in one case it is actually the doctor's receptionist who won't allow her young unmarried friend to make an appointment for a pap smear saying that she is too young and doesn't need one (she was 19 at the time of the incident). The second instance deals with a couple who are doctors, who run a practice together. Known for their religious and anti-choice beliefs, these doctors will not prescribe contraception. The doctor who refused to perform the pap smear works in the same practice.

Pamela has wonderfully covered reproductive and sexual health issues in Canada for RH Reality Check for many months now - from Canada.

Your experience and dedication to these issues is equally admirable. Thanks for talking to Pamela and for working hard on these issues. I just wanted to clarify the story on our end for folks!

Amie Newman
Managing Editor, RH Reality Check

The Pedgehog said...

Thank you, Amie, for your clarification. I did think the article was quite good, I was just worried the information would be blown out of proportion. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining, I found an article about how "Conservative doctors to unmarried women: If you're having sex, you *should* die of cervical cancer", and was understandably outraged. Luckily I was thinking clearly enough to try and find some kind of reputable source, and I finally found this. *phew* Load off my mind!