Friday, December 17, 2010

The Pedgehog's Holiday Gift Guide

Hi friends. It might not surprise you to know that I don't celebrate any winter gift-giving holidays, but for those of you who do, I have a couple recommendations. This post is not entirely related to abortion, sorry.

I just want to draw some attention to the great organizations I am currently involved in, so I recommend that if you can't think of what to get someone, or you are tired of giving superfluous *stuff*, you make a donation in their name to an organization doing good work. The following are ones I recommend (all national Canadian orgs, except for one based specifically in Toronto - for which I have given regional options):

What they do: ARCC is the ONLY national political pro-choice group in Canada. It is a coalition of pro-choice groups and individuals who work to break down barriers to reproductive rights and access to abortion in Canada, and take part in political and educational work on pro-choice issues. They tirelessly support providers and fight to ensure quality, accessible care. Because ARCC is a political group they are not eligible for charitable funding. They rely solely on membership fees and donations.

How to donate: ARCC has a "Donate" button right on their home page to facilitate PayPal donations. You can contact them at for information on other ways to donate. There is also the option of monthly donations through your debit account.

Other ways to help: Consider becoming a member of ARCC. The cost is $25 a year for a basic membership, and it is a great way to support an organization that is fighting to maintain and improve your ability to access reproductive health care. There are lots of other ways to help as well, including lobbying your MP on pro-choice issues, or volunteering with a local abortion clinic or pro-choice organization.

What they do: ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) Canada is an independent national organization of low and moderate income families that uses grassroots organizing to bring people together to lobby for positive change in their neighbourhoods. ACORN community organizers go door to door in their neighbourhoods to understand and address the issues that low and moderate income families are concerned about, and help empower people from within those neighbourhoods to become community leaders and fight for change. ACORN is all about solidarity and power in numbers, and their methods have been proven to be effective time and time again. ACORN Canada has won a number of victories in areas such as tenant rights and landlord licensing, stricter regulations on predatory payday lenders, and raising the minimum wage.

How to donate: ACORN receives no funding and relies on membership dues and donations. You can donate with a credit card through ACORN Canada's website, or contact them directly to make a cash or cheque donation: You can also become a monthly supporter.

Other ways to help: Consider becoming a member! You can join online or contact your local office. Members are currently fundraising for convention in June, so ask about buying a calendar to support their efforts. ACORN also could always use more volunteers - contact your local office to see what they need!

What they do: ACR looks out for cats who are homeless or abandoned. They help to foster and adopt out those who can live in houses, and take care of the feral population through feeding programs and trap-neuter-release. They also educate the public on the proper care of cats, and promote healthy pet ownership. This is a Toronto-based organization but if you are interested in this kind of organization in your own community, I would recommend contacting your local SPCA.

How to donate: ACR is another organization that receives no funding and relies solely on donations. You can donate through the mail or at donation boxes at local pet food stores or vet offices. You can also donate by credit card online.

Other ways to help: ACR needs lots of donations that don't have to be cash! If you have cat supplies, food, litter or even Air Miles to donate, contact them. You can also become a volunteer, as they have many different programs for cat lovers to donate their time.

What they do: SLF focuses on the AIDS pandemic in Africa. What makes them stand out as an organization is their commitment to funding grassroots groups doing incredible work in Africa, and getting money to the people on the ground who not only best understand the situation, but who can make the most out of a small amount. The SLF has so many worthwhile projects on the go, and I especially love their focus on gender and their unabashed acknowledgement that women are hurt the most by HIV/AIDS and probably have the most to give when properly supported. Their widely acclaimed Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign allows Canadian grandmothers to reach out to African grandmothers who are often raising their orphaned grandchildren on their own - providing financial and emotional support and building connections across oceans, and also encouraging and empowering elderly women (probably the most overlooked and underrated demographic) to make real change in the world. The Stephen Lewis Foundation is what hope looks like, friends.

How to donate: There are lots of ways you can donate - check out their website for more info.

Other ways to help: Get involved in a campaign! I have a few friends who took part in the Dare Campaign this year and came up with really creative dares - it was awesome! You can also host events, get your grandma involved, or if you're based in Toronto you can volunteer at the office.

If you know of some other worthy organizations for people to donate to, please feel free to suggest some in comments.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Have You Heard the Good News?

...Bill C-510 has been defeated! It's a Christmas miracle! Mwahahaha. No really, while I am delighted by this development, I'm hardly surprised. Even Harper didn't vote for this stinking garbage fart of a bill.

I'm hoping that these constant failed attempts to create ridiculous legislation aimed at chipping away at abortion rights are discouraging Bruinooge and his ilk, but I somehow doubt it. I'm sure a few months from now we will be reading about some other bill introduced to combat a problem that doesn't exist or to create a law we already have. I wish they would expend their efforts on supporting the women they are pretending to care about - the ones in violent relationships, in dangerous situations, in poverty.

I've been arguing in circles about this proposed law for months now with antis who just don't get it. Coercion is already illegal. And the reason you don't see anyone getting arrested for coercing women into ending their pregnancies is because generally that is the symptom of a bigger problem - abusive relationships, most often (but not always) between men and women. If you have such a problem with men using their power to force women into making coerced "choices" about their pregnancies, you wouldn't be supporting Bruinooge, because he is doing just that.

I also think that there is a coercion problem around unwanted pregnancies, and it is widespread and extremely pervasive through our society. But it's on the other side of where Bruinooge thinks the problem is. It's people who take advantage of women who are in emotionally vulnerable positions, who tell them lies about their pregnancy, who use their religious beliefs to bully women into giving birth to children they don't want and can't afford, who tell women what to do with their own bodies while coaching it in emotionally triggering language. If Bruinooge is worried about women being coerced into making decisions about their pregnancies, he needs to visit a Crisis Pregnancy Centre.

Think of it this way. Abortion clinics exist to provide a service that is in demand. Thousands of women call every day to make appointments - they seek out the clinics, through the internet, their friends, their family doctors. Abortion clinics, for the most part, do not have an advertising budget - they don't need one. They could be located on the dark side of the moon and women would still find them when they needed to. CPCs, on the other hand, have people out on the sidewalk LURING WOMEN IN. They have giant billboards, giant Yellow Pages ads, grotesque window displays. They lie over the phone, and they lie to women's faces, to get them to come into their buildings, and they do everything they can to keep women in there - sometimes to the point of locking them in.

Abortion clinics don't need to coerce anyone. If a woman wants an abortion, she'll get one. If she wants to keep the pregnancy, she will. So maybe it's the CPCs we need to be looking at when we talk about coercion.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Meeting the Good Doctor

This past weekend I attended a staff holiday party for one of my two workplaces. Generally this would not be blog-worthy, except perhaps as an excuse for not blogging because of the aftermath of the Pedgehog let loose at an open bar and then left to teeter home on shoes much higher than her usual pair. Said disaster was narrowly averted by the saintly actions of one of my lovely coworkers, CL, who drove me home - soberly - and waited until I was in the door; and who, despite her constant need to create muppet-themed nicknames for me based on what colour shirt I am wearing, is really a pretty awesome person whom I quite like.

But I digress (as always). The staff party was for the clinic, and it was the first time that I finally got to meet Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who is, after all, my boss. Well, retired. But anyway, it was the culmination of almost four years of dedication to the pro-choice cause on my part, and of alternately praising the man and defending him to anti-choicers who think he is the worst thing to happen to Canada since...well, ever. I don't know exactly what Dr. Morgentaler means to me: certainly I know he is only human (I read "A Difficult Hero", I know what's up), but also I completely admire him not only for what he accomplished but also for his careful balance of humility and self-assurance. And then on top of that, he is my boss (sort of) and the brother-in-law of a good friend. It's a very complicated relationship to have with someone you have not met.

So, I met him. Which, in itself, was not a big deal. A handshake, exchange of names, a brief conversation about how long I had worked at the clinic and about New Brunswick. One minute of face time, maybe.

What was special for me about the evening (besides the fact that by the time we sat down to eat I was on my fourth drink and pretty much everything was special at that point), was Dr. Morgentaler's graciousness and the light he shone on his successors. He gave a brief speech only at the prompting of our CEO, and in it he expressed admiration and gratitude for the work that we were all doing. It made me think about accomplishment, and about being a hero like that. It's one thing to forge ahead and break barriers and be feted and thanked and congratulated all the time; perhaps a greater achievement is to see so many people find your work valuable enough to continue. How gratifying for him, to look out at a restaurant full of people totally dedicated to his goal: making abortion an accessible and comfortable experience for women in Canada.

So while it was lovely to finally meet Morgentaler the man, what I had really idealized and admired was more the Morgentaler spirit, which I had certainly already met in my pro-choice colleagues and friends, and continue to meet every day. The man has created a great legacy in this country. And even after a rough day at work, or dealing with the most unreasonable of patients, I will happily raise a glass to that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things You Think Are Choice, But They Aren't

Always good to see major media sources focusing on problems with access to reproductive health care, as in this CBC piece on the lack of abortion services on PEI. I'm even more pleasantly surprised than usual, because this isn't just another filler issue on "abortion is legal but there's still lots of hurdles, etc. etc." but actually spotlights a problem that even some pro-choice people don't know about: there are NO ABORTION SERVICES AT ALL on PEI. Not a one.

It also touches on the complexity of the issue: the "choice" between travelling to Halifax to have a government-funded abortion, or travelling to Fredericton to have the guaranteed confidentiality of a Morgentaler Clinic abortion, costing the woman $600 - $800. Of course, neither is an option to women who, for whatever reason, are unable to make either trip. But assuming travel was not a problem, it still isn't a choice and there are a lot of class issues here: either you get privacy, or a free abortion. Only women with $600 to spare are allowed to have privacy. That's fucked. The right to privacy is one of the foundations of the decision to decriminalize abortion in this country. All three provinces in this case (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) are essentially spitting on R. v. Morgentaler by making their own judgements on who can and can't access abortion, and how and where and when and by whom. This is not choice.

I know that of these two non-options, many women choose privacy despite the cost. When I worked at the clinic in Fredericton there were not many clinic days when we didn't see one or two women from PEI. Our appointments were all in the morning, before 10am, so most of these women and their partners had woken up at some ungodly hour to drive for four or five hours, or stayed overnight at their own expense the night before, only to make the drive back afterwards. Depending on your own life experience and privilege (or lack thereof), this might not seem like such a hardship, but it really should not be a reality in a country fully capable of funding abortion providers in every province. Even one doctor providing abortions one day a week on PEI would make a world of difference.

So there are a lot of issues here: class (definitely), regional disparity, lack of abortion training in medical schools, lack of incentive to be any kind of doctor in the maritime provinces (the ol' "brain drain"), degree equivalency for new Canadians, race, and of course gender. Of course of course. Stephen Harper does not care about women; nor, I guarantee you, do the premiers of the three provinces in question - at least, not as much as they care about votes, the retention of power, and their own ridiculous careers.

In some ways, abortion's decriminalization in this country is a curse, in that it makes us think the work is done. Well, it isn't done. Not by a long shot. Just ask the women of PEI.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"An Insulting and Useless Gesture"

Go right now and read this great piece on clinic protesters in Canada. It sums up the situation in Fredericton to a T (although it is based on a different clinic).

The clinic I work in now has an injunction, so we don't get protesters, but I think the author is right to suggest that municipal legislation (like they have in BC) would better serve the clinic staff and patients. People who work in abortion care exist in a small bubble - we know each other and fear for each other, and knowing that people at other clinics in the city and across the country are safe from anti-choice violence would make me feel a lot more at ease. We need to work as a team to provide safe and accessible abortion services to women in this country, and universal protection is necessary.

Honestly at this point I can't figure out why people still do sidewalk counselling; I have never ever seen it work, not even once in the three years I worked at the Fredericton clinic. People coming in have either already made up their minds to have the abortion, or they stop and talk to the protesters because they've made up their mind not to have it and they're looking for a way out. The ones that decide not to have an abortion - either while they're in the clinic or out on the sidewalk - were never going to have one anyway, whether the protesters were there or not. You start to get a feeling for who is going to go through with it; I can usually tell now just talking to them on the phone. I wish they would stay for long enough to talk to the clinic's counsellor, just to work through whatever issues they might be dealing with, or to get set up with some information and resources on adoption and/or parenting, but it's ok: you can't make people's choices for them. That's part of the whole "trust women" thing that the pro-life movement just does not seem to be able to grasp.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Because it is the Season for Giving

I haven't been fair. I was absent for too long, and then had a burst of creativity, probably making you all think I would be posting regularly from now on - and then I went silent again. Sorry readers! To make up for it, I am working on what will probably turn out to be a pretty long, reflective post, which will be your reward (or punishment, depending on your politics) for your patience.

For now, two things:

Have you written to your MP yet about Bill C-510, the "coerced abortion" bill? If not, there's still time! And if you have - don't worry, you can write again. ARCC has an updated sample letter opposing the bill; please take a few minutes out of your day to write.

Here's something to brighten your day (assuming your day is brightened by feminists yelling at stupid people!): a volunteer escort at my old clinic in Fredericton (and one of my illustrious co-bloggers on Abortion Gang), Not Guilty, ended her tenure as a volunteer today. She decided to go out with a bang and after removing her vest denoting her as a representative of the clinic, she gave a piece of her mind to two of our worst protesters, Holy Ghost and Pink Hat. Let's watch!