Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On the 2nd Anniversary

I am thinking about Dr. Tiller today.

A couple days ago I pointed out to my partner the story of the man in Madison who was arrested while on his way to shoot an abortion provider. We talked about my safety as a person who works in abortion care - and perhaps more so as an outspoken advocate/activist for abortion rights. I may have scoffed a little; our clinic has amazing security. "But I worry more about your safety outside the clinic," he said. Dr. Tiller was shot in his church.

I don't think about my safety on a daily basis. Part of that is living in Canada (although Canadian doctors have been shot, and I work in a clinic that was once firebombed). Part of it is not being an actual doctor. But I think most of all it's the fact that life goes on. If we all thought about the threat to our safety all the time, no one would do this - just like no one would be a police officer, or any other job where there is danger involved. I am certain Dr. Tiller didn't spend a lot of time preoccupied by whether he might get shot. Most of the time I think he thought about doing his job.

My partner and I don't talk about it much. Sometimes it just hits us though. Just like it hit me that time, that the things I do can affect his career in the law. It's trickier than I thought, navigating a life together. Sometimes I think about the things that Dr. Tiller's wife must have sacrificed to be with him; what kind of ideas you would have to give up, seeing your husband leave for work each day in a bulletproof vest. I wonder if when he died, it felt, to some extent, inevitable - the only thing that could replace the tension was grief.

I remember vividly the day he died. But I also remember when he was alive - reading interviews with him, seeing his "abortion is a matter of the heart" quote on the kitchen wall in the Fredericton clinic every day, how his clinic always had the best swag at NAF conferences - mugs and pens and paperweights. I remember when I saw him at a conference, with his bodyguards, and he was such a kind and gentle person. It is hard to accept him as a martyr because there was still so much work to be done. I hope we can get it done without him.

Many thinks to the abortion providers, the doctors, nurses, counsellors, clinic managers and staff, and activists for the work that you do in spite of the risk. Thank you for trusting women.

RIP Dr. George Tiller.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thoughts on Rebelles

So as I mentioned, I was at the Rebelles gathering in Winnipeg this past weekend. For those who don't know, Rebelles is a "pan-Canadian" young feminist movement - the first gathering took place in Montreal in 2008, which I also attended. It produced a manifesto which I encourage you to read.

I just want to say that while there were a lot of great things about this gathering - notably a much stronger effort to include the voices of Aboriginal folks and sex workers, and a willingness on the part of the organizers to quickly readjust the schedule to allow for the concerns of the participants - I was left with the same frustrated feeling as I had after the last gathering; a feeling that it wasn't radical enough.

I felt frustrated because I think most of the folks there were pretty radical - which I mean in a positive, progressive way, not in the trans-hating way that characterizes a lot of radical feminists - but so much time and energy was being spent in a) catching up those who did not understand the issues, and b) trying to be "inclusive" of everyone's ideas by bridging the gaps between truly radical strategies and Liberal Feminist "lobbying the government" bullshit. There was a lot of lip service paid to diversity of tactics, but when it came down to actually creating our "resistance actions, alternatives and demands", I heard a lot of demanding from the state, and the voices calling for truly radical action were being silenced in the name of time constraints.

I'm not ragging on lobbying the government, but if I wanted to be in Second Wave Jr. I would have joined a different movement. Yes of course let's demand the things we want - changes in law, better public services - but can we all agree that a government is not going to assist in, or fund, a revolution against itself? Sure, let's ask for better sensitivity training for cops, but can we please spend more time and energy at least having conversations about how the police are a violent tool of the state, used almost exclusively to keep poor folks in competition - beholden to capitalism - and to criminalize their poverty? Sure, let's demand an end to tough-on-crime bullshit and ridiculous sentencing, but can we also spend some time and energy fucking burning down prisons? Where is the radical feminist movement I signed up for?

What does this have to do with abortion? Well let's talk about reproductive justice. Y'all know I love the organizations we have that are looking out for our rights - ARCC, NAF, etc. I think what they do is valuable and important work. But I also think that we desperately need a diversity of tactics in this movement. We can't concentrate all our energy as a movement working in clinics, sitting on the boards of orgs, ASKING THE GOVERNMENT for changes in law, improvements in/access to services, etc. etc. That's shit that has to be done. But the government will never give up power, and isn't the goal to have power over our bodies? Do you really think that a government that has been complicit in - and often orchestrated - genocide against the Indigenous people of this land is going to suddenly give them the power back? And isn't it really fucking insulting for white middle-class ladies to be asking on their behalf? Do you think that a government that uses violent tools of repression to keep folks of colour down is really going to turn around and offer them free childcare? Or if they did, could that ever be enough?

I'm just so sick of how the pro-choice movement is almost totally focused on politely asking the government if it could please take its boot off our necks. Fuck that. Even if we got the reforms we wanted, it doesn't change the fact that global capitalism exists, it doesn't change our sisters' colonized bodies. Y'all know I love the Morgentaler decision, and it was a big fucking deal, but isn't 23 years long enough for a great big party to celebrate the fact that rich ladies can have abortions? Now that we've helped ourselves, aren't we ready to stand as allies to a movement that is much bigger? Because as long as we hold our marches at a designated time and place, escorted by the cops, we are useless fucking puppets and it's no wonder our bodies are still the property of the state.

Now I'm not saying I want us all to leave our "lobbying the government" work and start burning down prisons. But what this movement needs desperately is a real diversity of tactics, or at the very least a real conversation about how hundreds of years of asking the state for control over our bodies does not seem to be working and maybe we could try something different? For more information on why it's not working, try asking an Indigenous woman or a queer woman or a woman of colour or a trans woman (not implying that this is an exhaustive list or that any of these identities don't overlap). A government set up by, and run by, people who look like my dad can naturally only "serve" people who look like my dad (and honestly I don't think my dad is particularly happy with them, because he is a cool guy). We can spend all our energy, our whole lives, asking for little tidbits from them, but sooner or later even the most privileged among us will have to face the fact that the state will never voluntarily cede power. And then we have to decide where to go from there.

Feministe - viva!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekly Reader

Hey friends - greetings from Winnipeg/Metis land! I am here for the Rebelles gathering (which I will be blogging about some time this week) so my reader is a day later than usual - I got caught up in all the feminism!

Here's what I've been reading about:

Unwanted pregnancies are key to the issue of abortion

ARCC has compiled updated lists of pro-choice and anti-choice MPs

Harper doesn't have to re-open the abortion debate; and some thoughts on reproductive rights under Harper

Harper backs the UN report on maternal health

Further coverage of the March for Life

Sun News runs suspect survey on Canadians' opinions on abortion

And my latest piece over at Abortion Gang about sterilization by choice

What have you all been reading?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekly Reader

There is a lot going on this week, since the national March for Life (in Ottawa) happened, and there's a lot of election fall-out around abortion and reproductive rights as well. So let's dive right in, shall we?

Options for Sexual Health (in BC) is lobbying for free and accessible birth control

The Star talks about choosing sterility and the Gazette talks about abortion

Some people want Harper to reopen the abortion debate: what would abortion's future be under a Conservative majority?

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson proclaimed a "Respect for Life" day at the behest of pro-life groups

The anti-choicers were out in full force in Regina this week

What have you been reading this week?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jane's Walk Wrap-Up

So, I had an amazing time on our Jane's Walk. We tried to keep it as non-political as possible, but you and I know the personal is political, and it's hard to say it was a purely informational/historical walking tour when it involved radical acts like women talking about their abortion experiences through a megaphone. It was a big deal.

We had a great crowd and lovely weather, and we took a little longer than the two hours we had planned. We covered about 5km of history throughout downtown Toronto; for those interested, the stops we covered were: 85 Harbord St. (the site of the Morgentaler Clinic that was firebombed), Robarts Library (on the U of T campus), Planned Parenthood, U of T Faculty of Law, Queen's Park, Women's College Hospital, Bay Centre for Birth Control, Native Child and Family Services, Women's Health in Women's Hands, Hassle Free Clinic, Allan Gardens (for both the Scott Clinic and Sherbourne Health Centre), and ending at the Cabbagetown Women's Clinic.

I learned a lot while researching for the walk: for example, I had no idea that anonymous HIV testing used to be illegal in Canada! There was so much info for each site, I think we could have easily made the walk twice as long.

I got thoroughly sunburnt.

I just want to thank everyone who came out, and especially my co-organizers Jordan Hale and Emma Woolley. I hope that it becomes an ongoing Jane's Walk with or without our involvement.

Photo credit: Matt Thompson

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The History of Choice in Toronto

Have you ever heard of Jane's Walk? If not, I urge you to check it out right now. It's a really cool concept - free informational walking tours of neighbourhoods, led by volunteers. There are endless possibilities for themes, depending on the city, the neighbourhood, and the history. I am very, very excited that this is a thing in my life.

I had not heard of JW until a couple weeks ago, when I received an email from an amazing young woman who followed me on Twitter and thought I might be good at leading a JW. About what, you ask? Well. Friends. Let's think about this.

So my amazing co-guides Jordan Hale, Emma Woolley and myself will be leading a Jane's Walk About Choice this Sunday, May 8th at 11am. If you are in Toronto, please join us! We will be exploring the history of abortion activism, reproductive rights, sexual history and choice in Toronto, as well as pointing out and informing our walkers about current resources for sexual/reproductive healthcare.

We are meeting at 85 Harbord St. at 11am on Sunday, May 8th. This walk is free and everyone is welcome! For more details check out our event listing here or on Facebook. I just want to make it clear that this is an informational walking tour, not a protest rally or demo, so while your pro-choice enthusiasm is welcome, your signs and chants are not so much.

Also please get out and enjoy some of the other Jane's Walks that are happening in Toronto or in your city if you can!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dear Pro-Choice Canadians,

Like most of you I'm still reeling from the results of the election last night. It was, in a word, bittersweet. I think we are in for a rough ride with a Conservative majority: do not take it lightly when I say buckle up. I think a lot of our sisters and allies - people who work in social services, as teachers and counsellors, people who make a living helping others - are going to be out of a job. If things get really bad, I could be too: abortion provision is a dangerous business to be in when the socons take over a country.

Along with the changing landscape of work for those of us with bleeding hearts, there is a much bigger threat on the horizon, one that I hope is an exaggeration but may just come true: a truly dark time for women, the poor, people of colour, non-hetero, non-gender-conforming folks, and all other marginalized groups. With a Conservative minority, our needs were ignored; now that there's a majority, our rights are directly threatened. Look out for more anti-abortion, "fetal rights" legislation, access being rolled back, civil rights being denied and stepped on, and social support programs going by the wayside. This is a government that will claim to be about family values but will not give a damn about actual families.

The silver lining is of course the NDP opposition. It has been a long time coming, but finally this country has embraced the left-right divide, for better or for worse, and cast off our former love affair with the centre. I am very excited to be rid of the milquetoast pandering of the Liberals, at least for a little while. And happy to see that Elizabeth May won her seat - that is a big deal my friends, mark my words. Now we need to see the NDP be an effective opposition, to continue convincing Canada that they are a viable, electable option and that they will hold the Conservatives' feet to the fire every damn day. And if it goes well enough - dare I dream it? - electoral reform in my lifetime. Hey, you gotta give me one hopeful thought.

What does this have to do with abortion? A hell of a lot. Formerly "I will not re-introduce the abortion debate" Steve has a mandate now. We need to brace ourselves, friends. And if it's not abortion, it's going to be other rights, chip chip chipping away.

In the grand scheme of things, of course, electoral politics is not as relevant as we would like to believe. Marginalized people have been oppressed by every government this country has had, and will probably continue to be so - just ask the indigenous people of this land. But we should fight from within the system when we can, just as we still attempt to tear it down from the outside. Diversity of tactics - it's going to mean a lot in the next four years. When we can't get what we need from the government, we have to take to the streets.

I hope to see you all out there.

In solidarity,