The Non-Debate Abortion Debate: Beyond the Thunderdome by Alex Snider

There is an abortion debate happening in Canada right now. It might be shrouded in coded language and denied by the Prime Minister but it is happening. Stephen Woodworth, an anti-choice conservative MP for Kitchener-Waterloo proposed a private members motion (M-312) to create a committee whose purpose is to redefine personhood. Canadian law considers a person to be a person once they check out of the womb by way of the vaginal canal. Woodworth thinks that it's a pretty dated definition considering the advances of modern medicine and science (science! Super important when taking away women and Trans* people's bodily autonomy! Meaningless when put up against creationism and climate change!) which, ok fair enough, the definition doesn't account for c-section births or the stork babies or cabbage patch kids but this isn't about being a stickler for medical science: it's about criminalizing abortion. The definition he's all grumpy about is found in Section 223 of the Criminal Code, the section that defines homicide. Make no mistake, if the definition of person is extended to fetuses, at all, abortion will be criminalized.

The past week a number of MPs debated the motion and any illusion that anti-choicers are capable of coherent and rational thought was dispelled with one conservative Saskatchewan MP, David Anderson, comparing the current personhood laws to the way Nazis exterminated people with disabilities and to the struggles of African Americans. Oh man. There is so much that is incredibly, sickeningly offensive about such comparisons like how they diminish the 400 years of systemic and institutionalized racism against African Americans and how they compare women to Nazis. I'll just repeat that: An elected Member of Parliament thinks that women who need abortions are Nazis. FUCKING NAZIS. If anyone ever needed proof of the hatred that forced-birthers have for women there it is: an abortion = genocide. I cannot even.

Stephen Harper is on the record saying that he has no interest in reopening the abortion debate and that Wednesday's vote will be a free vote. It should be comforting that the PM has vowed not to touch abortion with a ten-foot pole, given his record of lies, half-truths and double-speak believing him would be a bit like Aesop's fable about the scorpion and the frog – can't expect him to go against his nature (and his ideologies) even if it puts him at a mild risk (considering we've seen how apathetic majority of Canadians are to the Conservative's hijinx (lol election fraud wut) his hubris is hitting Achilles levels). And the free vote thing is equally disquieting, how many pro-choice conservatives are there? Jason Kenney, Citizenship and Immigration Minister and one of the PM's inner circle, sure isn't pro-choice – he's on the record saying that he'll vote in favour of Woodworth's motion. In a cabinet as closely guarded and controlled as Stephen Harper's, I have a hard time believing that if the issue truly was closed and not-to-be-opened-ever-ever-fingers-crossed-promise that Kenney wouldn't have gotten the memo. Something tells me that Harper can just sit this one out and let his goons do his dirty work for him.

You know who definitely qualifies for the personhood definition? I do. So does every other woman and every Trans* man and every other person with a uterus capable of bearing children – we are all people. We are people with lives and dreams and the ability to make decisions based on what is best for them and sometimes that decision is to have an abortion. It doesn't matter, ever, why someone gets an abortion. Maybe it's in an instance of rape or incest. Maybe it's because zie already has too many mouths to feed. Maybe it's because zie has cancer and needs chemotherapy. Maybe zie is financially unstable and has very little support. Maybe zie never wanted kids. Maybe zie is too young. Maybe zie is in an abusive relationship and hir partner tampered with their BC. Maybe zie suffers from mental illness and can't go off their medication. Maybe zie discovered that hir fetus has a terrible condition ensuring that it will live an extremely short, extremely painful life and so needs to get a late-term abortion. Maybe zie just got drunk and had unprotected sex. There are thousands of reasons why people need abortions but ultimately it is no one else's business.

I think that what anyone who is on the fence or who has never really thought much about abortion really needs to consider is why every single anti-choice argument is so deeply steeped in severe misogyny. Think about why it's women and Trans* bodies that are constantly being threatened with regulation, not cis men. The hypocrisy of the conservatives are trying to regulate my body while decrying any sort of government regulations for corporations in a bid to appear small government would be laughable if it wasn't so goddamn soul-crushing. Think about the language – both spoken and implied – that describes women who need abortions, language that dehumanizes and slut-shames and is paternalistic and ascribes sexist tropes like the 'irresponsible tramp'. Think about how if children are so valued and cherished, they are also supposed to be a punishment for loose women who don't use birth control. Think about how little support there is for low income families, for childcare, for education, for Indigenous children, for children with disabilities, for Children of Colour, for new Canadian children – I'll believe it's really about the children the day that there is equal ferocity for the support for existing families.

Think about how women are expected to martyr themselves to their children – think of every movie and TV show that shows a woman giving her life for her unborn child, think of the message those tropes send: women are less valuable than their children, even than their fetuses. And that is the message that forced-birthers believe. As a woman and in the eyes of anti-choicers, not only am I defined by my uterus but they also want to tell me what to do with it (keep it filled with babeez all the time). That's not fucking right. It's nothing but the desire to degrade and control dressed up as religious handwringing.

I will send a bag of cookies to anyone who can explain an anti-choice position to me that doesn't end back up at severe misogyny because the usual, standby arguments I hear are steeped in woman-hating bullshit.

I am pro-choice. I believe that people should have unfettered access to abortion. I believe that people with noble reasons should be free to get abortions, I believe that people with less than noble reasons should be free to get abortions. I am so incredibly grateful to live in a country that grants those abortion rights and has for twenty-four years. We cannot stand by and let those rights be whittled away by MPs who would refer to us as Nazis. We cannot stand by and let anyone tell us that our bodies need to be regulated, that we are undeserving of the respect granted cis men who are able to make all the decisions regarding their bodies. We cannot stand idly by and just shrug off misogynistic attacks. Fuck that.

Write to your MP. Write to Stephen Woodworth (he's on Twitter, too). Write to Stephen Harper (his Twitter). Write to Jason Kenney (his Twitter). Sign this petition. Tweet about it. Post about it on Facebook. Make a lot noise; let's stop this assault on our choices, on our bodily autonomy before it happens.

Update: The motion failed in the House of Commons: 91 to 203.


Alex Snider is a Toronto-based writer. Her website is What Fresh Hell is This and her Twitter handle is @what_freshhell.


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