Still My Body, Still My Choice: 21st century, indeed!

The official statement is that the Harper government has no intention of reopening the abortion debate. I acknowledge this off the bat, as it means that I officially have nothing to be worried, let alone seething about.

So why am I feeling particularly proprietary on the subject of my ovum?

On Monday, the Tory MP for Kitchener Centre, Ontario, Stephen Woodworth, tabled a motion that got my teeth grinding. He’s calling for a special committee to officially determine at what point a human actually factually becomes a human, and then reassess existing abortion laws from there.

He took time to address reporters, asking, “…does it make medical sense in the 21st century to say that a child is not a human being until the moment of complete birth?”

And here’s where I come in and say, no, probably not…

And that doesn’t change my opinion. Despite what some folks say on the medical evidence, and veritable nitty gritty, I’ve never heard a woman who’s had an abortion say “oh, it was no biggie; not like it was a person or anything.” Who is this guy? If the wording was in place to actually explain when life begins, it would say something poetic, about the imperceptible breach from nothing to something at the moment when a soul drops from the ocean into itself. No. The words are there for legal purposes, and leagalese is not the language of life. This is a matter of semantics, the house of cards on which laws are built, and he’s trying to knock it down from behind.

I was inexplicably ill once, and as the doc was going over what tests he was thinking of running he checked my file, and asked me if I felt pregnant. No, I didn’t. He turned to the student doc, explaining that when a woman has been pregnant before, they have a good grasp of what it feels like, and so it was a pretty fair bet that if I didn’t feel pregnant, I wasn’t.

Given that all pregnancies are vastly different, the only thing I imagine he meant by that “feeling”, the only feeling I checked for when he asked me that question, was that of another life sharing my body. That feeling seems pretty universal, from the women I’ve spoken to, which is why the question works out to be medically sound.

I bet the feeling is the same for women who have decided to terminate their pregnancies, for their own vastly different and intimately personal reasons. I can only assume, because those women don’t talk to me about that, and how callous would I be to ask? I’ve instead sat with puffy eyed friends, before, after, in waiting rooms, often in heavy silences, as they sit with innocently occupied wombs and the responsibility that comes with doing what you feel to be the right thing no matter what the cost to your heart.

What year is it that this guy can come along waving the flag of medical logic and all that stuff, trying to find a round about way to get heat up about the Moment It All Happens so that there’s an excuse that even Harper can’t deny to make it worth discussing abortion on the national stage.

Have you ever heard any pro-life arguments that didn’t come down to a matter of morals, and by morals in this context, I mean thinly veiled right wing religious rhetoric? I hadn’t, so I got Googling, because hey, there’s some kind of everything online. First I found campaignlifecoalition, and was feeling pretty vindicated as I scoped out how they’re also against gay marriage, stem cell research, euthanasia, all the things I would expect them to be against.

They had the word Faith on their homepage though, and it wasn’t that many clicks till the word Christian turned up. My argument for faith based arguments: if it’s about God, isn’t it between that person and God? And since when are we mixing God with law?

Then I found, which is exactly what it sounds like. They feel abortion is unconstitutional as it interferes with right to life (without concerning itself with quality).

But what would the pro-lifers do if they had their way and 93,755 unwanted babies had popped onto the scene in 2009? That’s the number of abortions performed in Canada that year according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (an independent, not-not-for-profit outfit that apparently gets its hands on more recent stats than StatsCan).

Of course, there’s adoption, and I don’t want to leave that out, because I’ve known lots of adopted folks (including family) and it came up in the talks for this article. Adoption’s pretty great; I think it’s courageous, compassionate, maybe even soul expanding to be a part of adoption. And, if everyone lived from that place, we would be better humans. That’s my answer to that, which doesn’t even begin to breach the surface when you think of rape and incest victims, women who aren’t in a place in their lives where they can ensure a healthy pregnancy, women in violent homes, and girls who, though acting like women, may be better served by having an abortion than bringing a child to term in grade 8. The age of consent here is 14, if you really check your fine print.

As a friend put it, pro-lifers are committed to the moment of the choice, not the subsequent life, and given how many babies would be born in a pro-life world to parents who couldn’t care for their needs, couldn’t love them how we each deserve to be loved, couldn’t protect them and give them the quality of life we all wish for our children, those things outweigh the beating of a tiny heart (which, by the way, begins around the 18th day after conception, on the official). This same friend looks forward to when she will be a mother, and is a vegetarian to boot, so babies and non-violence are up her alley, and she is still eloquently and adamantly pro-choice.

Beacause pro-choice does not mean pro-death, Never has. A seemingly obvious fact apparently lost on pro-life Liberal, Trifon Haitas, who was gunning for the MP position in the upcoming Danforth-Toronto by-election, the spot left prematurely vacant due to Jack Layton’s passing, which speaks volumes about the constituents and their opinions. I hope he gets all the way to nowhere. I can’t help but get vehement when I see him quoted as saying: “I’m alive today because both my parents are pro-life. My grandparents didn’t want me to be born.”

Um, hi; we pro-choice parents are here too. There’s even an (albeit tiny) Facebook group on the subject. The pic’s great: it’s (ostensibly) the page admin with her kids and a caption that reads “A Pro-Choice Woman Chose Me.” Sing it, sister!

Being pro-choice also means that having my daughter was a choice, not a consequence. She, and every child born as long as we as a nation have had and continue to have legal, safe, abortions, is an active joyful choice, not a biological inevitability. My concern now is to ensure that when she’s old enough to make sexual decisions, she is free to make the choices that apply to her own body, regardless of what anyone’s moral opinion may be. The laws in this country have some pretty strict rules about keeping unwanted hands off my body; the government, at the very least, should stick to that one.

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