Friday, 30 April 2010

Culture War? Dog Whistle? Ginormous Boo-Boo? Hissy Fit?

So, what the hell is Motherhood Steve up to? We plow through the plethora of punditry so you don't have to. (All emphasis is mine.)

That’s why it’s takes a selective sense of morality for this government to justify covering the 100,000 Canadian women per year it insures for abortions in sterile medical settings while African women are denied our foreign aid to access the same procedure.
. . .
There’s no obvious easy escape from the mess now. What started as a dream initiative is becoming a policy nightmare for Harper, who should’ve seen this coming months ago when he announced the plan.

Even when pushing a proposal to save lives among those living in wretched faraway conditions as his signature accomplishment, Harper has found a way to set his government apart from the opposition parties.

Given that he’s never seen parliamentary harmony he couldn’t inflame into political divisions, perhaps poisoning this motherhood initiative will end up a fitting Stephen Harper legacy after all.

Edmonton Journal:
Either we as a nation are officially casting ourselves as hypocrites in our dealings with others, since abortion is a right for all women in this country. Surely what is a fundamental liberty for Canadians must be extended to those in the most need who want it, if it is legal in their jurisdiction as it is in ours.

Or, by signalling such a position, Stephen Harper is sending a not very subtle message to his political base that a majority Conservative government in Canada would reopen the debate on a woman's right to choose in this country.

By the way, there's a nifty interactive map of the world at the CBC showing the legal status of abortion in various countries.

Back to the pundits. Barbara Yaffe:
It is unclear why they'd allow themselves to get sidetracked on an international policy that is likely to reinforce fears about Harper's brand of conservatism and potentially deliver a ballot box boot to the backside.

Now Rosie DiManno in what may be the once-in-a-lifetime piece of hers that I actually agree with. She's talking specfically about Africa and the epidemic of rape in some places there. It's a tough read with horrifying stats and stories.
Why should any of these distant horrors matter to Canadians? Because rape as a sexual weapon is driving hundreds of thousands of women in desperate search of abortion on the African continent — where 700 women die for every 100,000 abortions due to backroom butchery — and Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week insisted Canada will not fund abortions in the developing world.

Why Harper would draw this line in the blood-drenched sand, as leader of a country that has no abortion laws and where the medical procedure is covered for Canadian women under the public health insurance plan, is unfathomable. It is particularly contrarian within the context of Canada’s ballyhooed initiative to champion maternal health funding for Africa at the upcoming G8 summit.
. . .
As a result of war and sexual violence, abortion in Africa is indeed a matter of post-violation contraception. For countless women, girls, abortion could provide the slim hope of returning to a life grossly interrupted.

Harper can blather about healthy babies and improved maternal care all he wants. The truth is unwanted babies will die; they’re being murdered right now, because their mothers cannot stand the sight of them — the progeny of their assailants — and cannot cope with exclusion from their communities.

If Harper doesn’t care about these women and girls, would deny them funding for abortions so safely provided to Canadian women, he should at least give a damn about the babies forsaken and killed because they had the misfortune to be born.

Judith Timson in a piece titled 'Ottawa to refuse abortion funding? Not in my name':
Here is a political question that for me, just won’t go away: In exactly whose name has the Harper government decided to withhold funds for access to safe abortion in their international maternal and child health initiative?

Not in my name. And not in the names of countless Canadians who have relied for years on safe access to the procedure at government expense.

The government’s decision has made what should have been international apple pie – a widely applauded global health initiative for women and children – into a political hot potato, not only reviving the endlessly divisive abortion debate, but threatening to have it play out, as one concerned director of an international aid foundation told me, “on the backs of African women and children.”

There’s something fundamentally high-handed about a minority government deciding it won’t offer women overseas the same rights they have here. It’s like a new version of NIMBY (not in my backyard) only it’s the colonial version: NITBY (not in their backyard)
. . .
No, it’s solely up to Canadians to deal with the glaring hypocrisy and paternalism of their government’s stance. While we’re at it, we should also notice how the issue of abortion is being stealthily revived in this country, despite the Prime Minister’s declaration that Canadians have “no appetite” for the debate.
. . .
At the end of that G-8 meeting, Ms. Oda seemed to go out of her way to re-emphasize the government’s position: “So I just want to clarify: Family planning does not include abortion.” Why would she do that, if the Prime Minister wants this debate to go away?

Well, if Bev Oda can “clarify” her position then I will clarify mine: For me and many others, family planning does include abortion. However torturous an ensuing debate, this is clearly a moment that matters in the history of abortion rights in this country. The Conservative government, in a moment of political pandering, has made it matter.

Susan Riley:
Of course there is a culture war raging in federal politics. It's been going on since Preston Manning blew into Ottawa many years ago.

The battle lines are clear. Elitist, cosmopolitan (code for gay, or gay-friendly), urban CBC-lovers -- including "left-wing fringe groups", anti-Israel aid agencies and pro-gay judges -- on one side. Frugal small town and suburban Canadians who work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules on the other.

And now, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's ill-considered G8 maternal health initiative, the deepest wedge of all: abortion rights.
. . .
Leaving aside the paternalism of allowing abortion access in Canada but discouraging it in Africa, and those annoying experts who argue that access to safe abortion is key component of maternal health, this is a true wedge issue -- one that could blow up in Harper's face.

On Monday, women involved in international advocacy will be asking "Where is Canada's leadership in promoting gender equality?" at an event on Parliament Hill. The maternal health initiative -- which was intended to display the Harper's caring side, but has backfired badly -- will be under unfriendly scrutiny. So will what some see as a Tory stealth agenda, aimed at removing funding from agencies that don't promote social conservative values.

If we're having a culture war, this could be a new front line. No wonder those peace-loving Conservatives are having a sudden attack of the vapours.

Chris Selley whose piece is titled 'A contrived little abortion war'. And he does blame the Liberals.
I’m intrigued by the idea, as championed by Stephen Harper this week, that abortion “divides” Canadians. It does, certainly, on an emotional level. But considering how vicious and clamorous the pro-life vs. pro-choice battle is, there’s actually a remarkable consensus among Canadians that abortion should not be illegal. The last major poll I’m aware of, conducted by Angus Reid in June 2008, found that just 4% of us felt abortion should be outlawed in all circumstances.

There are divisions within the other 96%, of course. Angus Reid found 48% of Canadians felt abortion should always be legal. But nearly as many, 43%, felt there should be some restrictions. And when that 43% was presented with an array of possibilities, such as a cutoff date in a woman’s pregnancy or defunding the procedure under certain circumstances, they couldn’t agree on anything.

But the abortion war isn’t supposed to be about conflicting policy choices; that’s not what ostensibly “divides” us. I’ve never seen a T-shirt braying “We’re OK with the vast majority of abortions!” or a placard reading “Save fetuses older than 13 weeks!” It’s supposed to be black and white: All abortions are OK, or all abortions are evil. (These are the only two coherent positions on the matter, in my view, and for the record, I uneasily subscribe to the former.) If only 4% of Canadians actually think all fetuses are human beings — to say nothing of perdurable pro-choicers who blanch at sex-selective termination — then I’m forced to conclude that this whole war is a bit of a sham.

Mr. Harper was explaining his government’s pledge — which came after weeks of hemming and hawing, and is no doubt subject to further review, tweaking or outright abandonment — not to fund abortions in the dusty, faraway lands where it wants to improve maternal health. The government is free to focus its efforts where and how it wishes. But an absolute ban on abortion-related spending on the grounds Mr. Harper cited is dizzyingly nonsensical. No one seems to disagree that, in certain circumstances, and morality aside, abortion can improve women’s health outcomes. Canada has no abortion law. Canadians do not support outlawing it. Canadian governments fund it. And Mr. Harper has sworn blind since being elected that he has no intention whatsoever of changing any of that. Ever. Hidden agenda? Pshaw. Long live our unique legal vacuum, envy of nations!

By the standards Mr. Harper espoused this week, that sounds awfully divisive. And nonsensical. Does he think we value foreign fetuses ahead of Canadian ones? Are women not raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Is there no incest in Haiti? It doesn’t survive a moment’s scrutiny.

Another by the way -- here is a much more recent poll from April 1 this year.
A majority of Canadians describe themselves as leaning pro-choice with regard to abortion. A little more than a quarter prefer “pro-life”, with the remainder undecided.

This finding of a 2-1 margin in favour of the pro-choice position is almost unchanged from the answers Canadians gave to the identical question a decade ago.

More punditry: Susan Delacourt:
For the first time since taking power more than four years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week openly embraced a solid, social-conservative policy of the right — refusing to have Canada support abortion in foreign-aid projects.

Political observers were stunned.

After all this time practising the politics of pragmatism, steering his party away from any of the polarizing, social conservatism that scares off many women, urban and centrist voters, Harper branded his government as anti-abortion.

It’s a decision that could well haunt the Conservatives into the next election campaign, depending on how Harper’s opponents handle it.

Mindelle Jacobs:
If the Harper Conservatives are trying to woo mainstream Canada and gain enough trust to win another election, they have a funny way of doing it.

First, they insist they don’t want to get into an abortion debate in the lead-up to June’s G8 summit in Ontario. Then they deliberately wade into the issue. It’s as if they get a kick out of committing political suicide.

After weeks of obfuscation, the Conservatives have finally declared that Canada won’t fund abortion under our G8 maternal and child health initiative. To top it off, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda made the bizarre statement that “Canada has never funded a procedure that included abortion.”

Jacobs then points out that Canada through CIDA has been funding International Planned Parenthood Federation's work around the world for decades.

Changes may be in the works to that longstanding policy though.
Nearly a year after asking the Canadian government to renew its funding, the International Planned Parenthood Federation is still waiting for an answer and if the money doesn't come through, the agency says the impact on its work in developing countries will be devastating.

The sexual and reproductive health organization depends on funding from governments around the world for a majority of its budget. It has a long-standing partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency but its most recent funding agreement ended on December 31. Months before that, in June 2009, IPPF submitted its proposal to renew the previous funding, worth $18 million over three years.

Is the stalling on IPPF's funding an indication that this has been in the works for a while? Is it a dog whistle to the base base? Or is Stevie ('I'm never wrong and I never back down') Peevie just digging his widdle heels in because the meanies in the Liberal Party tried to force his hand on the issue? No matter that the fucking Liberals failed spectacularly, Stevie was peeved.

Delacourt is right, I think. This issue will kill the ReformaTories at the polls -- but only if the Useless Opposition plays it right. We at DJ! have been shrieeeeking saying this for ages. Canada is a pro-choice country. And nothing will mobilize the women of Canada to get out and vote like trying to turn back the clock on our cherished and hard-won rights.

In a final by the way, the base base as represented by The Freaks aren't buying it. Even they think Stevie is getting his ass kicked over this.


Niles said...

What's up with the statement from the NGOs? as noticed over at Pogge's place? World Vision, UNICEF and the others?

About how smacking Steve over this is 'scoring political points' at the cost of really aiding, real women and children? When did this turn into a zero sum game? The NGOs are giving the impression the Cons will just pack up the ball and take it all home if they don't get to keep abortion services out of aid, thereby depriving women and children who would otherwise be helped? Teh fuh?

Making sure abortion is available to women where legal is scoring political points? Loaded language much? And what part of the funding is damaged if some of it is earmarked for abortive options included in surgical and even precriptions brought to struggling areas?

Herta said...

so, do we have confidence in Canadian women getting off their backsides and doing something about this....

the regina mom said...

My confidence in Canadian women has grown three sizes since reading this post!

Herta said...

Heres the thing, I thought that this issue would mobilize women in a way that the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament had. I thought young women,especially those in university would see where this was potentially heading. I am grateful that this site and a few others have taken on this issue, but I truly hope that many more women wake up and let their voices be heard. This is not aboujt whether you would personally undergo an abortion, but about supporting a womans right not only to choose but to have access to safe procedures. Although I am certainlyfeeling very positive about this and other sites, I have yet to see anything ....welll...anything that gives an indication that women are thinking seriously about whats happening on the Canadian political front.

fern hill said...

Herta: check out these Facebook groups.

Left Wing Fringe and Women Against Stephen Harper

Herta said...

Thanks, Fern! Still, participation in these sites is much much smaller than I would have hoped for. I guess, I'm just concerned everytime I hear about another poll showing the Tories increasing their lead (however minimal) and wonder where on earth Canadian women are at. We are 1/2 the population, right? Let's hope this issue gets lots and lots of air time and that women, especially YOUNG women, start thinking about what this could mean.

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