Recently, the focus has been on Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, where small but long-overdue victories have been achieved by a new generation of pro-choice crusaders.
Last week, The Star Phoenix ran four articles on the state of abortion access in Saskatchewan, beginning with an editorial, titled "Silence on abortion is unsafe."
It seems that people are afraid to speak.
When it comes to the issue of access to abortion in Saskatoon, silence speaks volumes.Of course, the fetus freaks weren't afraid to issue their usual BS under the title "Easy access is not the answer."
The StarPhoenix has been investigating the topic for months, and perhaps the most telling truth to come from that work is something that isn't in the stories. The fear of sources to speak in public was a common thread running through all attempts to report on abortion services in the health region.
Researchers told a reporter they simply could not risk speaking out.
After months of searching, only one woman who had an abortion would speak on the record. A pseudonym was used because she feared repercussions in her personal life and from the public.
A four-page article details the difficulties in getting an abortion in the province.
Saskatoon is one of the most difficult places in Canada to get an abortion, leaving women to navigate a political maze, advocates say.
Along with a Halifax hospital, Saskatoon is the second-last Canadian site where a woman can’t simply make a call to set up the procedure — she needs a doctor’s blessing.
In Regina, women can self-refer, but not in Saskatoon? WTF is up with that?
And, if possible, things are even grimmer for women in the north.
Women get run around, forced to make multiple appointments, then when time runs out, get referred out of province, typically Alberta. Travel costs are, of course, NOT covered.
And time limits differ for the only two centres that do abortions: 16 weeks in Regina, 12 weeks in Saskatoon.
One abortion provider, Dr John Thiel, would speak on the record.
Thiel’s practice is based in Regina, and he is a former chair of the Regina women’s clinic. He has limited knowledge of how the process works in Saskatoon. However, when The StarPhoenix requested an interview, he was the only spokesman the health region was willing to put forward.Huh? No qualified gynecologists want to practice in Saskatoon?
“Things are done differently (in the two cities), but I don’t think they’re done differently to the detriment of patient care,” Thiel said.
He has an appetite for change and improvement, he said.
Thiel said he can’t understand why Saskatchewan has no free-standing abortion clinic like five other provinces do, including Manitoba.
The less-than-12-week limit on abortions in Saskatoon is due to a 20-year-old decision by doctors to pull the plug on second-trimester abortions.
The further along a pregnancy is, the more technically challenging it is to remove the fetus, Thiel said. Not all gynecologists have the specific skill set needed.
And there are two more abortion skirmishes going on: a (doomed) effort by fetus freaks to require parental consent on abortion for minors and a move by the Saskatchewan College of Physicians to update their guidelines on conscience rights, rightly seen as an attempt to drag the medicos into the 21st century. That move is now on hold, probably awaiting the outcome of a suit in Ontario over a similar move by the College there.
So while the focus has been on New Brunswick (population: 750K) and PEI (population:140K), the appalling situation in Saskatchewan (population: over 1 million) has been flying under the radar.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised. Of SK's 14 MPs (13 Conservatives and Ralph Goodale), all the Cons are rated anti-choice by Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. These include arch anti-choicers Brad Trost and Maurice Vellacott.
While The Star Phoenix is to be applauded for its reporting, we find it odd that there are no comments allowed on the stories.
Do they want to break the silence? Or just wring its editorial hands over it?
It seems we've got another front to get moving on. Saskatchewan, here we come.