Wednesday 24 February 2016

Nope. This "Preborn" Victims Law Won't Pass Either

I'm loath to get into this one again, as it drives people cuckoo-bananas, but this is my beat and this story is part of it.

Just about a year ago, we reported on the fallout from a brutal murder of a pregnant woman that also resulted in the death of her fetus.

That fallout was a petition titled "Molly Matters: Reconsider and Pass Bill C-484."

Ken Epp's private member's bill C-484, or "Unborn Victims of Crime Act," was hugely problematic, as it sought to redefine a fetus as a person for the purpose of adding another murder charge.

It was, simply, a "personhood law", and therefore unsupportable by reproductive rights proponents.

Personhood laws seek to classify fertilized eggs, zygotes, embryos, and fetuses as “persons,” and to grant them full legal protection under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to life from the moment of conception.

Personhood laws criminalize abortion with no exception, and also ban many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and health care for pregnant women. Personhood laws also increase an already dangerous trend of criminalizing pregnancy, by mandating that women who terminate a pregnancy be arrested, prosecuted, and even imprisoned because of the supposed injury done to a separate “person”—namely, the fetus. So-called fetal homicide laws are already being used in many states to arrest and prosecute women who miscarry pregnancies or are otherwise seen as “harming” the fetus.
In short, "personhood laws" do nothing to protect women or fetuses, but DO create a premise to criminalize contraception, abortion, and pregnancy itself.

Yesterday, a new private member's bill attempting to accomplish the same end as C-484 was announced. Here's the press release.

Note that the murdered woman is referred to as "Cassie" only and her full name, Cassandra Kaake, is never mentioned.

I can't find the text of the bill online yet except for this anti-choice site.

Note the language. "Unborn" from C-484 has been replaced by "preborn."

1 This Act may be cited as the Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act (Cassie and Molly's Law).

2 The Criminal Code is amended by adding the following after section 238:

Definition of preborn child

238.‍1 (1) For the purposes of this section, preborn child means a child at any stage of development that has not yet become a human being within the meaning of section 223.

Beyond the language and the erasure of Ms Kaake, there are some other MASSIVE flags here.

First, the proponent of the bill is MP Cathay Waganall, who has a "perfect" anti-choice record according to Campaign Lie.

Next, the accompanying FAQ document, in trying to slither around anticipated pro-choice objections, gets into some weird territory.

Such as equating fetuses with animals and property, albeit NOT animals or property presently encased in a living person's uterus.
If the fetus is not a “human being” or “person,” then how can you create an offence for killing it?

Not being recognized as a human being under the Criminal Code does not mean that a preborn child does not deserve some protection under the law. The criminal law can be used to protect entities other than what is covered under the Criminal Code’s definition of ‘human being.’ For example, the Criminal Code has laws against animal cruelty and the unlawful killing and injury of animals (sections 444-446). It also has protections against the destruction of private property.

We at DJ! have no problem with legislation to protect pregnant women from assault, especially since it is reported that for 1 in 6 abused women, the abuse began during pregnancy.

But a vengeance-driven law focussed on the "preborn" promoted by fetus fetishists intended to be twisted to attack reproductive rights is not the way to do it.

ADDED: CBC story.

ADDED March 4/16: Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada's position paper (pdf). Hint: Nope.

Abortion in Canada: Good and Not Nearly Good Enough News

To its credit, Global News has been running several stories lately about abortion -- especially abortion access -- in Canada.

Yesterday, it had two.

First, a new poll on unrestricted abortion.

Canadian attitudes toward abortion appear to be shifting, according to a new Ipsos poll, as six in ten say abortion should be permitted whenever a woman decides she wants.

The Ipsos poll, given exclusively to Global News, found 57 per cent of Canadians endorse a women’s right to choose – up almost 10 points from 2015 and up from 36 per cent from when the question was asked in 1998.
Here's the graphic from the article:

When I tweeted that last night, Mike Schouten of We Need a Law, Any Old Law, Seriously, Give Us an Abortion Law to Fuck Around with as in the US, replied.

Fetus fetishists like him seem NOT to get the message. Back in 2012, as antichoicers were trying to ignite the abortion "debate" yet again, various polls reported that Canadians did not want to reopen the debate, but when actually asked, the majority of us responded to the law of unintended consequences.

The National Post reported: "As debate heats up, Canadian support for unrestricted abortions skyrockets."

So, yes, please, Mike, keep trying to show us what abortion is.

The other story was about the plan by new Health Minister, Jane Philpott, to address abortion access.

Well, it seems, she doesn't have much of a plan beyond "checking" on the provinces.

Also, in the video clip at the link, at least, she can't seem to say the word "abortion."

Bulletin, Madam Minister: the purpose of the Canada Health Act, a federal law, is:
The purpose of this Act is to establish criteria and conditions in respect of insured health services and extended health care services provided under provincial law that must be met before a full cash contribution may be made.

The program criteria is:
In order that a province may qualify for a full cash contribution referred to in section 5 for a fiscal year, the health care insurance plan of the province must, throughout the fiscal year, satisfy the criteria described in sections 8 to 12 respecting the following matters:
(a) public administration;
(b) comprehensiveness;
(c) universality;
(d) portability; and
(e) accessibility.
That's a pretty big stick you've got there, Madame Minister. We'd would like to see the most pro-choice government evah wield it around a bit.

Saturday 13 February 2016

Zika, Like Rubella, a Game-Changer?

I’ve been collecting links on the Zika virus for weeks now.

If you haven’t been keeping up, here are some points to know:
• there isn’t a concrete link yet between reported cases of microcephaly and the Zika virus in Central and South America;
• some researchers in Latin America suggest that it is not Zika but a Monsanto-linked larvicide causing microcephaly;
• microcephaly is a variable diagnosis depending on the size of the head, unlike anencephaly, which literally means “no in-head”;
• microcephaly is also a variable condition affecting some infants not much, others catastrophically;
• microcephaly cannot be reliably diagnosed in utero until quite late in pregnancy and then, see above for variable diagnosis and prognosis.

So, while this is a fascinating epidemiology narrative, it has devastating consequences for the region.

And may well serve as a game-changer in reproductive rights.

Several writers have drawn parallels between the Zika and Rubella viruses.

The Guardian:
It’s early spring in London. Some of Britain’s leading medical researchers have convened to discuss alarming new evidence linking a virus long presumed to be harmless with a spate of defects in newborn babies. It’s not 2016, it’s 1946, and the disease is not Zika, but German Measles, or Rubella.

The writer goes on:
Such women [infected with Rubella and seeking an abortion], historian Leslie Reagan has eloquently argued, were ‘moral pioneers’. The accidental combination of pregnancy and disease put women in the complicated position of having to assess scientific information about the probability of foetal malformation, and confront the anxieties and uncertainties associated with either terminating a pregnancy or carrying it to term. Not all medical practitioners agreed that infection with Rubella in early pregnancy justified abortion. But many did, to the extent that termination had become the ‘recognised treatment’ for maternal Rubella in British hospitals at least a decade before abortion was made legal.
But beyond individuals’ ethical and medical quandaries, there is now in Latin America a helluva public health mess.

Ilana Löwy, historian of science and medicine, writes:
Brazil is facing an epidemic of a severe birth defect: microcephaly (abnormally small head size), a condition linked with important neurological impairments and developmental delays.
Brazil, don’t forget, is also hosting the Olympics this summer.

Brazil and other countries are focussed on trying to control the spread of Zika infection, as Löwy says, “undoubtedly an important goal, but difficult to achieve rapidly.”

But the point here, as with Rubella, is that even if the cause of microcephaly can be nailed to Zika and even if a rapid diagnosis for Zika-infected fetuses is devised, what bloody good will it do?

Abortion — and in many countries in the region, contraception as well — is pretty much totally illegal.

So, there will be not only thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of panicky women demanding some recourse, but there will be entire states gazing with despair at a generation of brain-damaged children.

Löwy again:
Microcephaly is scary. As reported in an article published by BBC Brazil on December 15, 2015, pregnant women in rural zones of Pernambuco say they are terrified by what they know about the zika epidemic and its consequences. Brazilian doctors have no answer to their fears. Public health experts are predicting 15,000 cases of microcephaly—and possibly up to 50,000 zika-induced birth defects—before the end of 2016. When asked about the possibility that women will be allowed to abort fetuses at risk of birth defects induced by zika, the answer is: “Abortion is a crime.”
In response to the Rubella epidemic, many doctors in Western countries acted in the best interests of their patients and risked their careers to offer terminations.

Löwy concludes: “One must wonder whether Brazilian doctors’ unwillingness to consider interventions beyond the strict limits of the law reflects such strong convictions, or is influenced also by the fact that the majority of women at high risk of giving birth to children with microcephaly live in poor, often neglected areas.”

And Brazil is just one of the affected countries (animated map of Zika’s spread).

Will Zika start to change the discussion of women’s own moral agency as Rubella did? Will a massive public health emergency force priest-ridden states to reconsider privileging medieval views over ordinary citizens’ well being?

We live in hope.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Mocking the Predators, Day 1

From Calgary. Countering #40DaysOfPreying, aka #40DaysOfHarassment, #40DaysOfBullying.

Apparently only three people are allowed on the sidewalk at any time and these two shit-disturbers snuck in during shift change for the fetus freaks.

If you can't read the signs, they say: "We love you and support your choice," and "Belieber."

Sunday 7 February 2016

What is Marie Henein's end game?

The trial of the former Q host on CBC is well underway. Five days so far of mediocre prosecutorial presentations while on the adversarial side, the best Grand Guignol cross-examination that defence lawyer Marie Henein is capable of executing.

What if Henein's agenda were to expose how the Canadian (in)justice system, with regard to crimes of sexual assault and trials, is fundamentally patriarchal?

Here's one account of the grim proceedings.  As well, _Chatelaine_ has produced formidable coverage of many aspects of the trial.

This insight into the first days of the trial came from a surprising source.
Though she was roasted and toasted in cross-examination by the former broadcaster’s lead lawyer, Marie Henein, it’s important to note that for all the inconsistencies in the woman’s evidence — some significant — a constant in her police statement, many media interviews and testimony this week is her claim that Ghomeshi struck her hard, with a closed fist she thought, on the side of the head.
[..] Her difficulties arose, in my view, in part because it appears her allegations weren’t as thoroughly investigated by the police as perhaps they should have been and because prosecutors didn’t thoroughly examine her or re-examine her at all.
The blow of those terribly damaging emails and the bikini photo she sent Ghomeshi, for instance, a year after the second alleged assault where he purportedly smacked her in the head, would have been mitigated had she been asked follow-up questions when she mentioned, voluntarily in examination-in-chief, that she had “a vague memory” of writing a note to him, in anger, but wasn’t sure she’d sent it.
“You aren’t trying to hide the fact that you might have written Mr. Ghomeshi?” prosecutors could have asked.
The question alone would have diffused the impact of Henein’s revelation.
I'm not the only one who is wondering, WTF game is the prosecution playing?  Why are the Crown lawyers throwing the complainants under the bus?  This from Jane Doe, provides illumination.

On the other side, my daughter - a decade younger than Ghomeshi or Henein - loathes what the former did as well as his lawyer's antics.

She has nothing but contempt for the high-stakes histrionical performance the latter is currently offering.  She thinks the lawyer is an opportunist who will leverage a spectacular win to catapult herself onto a larger and more lucrative stage.

The Ghomeshi trial could indeed do for Henein's reputation what OJ Simpson's did for the Kardashians: transform her into a minor US celebrity.

This is the Toronto Life article about Henein that gave my daughter pause, with regard to Henein's professional choices.

Perhaps her perspective is lopsided.  After all, she's a mere physician in a demanding specialty.  In her line of work, individuals who apply such rigour and dedication to the pursuit of excellence _only_ save lives.  They don't destroy them.

Friday 5 February 2016

Push Back Time: Mock #40DaysOfPreyers

Among animals, predators seek the slow, the old, the sick. Among humans, street criminals target the frail, the encumbered, the solitary. Child sexual predators look for the lonely child, the "odd" child, the neglected child. Sexual predators focus on people they figure will be manageable, quiescent, compliant.

In short, predation requires vulnerability.

Of course, all predators make mistakes and take on "prey" who turn out to be stronger, louder, faster, and smarter than they thought. (The Ghomeshi trial comes to mind.)

The spring session of 40 Days of Harassment is set to begin on February 10. (It took me years to figure out that there are TWO of these bunfests a year. There's another in the fall.)

Organizers target particular abortion facilities (or non-abortion facilities, see Guelph below) for "prayer vigils," which amount to 40 days of non-stop harassment of clients and staff at often already-beleaguered clinics.

Let's call it what it is: bullying.

Let's refine that: it is self-righteous bullies preying on vulnerable people at what may be major crisis points in their lives.

Or in the case of abortion providers, preying on healthcare providers who daily face stalking, surveillance, and violence just for offering a safe, legal, common medical procedure. (See the recently published Living in the Crosshairs for first-person stories of what these heroic people go through.)

All predators expect a reward. Lions get a meal. Muggers get a wallet. Sexual predators get orgasms.

And anti-abortion predators get what we call martyrgasms. A strange satisfaction from shrieking epithets and threats at ordinary people going about their personal business.

Back in November, I said that here now in Canada we have the perfect opportunity to secure reproductive rights and access once and for all.

It seems to me this year's first anti-choice martyr-fest would be a good place to start.

Beginning with social media, let's use the tag #40DaysOfPreyers. (I'm not the coiner of that one; I'll reveal the author after I've gotten permission*.) Other suggestions are welcome, like #StayOutOfMyUterus, #HandsOffMyCunt, #NoBullyInMyLadyBits, and the one I and others have been using for years, #40DaysOfHarassment.

Let's take photos of them and their dumb-ass signs and post them on social media and/or dedicate a Tumblr or somesuch to the effort.

Let's counter-demonstrate. I love this story from a couple of years ago about a couple in North Carolina who made witty and weird signs to mock regular preyers at a local clinic.

In Canada, Campaign Lie has targetted clinics in nine cities:




a hospital in Guelph, where apparently no abortions are performed.





In Saskatoon, they don't seem able to muster 40 days' worth of bullying and so are going for "40 Hours for Life in front of Saskatoon City Hospital."
The times will be from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon Monday to Friday, and 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm every day. Call 1-800-891-2070 for more information.

In the UK in 2011, pro-choice people responded with 40 Days of Treats. Bring snacks or little gifts to targetted clinics, donate to pro-choice causes. In short, respond to cruelty and bullying with kindness and support.

Let's push back. Let's reveal and mock these bullies for what all bullies are: pathetic losers with a weird hobby.

Who have no damn right to prey on vulnerable people.

DJ! will stay on this for all 40 days. Send photos, links, suggestions for hashtags.

* Coiner of phrase is modest, declined acknowledgment.

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Guerrill-Anne: A Beautiful Corrective

This is genius, taken both at face (heh) value and a little deeper.

In an article titled "Anne-tagonizing posters connect icon to P.E.I. abortion debate," The Guardian says:

P.E.I.'s most famous fictional character has become part of the province's ongoing abortion debate.

The next paragraph refers to Anne of Green Gables.

But the anonymous person or group, who goes by the handle Karats, has made no such claim. I find it interesting that probably only in PEI (and maybe Japan) would such an image be assumed to be the "feisty" red-haired character created by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

In fact, a commenter called "J" at the Guardian link says: "Who said it's Anne? Maybe it's Wendy? LOL."

Here is Karats's manifesto, if it is such:
Karats is the voice of a community calling for justice.

Karats sees the effects that the lack of abortion access has across PEI, in particular for low income individuals, and other vulnerable populations.

She sees the denial of access and upholding of barriers to abortion services by the PEI government as putting the kibosh on an opportunity for gender equality across our province.

Karats is trying to generate conversation on the topic and encourage the Premier and the government to enthusiastically concede the pending court case brought forward by AANPEI and LEAF. [link added]

“#HeyWade - Take this opportunity to not only bring access to the Island but to proudly show you support Island women gaining control over their health and lives. Be the Premier who brings PEI into the 21st century!”

For more information, please contact:
Twitter- @iamkarats

The guerill-Anne asks that people look for the poster and snap photos to be sent to an Instagram account. If you visit the site, you'll see that Karats gets around a bit.

Posters started appearing on January 28, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, R v Morgentaler, striking down Canada's existing abortion law in 1988.

The upcoming court case in the manifesto was announced on January 5, by the newly formed group, Abortion Access Now PEI.
Abortion Access Now PEI says it is taking the province to court to force it to provide full and unrestricted access to publicly funded abortion services on the Island.

The group says it has filed a notice of application in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island against the P.E.I. government. Under the Crown Proceedings Act, any group filing a lawsuit against the province is required to provide notice of 90 days.

"For over two decades, we have advocated for on-Island, safe, legal access to abortion," Ann Wheatley, co-chair of Abortion Access Now PEI, said in a news release.
DAMMIT JANET! has been covering this stupid situation for years. Some background can be found here.

Of course, the fetus freak reaction was completely predictable. In an article that starts off "Yuck!" LieShite misrepresents the character's background (ooo, lying again???) to make its glurgey point, stating that Anne was "unwanted," adopted, yet "life-loving." So, according to "pro-life logic," all unwanted, adopted children will grow up to star in famous fictional series.

(Anne was not "unwanted," by the way. She was orphaned because her biological parents died.)

In addition to the photos at Instagram, the campaign has generated lots of interest. Here's Karats responding to a question about the bandana.

When the analysis gets literary, it gets even more interesting.

(Full disclosure: I was not a great Anne-fan. My mother was, and that was perhaps enough to turn me off.)

At Vocative, Tracy Moore quotes a fetus freak calling the choice of Anne ironic "because she’s the epitome of the unexpected blessings of choosing life even in challenging and non-idyllic circumstances," and continues:
But literature professors who focus on children’s lit and are familiar with the series and character say it’s not quite so obvious. “Yes, she had a pretty tough childhood,” says English professor Philip Nel at Kansas State University, who has taught the books. “She’s orphaned when she’s young; her parents die, and she ends up having some bad early experiences. She initially works for people who exploit her and use her to raise other kids.”

But, he adds, there are a lot of ways you could use her as a feminist icon for your cause, also. “She’s outspoken, she’s independent, she competes with Gilbert Blythe in school and is very smart.”

Another professor of children’s literature on the East Coast who didn’t wish to be identified [????] said it depends on the interpretation of both the books and the abortion issue. Even though Anne is orphaned in the book and taken to live with the Cuthberts, her background doesn’t figure as tragically as it sounds, nor does she fit a standard narrative of the unwanted child typically presented as a candidate for abortion in the language used by the debates.

“Her parents die of an accidental illness, but they weren’t impoverished or indigent,” he said. “Eventually in the series, she finds their house and some of their things, and discovers they were a loving couple with a home, and she was wanted and loved.”

He says a so-called militant feminist interpretation of Anne isn’t off the map, though. “Anne makes her own choices. She puts off marriage. There’s a romance plot, but she spends a lot of time putting it off to pursue things she’s interested in—education, friendships, work, writing. No, she’s not radical about it, but she’s very self possessed and very self-assured.”
At BookRiot, Brenna Clarke Gray says:
First, while Anne exists in a world before feminism, she’s a strong proponent of women having agency in their own lives. Her decisions — to be educated, to teach, to write, and to marry — are all her own choices, made freely. And Anne loved babies and cherished her own children, to be sure, but she also knew what it was to be unloved, unwanted, and abandoned. She knew pain and tragedy and she sought to limit both in the lives of people around her. Her face makes perfect sense in a campaign that, at its core, seeks to do the same thing.

Second, as scholars such as Herb Wylie have pointed out, PEI (and Atlantic Canada as a whole) is trapped by the expectations that narratives like Anne of Green Gables create: when tourism depends on a version of yourself that is trapped in a quaintly backwards time, social progress becomes undesirable. To co-opt an image like Anne that has been tied to one particular version of what PEI can be, and to use it to agitate for a more progressive society, is a beautiful corrective.

As I said at the start, the campaign is genius.

Simple enough to get fetus freak knickers in knots.

But nuanced and rich in more intelligent interpretation.

May it succeed and prove "a brilliant corrective" to an idiotic situation.