Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Celebrating 20 years: "I am mine. And that's where it ends"

The word "debate" keeps coming up: debate? What debate? The "debate" over whether women have the right to self-ownership (makes me sick just to type that) ended on January 28, 1988...
I am mine. And that's where it ends.

---JJ, aka "Unrepentant Old Hippie," on the 20th anniversary of R. v Morgentaler

I couldn't have said it better, myself. As many of you know, Monday marked the 20th anniversary of R. v. Morgentaler, a decision that left our country without a single law regulating abortion. Seriously! Not a one. This actually makes us sumpin' special, as fern hill , Kuri, Chet and others pointed out today.

And how have we coped with all this lawlessness? Fire? Brimstone? Dogs & Cats? All things considered, we're doing pretty well, relatively speaking. To get a veritable 'lay of the land' (no pun intended), check out the incredible 20th Anniversary blog-burst. A few weeks ago, Antonia and others put out the call, and boy, howdy, was there a RESPONSE!

The depth and breadth of Monday's posts have been impressive. Some, like Berlynn and Regina Mom have provided us with important historical backround, particularly regarding the oppressive "Section 251" (remember 'Therapeutic Abortion Committees?'). Others, like Megan and Vicky have shared their stories of pregnancy and loss.

Meanwhile, Alison and 900 Ft Jesus served as our trusty truth-squad, knocking down some of the most pervasive myths about why & when women exercise sovereignty over their own bodies. Do yourselves a grace & favour and add them to your bookmarks, to save for a rainy day. And there will be rainy days ahead. After all, us pro-choicers are just asking for it. Just ask deBeauxOs, who recounted her own interaction with "zealots who screamed "baby-killer" at me, conveniently ignoring the reality of my 18 month old daughter, snuggled up on my back."

Ah yes. "Baby killer." Here's the Cynic, taking a few Blogging Tories to school over this lingo. And while you're in Cynic-land, PLEASE check-out Lulu, who had a righteous post about that particular invective, particularly in light of all of the documented violence perpetrated by these assholes. Take it away, Lulu!
Their complaints that they’ve been silenced are plastered across national newspapers and on cars covered with abortion porn and on street corners in front of clinics but still they play the victim. They lie. And this is why I fight.
These supposedly morally superior people consider themselves “pro-life” warriors on a mission from God and accuse those who disagree with them of being “pro-death”. They use terms like “pro-aborts” and “poor choicers” to describe anyone who believes that a woman has a fundamental right to choose what happens to her body, convinced that only they know best. They argue that it isn’t a matter of choice at all even as they seek to impose their views and their choices on everyone. They refer to the pro-choice movement as one that embraces a “culture of death”, while holding themselves up as defenders of the very sanctity of life. But this doesn’t seem to stop them from standing outside clinics and screaming accusations of “baby killer” at women struggling with a decision that is no one’s business but their own as they attempt to enter those very same clinics."(emphasis added)
So, please, I implore you: put down that sign with the picture of catsuppy roadkill* and take Debra's advice:
Those who claim a commitment to pregnancy and to foetuses need to get off the clinic protest lines and join the protests for decent welfare payments, social housing, a livable minimum wage, universal child care, and a stronger commitment to schools.
What's that, you say? Adoption? Pale has a response to that, untimely rip'd (as it were) from the man himself, the good Dr. M (CBC, June 16, 2005):
There are 88,000 children in foster care in Canada (I believe the number is significantly higher because there are 30,423 children in foster care in Ontario alone and the numbers are similar in Alberta); of these, 49 per cent are "Crown Wards".
[...] Meanwhile, there are 22,000 foster children in Canada actively awaiting adoption. Every year.
Ok, let's suppose for a sec that you're still not willing to think rationally. Maybe you're just not in the mood to be reasonable. If that's the case, please go visit the ever-Rational, ever-Reasonable Mike. Here's a hint: think 'forced-abortions.' Think 'illicit organ trade.' Think hard:
That is, it is an essential element of our humanness that we own and control our own bodies. To allow others to do so is to render us to a less-than-human life as an incubator, spare parts repository or automaton to be controlled. It is slavery and it is not life. (emphasis added)
...and, above all, know THIS:
Abortion is not about a culture of death, it is not about hating children or being sinners. It is about controlling ones health, ones life, ones future.
Yep. It's the truth. It's not about killing babies. Hell Heck, I'd even go as far as saying that it's not about all that torrid, "guilt-free" sex the kids are having either, but somehow I doubt you'd buy that. In fact, I'm not even sure that Heather Mallick buys it:
...birth control and abortion rights have been a sexual volcano for men, one of those volcanoes that never stops erupting. So much more, and better, sex has been had. Men have been having a giant fling for decades, and women, able to relax about the terror of an unwanted pregnancy, have had more and better sex too.
[...] Why should I have to be the one to point out the obvious — that men always have an orgasm when they have sex, and women don't, so why aren't men celebrating massively this week or at least taking us out to dinner?
Heh. You know what? Men are celebrating this week. Lots of 'em! And, no, I will give them more credit than Heather, and suggest to you that they're celebrating for *ahem* nobler reasons than...y'know. In addition to Rational Mike, there's Dave's 20th anniversary celebration, reflecting on the the real crux of the anti-choice movement, and how it dovetails rather conveniently with the cuts to women's shelters, crisis centres, child-care, etc.

Oooh! And here's another wonderful man's 20th anniversary contribution to the blogburst. And here's yet another bastard's contribution. You know, there's a reason that he's my favourite bastard:
Make no mistake: now more than ever, a woman’s body is a moral battle ground. We can’t cede any ground to anti-choice zealots who would fallaciously and callously equate potential people with human beings, acorns with oak trees–no matter how “reasonable” compromise may seem in theory.
And then along came another dude: here's Daev, with an extremely thoughtful response to Lulu's post:
I also encountered on the Wish List the phenomenon of the "supportive pro-choice man" who thinks that what the movement needs is a better understanding of "debating tactics" and is more than willing to show the wimmins how to better fight to maintain their rights, never realizing that the pro-choice side has already won, and that women know best how to lead the movement.
See? There are loads of guys celebrating this week, Heather! And you mustn't forget our favourite Dawg--I have it on good authority that he is, in fact, a member of the XY club. And he had a lot to say on Monday. Par example:
I suggest that the fierce opposition to reproductive freedom (first expressed as opposition to contraception, which only became legal in Canada in 1968, and then to abortion as the latter emerged from its underground nightmare of coat-hangers, seedy exploiters, sepsis and death) really comes down to a defence of the traditional role of motherhood. The opposition is not grounded in fetus-fetishism, but in anti-feminism.
[...] Our victory was a major step in coming to grips with that structure of inequality, even if on-the-ground organizing played far less of a role than successful lawyering. The state, however, and the unequal relations that it mediates and reinforces, remain. (emphasis added)
Hmmm. It was such an elegant treatment of the subject, particularly the use of language in our discourse regarding abortion, that I was totally lulled into agreement with the good Dawg...that is, until that last bit (the emboldened part). But, after all, I was only 14 years old in 1988, so I am hardly in a place to argue about the relative contributions of the grassroots to the successful outcome of R. v. Morgentaler. Paging skdadl! Paging s-k-dadl to the white courtesy telephone!
In answer to Dr Dawg, all I can think to say is to remind him of the deeper historical parallels. Outlawing slavery did not immediately change the lives of all the Africans who were transported to the Caribbean or North America or northern Europe. It "freed" them, but then ... Did it bring them social justice? Hardly even yet, and how long has that taken?
And yet it was a triumph to outlaw slavery, a triumph of the mind, a social triumph, a place to stand for those who would fight for genuine social justice."
[...] No one ever liberates anyone else. People liberate themselves. Lawyers are ok, but girls are strong. (emphasis added)
And this was just the kick in my lucky-thirty-sumpin-ass I needed to go back and revisit that archival footage of Dr. Morgentaler in June 1983, as he attempted to open his first clinic in Toronto. Both he and his supporters--including Judy Rebick--were attacked. They were threatened. And yet they were determined to return every day. After reviewing the footage from the CBC archives (thanks, Kuri!), I went on to read Rebick's thoughts on "Twenty years of freedom of choice":
The abortion battle is probably the best example of the relationship between social struggles and legal decisions. For the almost eight years between the foundation of OCAC (Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics) and the Supreme Court decision, the abortion debate had been on the front pages in Ontario and then across the country. Debates, marches, direct action, clinics opening and in some cases being shut down, clashes with the "anti's", resolutions in the unions, on campuses and in community organizations, everyone had to take a stand, including the Justices.
This was more than just "successful lawyering;" this was a movement. And as we celebrate that wonderful 1988 SCC decision, we also have to remember that it's not really over yet. Just last week, the Globe & Mail's André Picard pointed out some of the barriers that stand in the way of truly universal access to abortion-care in Canada. And doctors who provide abortion care, not to mention their supporters, still face death threats in the year two-thousand-eight.

As I said last week, during our celebration of the American 'Roe v. Wade' decision, it doesn't take an outright ban on abortion to reduce access. Sometimes the most successful anti-choice measures are the ones that nibble around the edges. Make no mistake: they WILL try this in Canada. Mallick explains:
Strange people still do creepy things to eat away at abortion rights. They say abortions cause cancer, mental illness and, en masse, post-traumatic stress disorder. Everyone collapses, including you, the father, your parents, siblings and your grandpa.
If you ever yearn for the mucky sensation of sticky fingers crawling down your spine, go to Hansard and read MPs discussing Alberta Tory Ken Epp’s proposed Unborn Victims of Crime Act, due for a House vote in March. The private member's (what an appropriate name) bill means murderers should get a lower prison sentence for killing a regular woman than for killing a pregnant woman. Read them say how nice it is when a pregnant lady lets you feel her belly: "I think we've all experienced that," Epp says.
Need a shower after that? It's ok. I'm just about done here. Whew! It's now Tuesday and I'm officially done celebrating. Time to get back to work, of course, but I promise to keep an eye on Mr. Epp, and I know that you will, too. In the meantime, promise me that you'll do one more little thing for me?

Go watch George Carlin :)
Heather Mallick link via F-email Fightback
"Celebrate 20 Yrs of Choice" badge courtesy of Debra, April Reign;
"Canada Celebrates 20 Years of Reproductive Freedom" badge courtesy of Alison, Creekside.

*You think that's a fetus? Who are you kidding?!

UPDATE [Jan 29, 2008, 12:48 PM]: Please check out Red Jenny, Yappa Ding Dong, Cathie-from-Canada, and Aurelia, for their contributions to the 20th Anniversary blogburst!

UPDATE from The Dawg! [Jan 29, 2008, 12:53 PM]: Dr. Dawg has updated his excellent post with a note about the importance of the SCC throwing out Section 251 "as a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms rather than, say, getting it repealed, or turning it into a dead letter." Go Read!

UPDATE [Jan 29, 2008, 3:35 PM]: Please check out Justice is a Woman with a Sword, Pedgehog, Prole @ ACR, and The Rev @ Galloping Beaver (how'd I miss you, yesterday? Sorry about that!).


Blogger Dave said...


Helluva post!

1/29/2008 2:22 AM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

Thanks, man! Hats off to you & Alison for your 20th anniversary posts, too!


1/29/2008 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheesh. She's lookin' for someone older than she is, and she immediately thinks of ... me! ;-)

But srsly, Kitty, that is an amazing round-up. So well said -- thanks very much. And it's inspiring to look at the list, isn't it?

1/29/2008 5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! Worth the wait. ;)

1/29/2008 6:38 AM  
Blogger Dr.Dawg said...

I've posted a link to this and to other rebuttal of the "good lawyering" comment in a quick update at my place.

An excellent round-up, GDK, by my favourite cat. :)

1/29/2008 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kitty! Wow! Impressive post, my friend! More than well worth the wait!

1/29/2008 12:20 PM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

"She's lookin' for someone older than she is, and she immediately things of...me!"
I figured that if I was 14 in 1988, then you'd be ~sweet sixteen :)

Dr. Dawg--thanks for letting me know about your update! I've added a note at the end of my post.

Thanks so much to everyone for dropping by :) Cheers!

1/29/2008 12:58 PM  
Blogger Beijing York said...

Fantastic round-up and commentary Kitty.

1/29/2008 1:42 PM  
Blogger JJ said...

That brought tears... the magnitude of our resolve. (The letters I'm typing are blurred even now.) Thank you so much for posting this, GDK. Thank you.

1/29/2008 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks, thats the best one I've read yet!!!!

1/29/2008 3:38 PM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

It was amazing to read so many thoughtful posts yesterday!

And JJ: your post, particularly the quote I stole for my title, was utterly beautiful. I will remember that, always *hugs*


1/29/2008 3:47 PM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

Thanks for link, sweetie. This issue is pretty dear to my heart as you know.

Take care.

1/29/2008 7:03 PM  

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