A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘abortion

[PHOTO] 85 Harbord Street, in 2008 and 2016

Passing along Harbord Street with a visiting friend on Monday, I snapped this photo of 85 Harbord Street.

85 Harbord Street, Morgentaler's address #toronto #harbordstreet #abortion #henrymorgentaler #morgentaler #harbordvillage

I’d also taken a photo of this address–not a separate building, just a door in a larger building–in 2008, from across the street.

85 Harbord

Why so much attention to a non-descript address? 85 Harbord Street is the address of Henry Morgentaler’s first abortion clinic in Toronto, as I noted back in August 2008 when I posted the second photo. The Globe and Mail provided a potted history of the building.

The story of this old Annex Victorian semi, among the storefronts on the south of Harbord, really begins on June 15, 1983, when Henry Morgentaler opened an abortion clinic. It was subjected to protests and pickets, and victories and defeats – for both sides of the debate. The drama might have ended in 1988, when the Supreme Court ruled that freestanding clinics were legal, but the rallies continued, reaching 3,000 strong. Harbord Street Cafe, at No. 87, closed shop, its windows papered over. A sign for The Way Inn took its place. The Toronto Women’s Bookstore moved down the street. Then on Victoria Day weekend in 1992, an explosion by arsonists blew the wall out at No. 85. No one was ever charged. A small apartment is there now, next to Ms. Emma Designs at No. 87.

Jamie Bradburn at The Grid also wrote about this in 2013. Without Morgentaler’s clinics, which provided abortions in violation of restrictive regulations in public hospitals, abortion policies in Canada might have ended up being very different. There should be a plaque at 85 Harbord: What happened here really did shape the lives of Canadians.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 26, 2016 at 2:35 pm

[ISL] On how the end of the Prince Edward Island ban on abortion shows the decline of the old PEI

On the 25th of March, when abortion on Prince Edward Island was still a contentious essay, the Everyday Sociology Blog featured an essay by social scientist Teresa Irene Gonzales. In “Spatial Inequity and Access to Abortion”, Gonzales noted how some American state governments tried to regulate abortion out of existence indirectly, by cutting down the number of abortion clinics as much as possible and forcing women seeking abortion to travel great distances, ideally prohibitive distances.

Abortion and women’s access to abortion are often contested issues within the United States. A recent poll by Pew Research found that 51% of Americans think that abortions should be legal in all or most cases. Yet, 49% of Americans polled think having an abortion is morally wrong. How does this difference in legality and morality impact legal decisions?

Have you heard about the Texas abortion regulations case? In 2013, the Texas solicitor general passed an omnibus abortion bill (HB2) that places additional restrictions on abortion providers. Regulations include requiring doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles from the clinic where they perform abortions, and requiring abortion clinics to be retrofitted to comply with building regulations that would make them ambulatory surgical centers.

The impact of these bills on women’s health has been immediate. Since the passing of HB2, 900,000 women now live farther than 150 miles from an abortion provider and 750,000 live farther than 200 miles; 11 of 33 abortion clinics closed; and wait times have increased. In addition, according to researchers at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), the number of physicians who provide abortions across the state fell from 48 to 28.

The restriction of a woman’s right to access either reproductive health and/or abortion care exacerbates issues of spatial inequality and isolation. In Texas, women are faced with potentially long travel times, barriers to finding a culturally competent doctor and/or a doctor that speaks the patient’s language, and increased costs (time off work, transportation, childcare, healthcare and prescriptions) to accessing reproductive healthcare. This is particularly onerous for impoverished women, women of color, immigrant women, and those who reside in more rural areas.

This fits exactly the historic policy of Prince Edward Island re: abortion, as I described in February in “#heywade, @iamkarats, Anne of Green Gables, and the future of Prince Edward Island”. Starting in 1982, religious conservatives prevented abortions from occurring in the province’s health facilities, requiring women seeking abortion to leave the province. As Prince Edward Island is, in fact, an island, this imposes significant costs indeed. That Island women seeking abortions also had to get referrals was another hurdle imposed.

This ban was famously been rescinded on the 31st, just a few days after Gonzalez’ article was published. That this happened is in no small part because of a brilliant public relations campaign that used the image of Anne Shirley, of Green Gables fame to mobilize opinion against the ban. That the Island also faced an impending lawsuit, as noted in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, doubtless played into things.

[Premier Wade MacLauchlan] noted that the government was unlikely to win the lawsuit launched by Abortion Access Now PEI Inc. That suit contended that the government’s policy contravened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that its purpose “is to advance a particular conception of morality and to restrict access to abortion as a socially undesirable or immoral practice.” The pro-choice group filed a notice of litigation in January that required a response from the government within 90 days.

The government’s decision to provide abortions on PEI will do more than ensure timely and safe access to this health service; it will reduce the stigma associated with abortion on the island, says Ann Wheatley, cochair of Abortion Access Now PEI. “The policy of the government not to allow abortions to be performed in the province has for the past 30 years conveyed a message that there was something wrong, even sinister, about the procedure. It had the effect of stigmatizing abortion, and causing women to feel ashamed and fearful.”

No abortions have been performed in PEI since 1982. They are offered out of province at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a referral from a PEI physician, or at the Moncton Hospital in New Brunswick, where no referral is necessary. The latter option is relatively new. MacLauchlan made arrangements with the Moncton facility shortly after he was elected in May 2015. Women do not have to pay for the cost of out-of-province abortion services, but they must pay for their own travel, accommodation and other related expenses.

It made the news in Britain’s The Guardian, and it made a proportionally bigger splash in The Guardian of Charlottetown. The news coverage in the latter has been particularly interesting to read, as pro-abortion Islanders celebrate and anti-abortion Islanders mourn. I’m in the former camp, as it happens. I’m particularly interested in how the abortion services will apparently be folded into a new women’s reproductive health centre, one that will also provide more pre- and post-natal care for pregnant women, one that might integrate midwives into the service, and so on. Women’s health, and reproductive health, are now specific priorities of the provincial health system.

I’m personally inclined to see the decline of old Prince Edward Island and its integration into a new modernized world. Premier Wade MacLauchlan is openly gay; the Island’s economy is kept afloat by tourists’ money, primary industries continuing their long slide; immigration is playing an increasingly important role in the province’s population; cultural urbanization is proceeding apace. The old Prince Edward Island, self-consciously conservative and traditional and homogeneous and quietly repressive is almost dead. In its place is a new Island where old norms and the old exceptionalism are increasingly irrelevant. The Island is becoming a place not very different from the rest of Canada.

For a variety of reasons, including personal reasons, I think this a good thing. Doubtless others–including others on the Island–disagree. I wonder what sort of political dynamic this cultural shift will drive in the decades ahead.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Boston Globe‘s Big Picture reports on the scene from Palmyra after the expulsion of ISIS.
  • James Bow links to a documentary on the search for Planet Nine.
  • The Dragon’s Tales speculates that the ability to enter torpor might have saved mammals from the en of the Cretaceous extinction.
  • Honourary Canadian Philip Turner discovers the Chiac dialect of the Acadians of the Maritimes.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Afrika Bambaataa has been accused of molesting young boys.
  • Language Hat reports on the renaming of the Czech Republic “Czechia.”
  • Marginal Revolution notes Singapore has a graciousness index.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw reflects on Australia’s upcoming elections.
  • pollotenchegg maps the 2012 elections in Ukraine.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer explains how American investment in the Philippines was made impossible, so as to avoid welding that country to the US.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a paper examining contraception and abortion among the Czechs and Slovaks in recent decades.
  • Towleroad notes Ted Cruz’ disinterest in protecting gay people.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the scale of Russia’s demographic problems, report the debate on whether Russia will or will not annex South Ossetia, and suggest Russia is losing influence in Central Asia.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World predicts the end for Dilma Rousseff.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • Anthropology.net reports on a study suggesting that ritual human sacrifice paved the way for complex societies.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling shares an essay skeptical about the idea of a sharing economy.
  • D-Brief and The Dragon’s Tales reports on a study of some South American mummies suggesting that the vast majority of populations in the pre-Columbian Americas did not survive the conquest.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining conditions on 55 Cancri e.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers how access to abortion can be limited by simply making it difficult to access.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders how bad the effects of the upcoming shutdown of the D.C. Metro will be.
  • Noel Maurer continues to look at the prospects of a Venezuelan default, looking at oil exports.
  • Spacing Toronto explores the history of the Toronto Sculpture Garden.
  • Torontoist explains inclusionary zoning to its readers.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Anthropology.net notes the discovery of Australopithecus remains east of the Great Rift Valley.
  • blogTO suggests that Toronto restaurants east of the Don face trouble in attracting customers.
  • Patrick Cain maps gentrification over the past decade in Toronto and Vancouver.
  • Geocurrents polls its readers as to what themes they would like the blog to examine.
  • Joe. My. God. shares the new Pet Shop Boys tracks “Burn” and “Undertow”.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the problems of the right in the United States with being consistent in its rhetoric about abortion being murder.
  • Marginal Revolution links to an interesting article suggesting that Soviet movies had fewer Americans villains than one might expect, partly because Nazis filled that niche but also because Americans were not seen as inherently threatening.
  • Personal Reflections looks at the particular fiscal imbalances of Australian federalism.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer starts to examine the likely consequences of a Venezuelan defaullt.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the ongoing litigation over the Star Trek fan production Axanar.
  • Towleroad notes the first attempts to set up arranged same-sex marriages for people of Indian background.
  • Transit Toronto notes a repair to a secondary entrance of Ossington station and the continued spread of Presto readers throughout the grid.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russia is the chief beneficiary of an Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

[LINK] “Zika Virus May Push South America to Loosen Abortion Bans”

Wireds Sarah Zhang describes how the spread of the Zika virus has influenced the abortion debate in South America.

With no vaccine, no cure, and without even a reliable diagnosis, doctors are at a loss for how to protect their patients from the Zika virus. In the past year, the mosquito-borne disease has spread throughout Latin America, sparking panic because of a possible link to microcephaly—babies born with abnormally small brains. Without more information, medical advice so far has boiled down to this: Don’t get pregnant. So say official guidelines from Brazil, Colombia, and Honduras. El Salvador has gone so far as to recommend women do not get pregnant until 2018.

But most of these Latin American countries are also Catholic, so access to birth control is often poor and abortion is flat-out banned. “This kind of recommendation that women should avoid pregnancy is not realistic,” says Beatriz Galli, a Brazil-based policy advisor for the reproductive health organization Ipas. “How can they put all the burden of this situation on the women?”

In Brazil, where Zika has hit the hardest, birth control is available—though poor and rural women can still get left out. One report estimates that unplanned pregnancies make up over half of all births in the country. And abortion is illegal, except in cases of rape and certain medical conditions. A raft of impending legislation in Brazil’s conservative-held congress may make it harder to get abortions even in those exempted cases.

Now throw Zika into that. Scientists still haven’t confirmed the link to microcephaly, but Brazilian researchers have confirmed the virus can jump through the placenta from mother to fetus. Circumstantially, the number of of microcephaly cases has gone up 20 fold since Zika first reached Brazil. In the face of fear and incomplete information, women will have to figure out how to protect themselves and their children.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 10, 2016 at 5:10 pm

[ISL] #heywade, @iamkarats, Anne of Green Gables, and Island abortion

The above image, of a red-haired woman looking suspiciously like Anne of Green Gables with her face covered, has been circulating throughout Prince Edward Island, in posters on the streets and in posts on social media. The culture wars are heating up on Prince Edward Island.

Abortion has been decriminalized in Canada for decades, but it is still not readily accessible throughout the country. Vice recently noted that abortion is difficult to access throughout the Maritimes, given the dispersed and substantially rural population as well as strict regulation by provincial governments.

Prince Edward Island is unique even in the Maritimes Canada as the only province where abortion is not available. Even though Charlottetown’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital has the facilities needed, even though there are doctors willing to provide the service, the provincial government has refused to allow the procedure. Even non-surgical abortions are difficult to come by, with local hospitals not being allowed to provide followup care. This forces Island women who want abortions to leave the province for the mainland.

The consequence of this is to make abortion inaccessible. I blogged last year about how one Island-born woman living in Halifax has opened her home to Island women, and apparently the provincial government has set up a toll-free number to let Island women arrange an abortion in the New Brunswick city of Moncton, but these are stopgap measures. Unless an Island woman has the time needed to make a trip to the mainland, and has the financial resources to afford it, abortion is inaccessible.

This is where the current campaign comes in. Linked to the Twitter account @iamkarats, the image of provincial pop-culture icon Anne Shirley has been harnessed.

An anti-abortion group on P.E.I. is responding to posters that have gone up in Charlottetown and on social media calling on the province to make abortion available on the Island.

The posters show an image of a red-headed, pig-tailed woman or girl wearing a bandana, and use the hashtags #AccessNow, #SupportIslandWomen, and #HeyWade — as a direct appeal to premier Wade MacLauchlan.

[. . .]

Ann Wheatley, co-chair of Abortion Access Now PEI, said she doesn’t know who’s behind the posters and they aren’t affiliated with her group.

Wheatley does like the posters, saying they’re a clever and creative way to bring attention to the issue.

“I think the posters are quite brilliant,” she said. “They catch your eye … and it sends a very straightforward message that is we need our political leaders to pay attention to Island women and do the right thing.”

On Jan. 5, Abortion Access Now PEI served the provincial government notice that they would be filing a lawsuit suing for abortion access on the Island. Under the Crown Proceedings Act, any group filing a lawsuit against the province is required to provide notice of 90 days.

CBC reached out to the person or group behind the iamkarats social media accounts on Wednesday. They declined to reveal their identities but did release a written statement Thursday afternoon via an email address under the name Shirley Karats. Shirley is Anne’s last name, and she was infamously called “carrots” by Gilbert Blythe in the L.M. Montgomery book.

I think this brilliant. Prince Edward Island’s pop culture is quite often excessively traditional and conservative, even intentionally retrograde, looking to a rural and traditional past that it prized beyond any reasonable measure. It’s exactly this sort of thing that alienated me from the Island. What I find positive–what I find positively endearing, in fact–is the mobilization of this central figure of the Island for non-traditional goals. Why mightn’t Anne Shirley, raised in our era, have wanted accessible abortion on the Island? She herself was a decidedly non-traditional girl, growing up after some tumult into a non-traditional family and then going on to university, eventually becoming a creative professional in her own right. Why would Anne necessarily be conservative? That’s such an unimaginative treatment of a character who was defined by her ability to imagine new things.

I have no idea how the current campaign will end. Perhaps abortion will become available on the Island, or perhaps the matter will get ignored. My props go, regardless, to @iamkarats. This kind of imaginative engagement with the Island’s past will do much good.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 3, 2016 at 11:57 pm