As some of you may know, January 22, 2010 is the fifth annual Blog for Choice Day. The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. Every year, there is a specific question that is intended for us to think about. This year, that question was developed in honor of Dr. George Tiller, a physician who performed abortions that was killed because of his work. Dr. Tiller often wore a button that read "Trust Women." The question this year is: What does Trust Women mean to you?
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the phrase "Trust Women" in the context of abortion and birth control rights, is that it is by and large not women that get to make the social policy and legislative decisions about their own bodies. One of the most telling examples of this is this photo, which shows Bush signing legislation outlawing "Partial-birth abortions" surrounded by male lawmakers in 2003. Apparently, it is still men we trust to make decisions for us.
I believe we need to Trust Women by allowing women to govern their own bodies, both at the level of individual decisions, and with social policies.
For many women, having an abortion is often a shameful thing. That started to change for a while with the "I had an abortion" T-shirt, but there is still a lot of stigma surrounding women's decision to have an abortion. Trust women also means that we need to trust women's decision to have an abortion as the right decision for her and her uterus, as well as anything that might happen to be inside of it.
We also need to trust that women have thought out their decision to have an abortion. It is not a choice that is taken lightly by most people. Legislation require that women view an ultrasound or undertake a waiting period to think it over is not only redundant, it is also dangerous. The lack of access to doctors that provide abortion services, and the high rate of poverty for women in general, when combined with this waiting period, will ensure that abortions even less accessible to many women... but I guess that is the point. Here is a satirical look at where this might be going next (I apologize, but it starts with a 10 second commercial):
New Law Requires Women To Name Baby, Paint Nursery Before Getting Abortion
I am very worried about where abortion laws are headed in the near future. I think that we need to be aware of what is going on in order to make sure that Roe v. Wade is not overturned. The Stupak amendment in the US is the first step in this erosion, where no federal funds are used to cover abortions which means that American women without private health care will have even less access to abortion.
With Canadian social policies often following our neighbors to the south, I wonder how long it will be before abortion becomes a hot topic here too. Currently, the procedure is funded by Medicare, which means that women who reside in large cities often find them quite accessible. Women from rural areas often find it expensive to travel for abortions. For example, PEI does not have an abortion clinic, and neighboring provinces often refuse to perform abortions on out-of-province patients. Canada does have it's share of anti-feminist and pro-life groups, but I think the main issue in Canada is with regards to access to abortion services.
I also think that if we become too complacent, abortion is a right that could be taken away, especially with the apparent popularity of more conservative political parties. Maybe trust women should also mean that I have to trust that women will not be complacent if/when the attack on abortions that is being experienced in the USA ever begins to transpire in Canada.