Last week, Shane Ross added his voice to the recent public conversation around PEI women’s lack of access to abortion services (find the full article reproduced below). His contribution begins with promise: he avows without qualification (at first) that he is pro-choice. From there, though, things quickly unravel. Let’s count the distortions of fact, shall we?
First: Ross is under the misapprehension that scarcity of resources has something to do with the province’s refusal to provide local access to abortions. Wrong.
Second: Ross seems to think the province is free to decide which federal laws it is compelled to obey: specifically, it may arbitrarily withhold resources and/or funding for procedures that the country has deemed medically necessary. Wrong.
Third: Ross implies that the lack of abortion services on the Island means that Islanders’ tax dollars do not fund abortions for Island women. Wrong.
Fourth: Ross propagates the popular myth that women need two referrals from two different Island doctors to get a publicly funded abortion in Halifax. Wrong.
Fifth: Ross seems to believe that only “[v]ictims of rape or women whose pregnancy endangered their lives” are entitled to publicly funded abortions. Wrong.
Sixth: The implication of this particular misapprehension is that policies restricting access to abortion do not also restrict access for rape victims and women whose health is compromised by an unwanted pregnancy. Wrong.
Seventh: Ross all but declares that men who conceive unintentionally do so (always? mostly?) because their darn condom broke. Wrong.
Eighth: Ross submits that these same men will happily fork over $400 to pay for the termination of a pregnancy for which they share responsibility. (Note: some men do, and will; our beef with Ross’s suggestion consists in his casual recommendation of such a novel strategy, as if the fact that it is the women themselves who pay for their private abortions in the vast majority of cases is simply a result of having forgotten to ask the men who impregnated them.) Wrong times two!
Ninth: While men who conceive unwanted pregnancies are at the mercy of malfunctioning latex, Ross suggests, women who become pregnant without intent are reckless ne’er-do-wells who don’t use birth control. Much less do they deserve public subsidy of their brazen hussydom! And THEN there’s all the smelly Smoky McSmokersons and Drinky McGees, not to mention all the bedsore-infested fatties who can’t stop stuffing their gobs while relying on publicly funded healthcare to which their tax dollars also contribute … oh wait. Wrong times infinity.
Tenth: Ross asserts there is little public outcry over the status quo and the Premier’s defense of that status quo. Wrong times the exponential amount by which our membership has grown since December.
This is a piece of moralizing tripe from a writer who seems to be well-intentioned; it is also poorly researched (which is to say, not researched at all). We hope that Mr. Ross owns up to his lazy reliance on misogynistic myths, and makes a genuine effort to understand why his statements are so profoundly offensive. We also encourage our members to email him (sross @theguardian. pe. ca) with your thoughts.
Here’s the piece in full.
Climate Not Right for Abortion Debate (The Guardian, Feb. 15, 2012)
When Premier Robert Ghiz, unfazed by pressure from a newly formed reproductive rights group, announced in December that P.E.I. would remain the only province in Canada where a woman could not get an abortion, nor would he remove restrictions to fund out- of-province abortions, I expected him to be mocked relentlessly.
Last again. Behind the times. Afraid of change. Sunday shopping all over again. Backward. Embarrassing. Does he not care about women?
Come on people, work with me here.
But two months later, barely a peep. People I expected to mock were not mocking. People I assumed to be pro-choice, like myself, were acting suspiciously pro-life.
Or, at least, pro-not-paying-for-someone-else’s-abortion.
These people, men and women, weren’t even the religious right who have become, for worse more than better, the face of the pro- life movement. They came from all walks of life. Doctors, students, my mom.
Because his decision is more in line with Conservative ideology than Liberal, he was even able to silence the Opposition.
The only people who consistently took him to task, and vowed to continue, are the NDP and the upstart P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization. And others sympathetic to their cause.
And then last month, when Ghiz delivered his state-of-the province address, warning of deep cuts while trying to spare a wobbly health-care system, the appetite for criticizing his abortion stance became even more trite.
Nobody “likes” abortion, which is essentially inserting a clear tube into a women’s uterus and sucking out the fetus. But, ideally, Island women should be able to get one in their own province. And the optics of a man — THE man — telling them they can’t are not great.
Men, after all, aren’t the ones peeing on the stick. When it turns pink, men aren’t the ones faced with the agonizing decision to keep a baby they may not be ready to raise — and change the course of their lives and bodies forever — or to terminate the pregnancy and wonder for the rest of their lives if they made the right decision.
Even if you are the guy whose condom broke, a Supreme Court decision in 1989 made it clear you could not stop the mother of your child from aborting your baby or, for that matter, from keeping it. You will certainly be affected, emotionally and financially, by her decision. Nonetheless, her body, her choice.
Where a man — and all taxpayers — should have a say is in deciding how much public money should help pay for that abortion.
Taxpayers will foot the bill for the abortion in a hospital — off-Island — if women can coax a referral from two doctors. (Victims of rape or women whose pregnancy endangered their lives would surely get them.)
Otherwise, an option is to come up with $800 — ask the guy whose condom broke to pay half — and get it done at the Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton.
When many Islanders are still without a family doctor, P.E.I.’ s only vascular surgeon, burnt out, is throwing in his scrubs, when long wait times are causing patients pain and suffering, that doesn’t sound unreasonable.
There are, and will be, more pressing needs affecting more people. Taxpayers subsidize enough people who don’t take care of their health — smokers, drinkers, overeaters.
The lack of public uproar suggests now is not the time to add women who don’t take birth control to the list.