Trudeau needs to put women back in the budget. Because it's 2016.
A key part of being feminist is respecting all people's choices about their own bodies. While a gender-balanced cabinet is a step in the right direction, there is no such thing as gender equality without bodily autonomy. If women aren't able to make decisions about their own bodies, equality is null and void.
Despite the fact that abortion has been legal in Canada for almost three decades, it's available in only one in six hospitals, mostly in big cities and 150 km of the United States border. On top of a limited number of services, there are other barriers like wait times, age, money, migration status and doctors who refuse on moral or religious grounds.
Abortion is legal but not necessarily accessible in Canada.
Yes, health care -- including access to abortion services -- is a provincial/territorial jurisdiction. But the federal government has a responsibility to guarantee that provinces and territories uphold their end of the Canada Health Act. That means universal access to essential health care services -- including abortion.
A government that is serious about gender equality needs to guarantee that any person seeking to end their pregnancy can do so safely.
One way the government could make good on their pro-choice approach includes funding to provinces and territories for comprehensive, barrier-free access to sexual and reproductive health services like abortion. This must be part of a renewed health accord that is adequately resourced to meet the right to health of all people in Canada.
Another is investing in training for new and existing family physicians to provide the soon to be available Mifepristone in rural and remote areas. Mifepristone is the gold standard of abortion pills, already available in nearly 60 countries worldwide and listed as an essential drug by the World Health Organization.
The drug, packaged under the name "Mifegymiso," was approved by Health Canada last September and is expected to be available this summer.
While the availability of the drug could mean access in regions like Northern Canada, where only four abortion facilities cover the one million square kilometres across Nunavut, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, we need to address the issue of cost.
The abortion pill regimen is expected to cost $270.00. A pro-choice budget would include financial resources that cover all costs associated with the pill.
A government like Canada that is positioning itself as a leader on gender equality and women's rights in Canada and globally, must put its money where its mouth is.
The Trudeau government has also promised to remove a Canadian foreign aid ban on safe abortion services. And his minister of international development -- the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau -- recently told La Presse that abortion and contraception will no longer be treated as taboo. But actions speak louder than words.
The Government of Canada needs to fund initiatives and grassroots organizations that help countries expand access to sexual and reproductive health services, including contraception and safe abortion.
The government took a great step forward by committing renewed funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for sexual and reproductive health programs and supplies .
But Canada is far from meeting the global aid target -- 0.7 per cent Gross National Income. And it's even further from the benchmark of allocating 10 per cent of Official Development Assistance for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
This government needs to guarantee that rights like access to safe abortion are prioritized as part of new funding and are central to existing aid programs on child, early and forced marriage and sexual violence, and the Muskoka Initiative on maternal, newborn and child health. Up to now, these programs have specifically excluded safe abortion and neglected contraception despite evidence of the necessity of these two interventions.
But money needs to go beyond services. Part of a pro-choice commitment means budgeting resources to advocate for sexual and reproductive rights in countries that receive Canadian aid -- in addition to increasing access to services in Canada and globally.
If Trudeau is serious about feminism, he needs to put women -- and their sexual rights -- back into the budget.
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REALITY: Over 99.75 percent of abortions do not cause major medical problems. Less than one-quarter of 1 percent of abortions performed in the United States lead to major health complications, according to a 2014 study from the University of California, San Francisco, that tracked 55,000 women for six weeks after their abortions. The researchers note that this makes an abortion statistically about as risky as a colonoscopy. If that fact seems surprising, consider how American pop culture misrepresents the risks of abortion: Nine percent of film and television characters who have abortions die as a direct result of the procedure, according to another 2014 study from UCSF.
REALITY: About one in five abortions are medical abortions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19 percent of abortions in 2011 were medical abortions and that 28.5 percent of those took place in the first nine weeks of pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute also found that medical abortions increased substantially from 2008 to 2011, meaning more women have ended their pregnancies with this alternative to surgery.
REALITY: Most women will not regret their decision, and are no more likely to experience mental health problems than women who carry an unplanned pregnancy to term. While many women experience mixed emotions after an abortion, 95 percent of women who have abortions ultimately feel they have made the right decision, according to an August 2013 study from UCSF. "Experiencing negative emotions postabortion is different from believing that abortion was not the right decision," the researchers explained. Furthermore, while unplanned pregnancies often cause emotional stress, there is no evidence to suggest that women who choose to terminate their pregnancies will be more likely to suffer from mental health issues, according to a 2008 report from the American Psychological Association that investigated all relevant medical studies published since 1989. The APA found that past studies claiming abortion causes depression and other mental health problems consistently failed to account for other risk factors, particularly a woman's medical history. The APA accounted for these factors and found that, among women who have an unplanned pregnancy, those who have abortions are no more likely to experience mental health problems than those who carry the pregnancy to term.
REALITY: Fetuses cannot feel pain until at least the 24th week of pregnancy. Experts ranging from Britain’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree with that timeline. In fact, research from UCSF found that fetuses can't perceive pain before 29 or 30 weeks of development. Then why have so many states banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy? Perhaps misrepresentation of research is partly to blame: Many of the researchers most frequently cited by pro-life politicians told The New York Times that their research does not prove anything about fetal pain.
REALITY: Most Americans support a woman's right to choose. According to a Gallup poll from 2014, 78 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances. (Fifty percent said "some circumstances," while 28 percent said all.) What's more, in 2012, Gallup found that 61 percent of Americans think abortions that take place during the first trimester of pregnancy should be legal. (Nine out of 10 abortions in the U.S. do take place during that time period, according to Guttmacher.)
REALITY: The abortion rate in the United States is the lowest it's been since 1973. The abortion rate has been on the decline for years, and hit its lowest level in 2011, according to the latest data available from the Guttmacher Institute. The study's author partially credited the decline to better contraceptive use and more long-term contraceptive options, such as the IUD.
REALITY: Women face a growing number of barriers to accessing abortions. More than 57 percent of American women live in states that are hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That represents a marked increase from 2000, when 31 percent of American women lived in such states. In 2011, 89 percent of counties in America had no abortion clinics. This is no accident: Across the U.S., lawmakers have enacted 231 new abortion restrictions over the past four years, according to a Guttmacher analysis from January 2015. As a result, many women have to travel great distances to reach an abortion clinic, where they may face 24-hour wait periods. These barriers particularly affect women living in rural areas and low-income women, who often can't afford to take time off work and pay for gas and a hotel room. Other laws force women to go through potentially distressing procedures, such as viewing their own ultrasound photos, in order to move forward with an abortion.
REALITY: Women rarely cite pressure from family or partners as leading to their decision to abort. A 2005 study from the Guttmacher Institute found that less than 1 percent of women surveyed cited such pressure among their main reasons for having an abortion. A 2013 study from UCSF reached a similar conclusion, and found that while women rarely cited partner coercion as a reason they sought an abortion, many did cite the desire to escape a bad relationship or domestic violence.
REALITY: Most women who have abortions are already mothers. Sixty-one percent of women who had abortions in 2008 were mothers, and 34 percent had two or more children, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That number only increased after the 2009 financial downturn. The National Abortion Federation told Slate that between 2008 and 2011, 72 percent of women seeking abortions were already mothers. A study from Guttmacher found that mothers typically have abortions to protect the children they already have; they simply cannot afford to raise another child.
REALITY: Requiring abortion clinics to meet these standards does little to improve patient safety and forces many to shut down. Currently, 22 states require abortion clinics to meet a set of restrictive and often arbitrary standards, dictating that they be close to hospitals and that their hallways and closets meet certain measurements. Clinics often need to undergo expensive renovations in order to comply, and leading doctors' groups say the laws do little to improve patient safety. What's more, 11 states now require that doctors at abortion clinics obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, but many hospitals flat-out refuse to grant these privileges. As a result, hospitals essentially have the power to shut down nearby clinics.
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