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Valerie Keefe

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A Woman's Right To Choose Must Apply To All Women

Posted: 06/14/2012 8:15 am

It's been 24 years since the Supreme Court decided in Regina v. Morgentaler that governments had no right to interfere with the on-demand provision of reproductive health services, in this particular case, abortion.

Twenty-four years later, abortion is not just the law of the land, but firmly embedded in the political consensus. How embedded? Stephen Woodworth, a backbench Conservative MP introduced motion 312 into the commons in April. The motion would direct the government to select an all-party committee to discuss whether the current Canadian legal standard of whether or not life should begin at birth. The non-binding motion will be lucky to only lose 280 to 30. Stephen Harper and Gordon O'Connor have come out against it. The bill is utterly dead. But it was an excuse for people who are desperate to keep the conversation from moving forward to have yet another sandbox slapfight.

Specifically, a feminist group that calls themselves Radical Handmaids.

The Radical Handmaids are devoted to opposing this action despite the fact that there are more pressing issues, such as the large number of Canadian trans women who don't enjoy on-demand access to the most important reproductive health procedure that they will ever need (Exogenous Endocrine Intervention). It's far more important to Radical Handmaids that they oppose a go-nowhere bill that most Conservatives oppose then actually do the hard activism that requires saving women's lives.

Why? Well, it couldn't happen to have anything to do with the fact that the women being denied rights as we speak were assigned male at birth, could it? That trans women within much of the cis feminist movement are regarded as honourary women at best, our childhoods erased, our bodies essentialised as not female, and assertiveness shamed away, surely has nothing to do with this utterly weak commitment by feminists who claim to fight for a woman's right to choose, but whose actions imply support only for a cis woman's right to choose.

The reason is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Judy Rebick and CARAL, (the former testified in court on behalf of Vancouver Rape Relief's position that they had the right to discriminate against incite against trans women), and much of the Canadian cis feminist movement as one can reasonably refer to en masse, have been as milquetoast on the right of trans women to access transition medicine on demand as one could imagine. Bland statements of support followed by no real action.

If Canadian cis feminists were this weak on fighting for the right to abortion on demand, a warm bath and a pint of gin would still be a leading method of inducing abortion in Canada, instead of the safe and dignified procedures available today.

It is time for cis feminists to say loudly -- instead of the scattered voices of a few allies -- that just as one cannot plausibly be anti-choice on abortion and a feminist, one cannot plausibly be anti-choice on transition medicine and a feminist.

It is time for estrogen (and testosterone) to be as accessible for those who can give informed consent as abortion is in Canada.

And it is time for my fellow feminists to do what they do best in the battle for equal medicine: Provide safe spaces for this to happen, to find conscientious objectors such as Henry Morgentaler and Russel Reid to the current system from within the medical community, and to challenge unjust law and unjust practice until it is, like Canada's restriction of abortion, such a distant memory that people come out to protest someone suggesting there be a debate to roll back these rights, rather than being unable to get a forum in which to demand these rights in the first place.

It is time for a woman's right to choose to apply to all women.

 

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