You don’t limit access to abortions as a cost-saving measure, Barrette

(image via Toronto Star)

When news broke this morning that Quebec’s Liberal government wants to limit the number of abortions performed by physicians and that abortions would no longer be considered a medical priority, essentially limiting access to them, I was left a little dumbfounded.

Dumbfounded and angry, but not overly concerned.

The reason being that I immediately knew the backlash would be so swift and so damning that the working document obtained by the Centre de santé des femmes de Montréal and consulted by Le Devoir, wouldn’t have a prayer of becoming actual legislation when all was said and done.

I’ve never seen an article shared so quickly by so many. The anger was understandable and it was palpable. Minister Barrette was on the radio in full damage control before 9 a.m. backtracking and reassuring women that access to abortions would not in any way be limited.

Only they would be, if the bill were to pass as is.

As it stands, the proposed legislation would impose a maximum quota of 504 abortions per doctor per year, even though the number of physicians performing abortions is already limited in this province. This morning, Barrette said that physicians regularly performing abortions would be given “exemptions” to the restrictions. I still don’t quite understand why you would create a law limiting the number of abortions a physician can perform and then hand out “exemptions” to that very same law. What’s the point? Are these measures aimed at reducing costs or are they simply meant to open the door to privatizing these services? One has to wonder.

 If a woman doesn’t have access to one of the very few abortion clinics that exist, then a woman would have to go through her family doctor or another specialist, and eventually that doctor is going to hit a quota. And then what? What does that woman do? As it currently stands, too many Quebecers don’t even have access to a family doctor. A woman without access to one wishing to terminate her pregnancy would have to resort to her CLSC or another clinic, significantly increasing the chances of coming across that quota once again. Particularly in rural areas.

Let’s not forget that Barrette and his band of merry cost-cutting men (women too, sadly) are also behind governmental efforts to significantly limit access to in-vitro fertilization treatment (IVF), going as far as making it illegal for women over 42 to get IVF. With this bill, only women aged 18 to 42 would have access to IVF treatment — after passing a psychological evaluation. A psychological evaluation…

And all this in the name of austerity. In the name of reducing expenses.

Sorry, but could you kindly get your hands off my fucking uterus? Limiting access to abortion as a cost-cutting device is no better than having some pro-lifer telling me I shouldn’t get one and trying to legislate against them. The result can end up being the same.

Some things you simply don’t touch, Reproductive and abortion rights are fundamental to women’s rights, and women have fought too long and too hard for them to be placed in jeopardy. It is dangerous and a huge step backwards to mess with them.

When women’s groups and feminists explain how vital it is to remain vigilant when it comes to our hard-fought-for rights, there are too many who are quick to scoff at the implication that these battles are still needed. What are you complaining about this time?

Perhaps it behooves us to remember that it wasn’t that long ago that what we take for granted now wasn’t even a possibility a mere few decades ago.

In 1966, 45,000 women were hospitalized after having tried to terminate a pregnancy, making it the primary cause of hospitalization for Canadian women that year. (Canadians for Choice and Fédération du Québec pour la planning des naissance. “Focus on Abortion Services in Quebec”. Bibliothèque et Archives nationals du Québec, 2010.)

Despite the fact that Parliament passed The Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1969, abortion wasn’t legally decriminalized until 1988. That was only 27 years ago!! It was only 30 years ago that Dr. Henry Morgentaler was jailed for performing abortions. It was only in 2008 that women were finally guaranteed free abortion services by the government, regardless of where their abortion was obtained. Up to that point, too many women would have to go to private clinics that charged a fee, essentially denying them from the universal access to medical care that our taxes pay for.

And nothing ever won is ever truly gained. It must be protected and fought for continuously. Since 1988, there have been more than 45 motions or bills introduced to limit or prohibit access to abortion. There are many who still to this day do not consider access to safe and legal abortions primordial to women’s health and equal rights.

As backwards and dangerous as the Liberals’ attempt to cost-cut on the backs of women is, it’s mostly foolish. Women’s groups are louder and stronger than they’ve ever been in this province. And there are significant numbers of men who understand how important fighting this is and will be fighting this right alongside us.

The Liberal government’s austerity measures have already affected women in a variety of ways, particularly pertaining to daycare. Cuts to services like abortion continue to disproportionately harm women, as we risk losing past gains made towards gender equality. This is dangerous and unacceptable and to many of us feels like the last bloody straw.

On the plus side, everyone concerned will be watching Barrette like a hawk and more people than ever will be hitting Montreal streets to protest this one. Even people who would have never hit the streets.

By the end of the day or the week, Barrette will be feeling the heat and will be doing a 180-degree volte-face, emerging as a public defender of women’s rights. Pass the popcorn. I predict it will be fun to watch.

  • Chantybinx

    I love you! You’re a funny feminist badass!