It seems that not everyone is as socially advanced in their thinking as those who organized the women's reproductive conference happening this week at UPEI. "Abortion: The Unfinished Revolution", the first international reproductive justice conference, has brought together researchers from around the world to share ideas and information about the impact of women's right to choose whether and when to have children, and how to access the resources to parent those children effectively. Charlottetown was chosen deliberately; the location is the capital city of Canada's only province that still puts up barriers for women who choose not to continue an unwanted pregnancy. This lack of access to safe abortion care results in many women suffering failed abortions not unlike the self-mutilations performed with coat hangers in the 1960's and 70's.
Lack of safe abortion care can have greater societal impacts as well; in communities where women find themselves in unwanted pregnancy situations with lack of access to adequate resources, an increase in child hunger and poverty in general is often the result. Compelling evidence also exists to suggest a correlation between abortion and reduced crime rates. While few would argue that terminating a pregnancy is a preferred birth control method, and most agree that abortion is a difficult and gut wrenching choice regardless of the situation, it's clear that it is a necessary choice for some.
Not everyone agrees that this conference is a good thing, however... "Show the Truth", an anti-choice group from Canada and the US, brought members to line the streets and hand out graphic brochures to children and others in the community in an attempt to "shock-educate". It's been causing quite a stir, even among the more traditional, "pro life" Islanders, who are somewhat less than thrilled with their 8-year-olds being handed a flyer depicting an allegedly 10-week-old aborted fetus, and the local paper has been abuzz with stories about both sides.
(Interestingly, there were no signs or brochures showing pictures of women bleeding out after a failed abortion among the large posters lining the highway into town. Children living in poverty were also not shown. And images of domestic abuse were missing, too. Funny, that.)
Not only are these folks completely ignoring co-relevant statistics, but it's as though these people think that women choosing to terminate a pregnancy by default simultaneously want to "kill" their unborn children (assuming one defines an embryo or fetus as "child" or as being "alive".) Yet even my 10-year-old son can articulate that the necessity of one choice does not automatically imply that the other outcome or inevitable "side effect" is desired. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it's not!
"Neither side is good, Mom", noted Alex (my son), and went on to lament that there was currently no way to have simultaneous choice for women and ability for baby (he defines the cluster of growing cells inside a uterus to be a "baby" as soon as it is known about) to live.
"I wish there was a way that the baby could survive by living in an incubator until it could be adopted", he said to me in the car on the way home yesterday, agreeing that not all women who find themselves in an unwanted pregnancy situation have jobs or life circumstances that allow them the luxury of carrying that unwanted pregnancy to term until the baby can be adopted out.
Ironically, while the conference's protesters are carting graphic posters of aborted fetuses about the province, thousands of volunteers and paid employees toil daily at women's shelters, food banks and with other social service agencies across our fine country, attempting to mitigate the mess that transpires when children are born to women who lack the power or the resources to adequately care for them.
In an ideal world, where women and men are valued equally, and where individual members of society come together to raise up our children in a meaningful, practical, hands-on, cooperative manner, there wouldn't be a need for a woman to make such an awful choice, ever.
But we don't live in such a world. We live in the REAL world, where rather than helping fight injustice for those already living in this often miserable world, protesters instead wave giant, one-sided, graphic images in the faces of those passing by, and intimidating already-traumatized women trying to make the best choice they can in an already-horrific personal situation.
And the choice of whether or not to avail herself of such services belongs solely to the woman. Case closed.