Saturday, 28 July 2012

Today's NDP: Ignoring reproductive healthcare NEEDS

Never again

Image Source
: Dr Dawg

Today's NDP has a less than stellar record on reproductive rights. Perhaps as part of a "don't rock the boat" strategy, womens' reproductive health has been put on the backburner time and time again, with increasingly weird excuses. The ignominious history of the early Doer era on reproductive rights truly is a sight to behold.

For starters, in 2001 then Health Minister Dave Chomiak fought against keeping a Morgentaler abortion clinic open. The province claimed it wanted to convert the clinic into a community health centre, which would effectively dilute its specialized focus in abortions. At the time there was only one hospital that provided abortions. The provincial government's stated reason for failing to finance the clinic was that they didn't want to go down the road of funding "private clinics".

By the spring of 2004 the Morgentaler clinic had reorganized as a non-profit, "Jane's Clinic". The province didn't want to pay the bills ... again. The excuse this time was that a new multi-use (less specialized, more diluted, likely lower abortion volume) facility would provide provincially funded abortions.

By 2005 a Manitoba justice ruling found that the provincial government had to fund abortions provided at private clinics. To do otherwise, the ruling argued, would be to deny the reproductive rights of women.

In a 2005 press release the provincial government argued back, claiming that this was leading the way to two-tier healthcare and that the province had been financing Jane's Clinic since the summer (of 2004) and would "continue as it [the clinic] works towards implementing a broader women’s reproductive health strategy" -i.e. diluting it's abortion focus.

Part of the 2005 press release was particularly telling given recent events. In the spring of 2004 then-Health Minister Jim Rondeau was adamant that the province wouldn't pay the bills for Jane's Clinic. But in the 2005 press release new Health Minister Tim Sale lauds the government's funding of Jane's Clinic as an example of the province making sure abortion is accessible to women, so long as it isn't at for-profit clinics. It seems like the province was desperately spinning the reality they'd been dragged to - kicking and screaming  all the way - that they had to finance Jane's Clinic - as a reason for denying the reality that they'd have to finance other reproductive health providers.

But that's not all that's telling about the press release. Tim Sale's and the Province's reasoning as to why the ruling was bad relies on some nasty assumptions.

Former Provincial Health Ministers
Dave Chomiak (top left), Tim Sale (top right)
and Jim Rondeau (bottom).

Image Sources: (top left),
Health Employment Manitoba (top right),
The Manitoba Chambers of
Associate Chief Justice Oliphant ruled that provincial regulations excluding abortions performed in a private clinic from funding eligibility violate certain Charter of Rights and Freedoms rights of women wishing to have an abortion. The effect of this decision goes far beyond the funding of abortions and suggests that everyone is constitutionally entitled to a health care service based upon the time of their choosing without regard to medical necessity, said Sale.

(Manitoba Government press release, January 27, 2005)

Abortion, it seemed, is opening the way for nice to have, luxury type procedures in Tim Sale's view. In a sense, there's nothing qualitatively (as opposed to quantitatively or by degree) distinct between an abortion to end what's deemed a non-life threatening but still deeply unwanted pregnancy and penis enlargement surgery ... at least under the province's reasoning in 2005. Yet given the immense pain, trauma, and real scaring pregnancies cause this is patently absurd.

The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada is right on the mark when it comes to the NEED for abortion access.

ARCC’s position is that all abortions are ‘medically necessary’. The Canada Health Act identifies ‘medically necessary’ as that which is “physician performed”. It should not be left to politicians or religious leaders to determine what is and what is not medically necessary. Abortion is time sensitive and women must decide relatively quickly whether to continue or end a pregnancy. To classify abortion as elective causes unnecessary delays and increases the medical risk to women. Abortion is a constitutional right for women and women must be guaranteed safe and timely access in hospitals and clinics.

("Abortion Access and Funding". Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada)

The means to end an unwanted pregnancy is a human right and must be recognized under the law as a need rather than a luxury. People like Chomiak, Rondeau, and Sale need to stop treating it as something that can be sidelined or relegated to a peripheral status while focusing on less controversial "multi-use facilities".

The Doer Government started off on a bad footing when it came to abortion access, as in 2001 the average wait time for abortions in this province was four weeks, rising to six weeks in the summer!

 Abortions are particularly time-sensitive, given that a lot of embryonic/fetal development can occur in six weeks. In addition to qualms the increasing person-like appearance of the embryo/fetus can cause, abortion procedures become more intensive as the trimesters passes. Having a decision made and executed to end an unwanted pregnancy in the first twelve weeks (which is when 90% of abortions take place) is the optimal option and one that should be availible to ALL women. Diluting the focus of abortion-focused clinics and under-providing abortion services at hospitals/multi-use centres obstructs this goal and leads to later term abortions - you know, the abortions that fetus fetishists especially hate given the person-like appearance of the fetuses by those stages.  

"Today's NDP" - which has been well behind the Federal NDP curve when it comes to reproductive rights - is the brainchild of Gary Doer. Chomiak, Rondeau, and Sale were Manitoba Health Ministers during the Doer premiership. When the Order of Canada was awarded to one man , Dr. Henry Morgentaler, whose tireless work alleviated the unnecessary suffering and trauma of countless women - what did our wise leader say?  Doer said he opposed the decision to award Morgentaler the Order of Canada.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler, after receiving the Order of
Canada, with the governor-general (left).

Gary Doer, 20th Premier of Manitoba and key player
in "Today's NDP" branding.

Image Sources: Dammit Janet! (left),  CBC (right)

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