Love Wins

What a great weekend for love. On Friday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote, had this to say on the decision:

“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the historic decision. “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

On Saturday, I had the privilege of witnessing this profoundly moving phenomenon as two of my best friends became husband and wife. Their union was not directly affected by the Supreme Court’s decisions as they are a heterosexual couple and the wedding was in Canada where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004. Nevertheless, the coincidence that I was attending a wedding the day after marriage equality was achieved in my adopted home country heightened my celebration of both events. I felt overwhelmed with feelings of love and pride for my two friends as I stood next to them while they exchanged their vows. These feelings were made even sweeter by the knowledge that now my gay friends south of the border could have their love affirmed in a similarly legal way.

This weekend was a powerful reminder that love is a powerful force. And that love always wins.

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My Questions for Anti-Immigration Advocates

So this happened today…

Donald Trump is officially running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. Although there is no shortage of reasons why Trump is a terrible candidate (and is therefore unlikely to actually win the nomination) his stance on immigration is particularly troubling. For one, he continues to perpetuate the myth that immigrants “steal jobs” from Americans. Although this idea is a popular rallying cry for those opposed to immigration reform it is not supported by either economic theory or empirical data. In fact, there may be significant economic benefits to enhancing immigration. See this excellent piece by Adam Davidson for further reading.

As a data-loving nerd, the lack of appreciation for empirical evidence is always irksome but what is especially troubling about anti-immigration sentiment is its racist and xenophobic underpinnings. Canada and America are both countries founded by immigrants and built by immigrants. To the detriment of the peoples who came before us and who have experienced systematic mistreatment and cultural genocide at our hands.

So my question to anti-immigration advocates (who are often, though not exclusively, white) is this: Are you prepared to return your land to the Aboriginal people and move back to Europe? Are you willing to offer your property as reparation to those forcibly brought to your country as slaves?

If the answer is no, then perhaps you may want to reflect on your anti-immigration stance because guess what, you’re an immigrant. Maybe you’re not the first generation to settle in Canada or the United States but, given that both of these countries are relatively young in the grand scheme of history, you’re probably only the second or the third.

If Donald Trump, whose mother was born in Scotland and whose paternal grandparents were German immigrants, can become a job creator, why are those arriving to the United States mere decades after his family doing, in his mind, the complete opposite?

If there is an answer to these questions that isn’t rooted in ignorance, bigotry, racism, or xenophobia I’ve yet to hear it.

The Sovereign Uterus – An Update

Yesterday’s blog post turned out to be quite timely. Today, the Prince Edward Island provincial government announced changes to reproductive health services for Island women.

In a press conference this morning they announced that they had reached an agreement with the Moncton Hospital to provide direct abortion services to Island women.

Here is what is changing (as of July 1st):

– Women may call the Moncton Hospital directly to schedule an appointment for an abortion

– Women are no longer required to obtain a doctor’s referral or associated preliminary steps (presumably bloodwork, ultrasounds)

– A toll-free telephone line will be established so that women may call the Moncton Hospital directly and receive information about abortion services

– The government has pledged to make more information regarding reproductive health available online and at key access points

Here is what is not changing:

– Women are still unable to receive abortion services on PEI

– Transportation costs associated with traveling off Island to obtain an abortion are still not covered, though vague references to travel programs were mentioned during the press conference

Some thoughts:

– Eliminating the need for Island women to obtain a doctor’s referral and the associated tests is a significant step that should (I think) eliminate some key difficulties in accessing abortion services 

– Similarly, offering more information via Health PEI on how to obtain abortion services is a welcome step forward

– However, these changes still feel minimal. The most obvious barrier to access – the lack of services available on the Island – persists. 

– Throughout the press conference, politicians refused to speak to why abortion services will not be offered on PEI. This is deeply frustrating and suggests that they are more interested in appeasing the increasingly vocal pro-choice advocates than truly transforming reproductive health for Island women.

– Still, the PEI Status of Women is optimistic:

– I think the PEI Status of Women raises an excellent point – the fact that the newly elected government felt pressure to respond to citizens’ concerns regarding access to the full-range of reproductive health services is important and encouraging. In fact, Paula Biggar, the minister responsible for the status of women, acknowledged that she had read testimony of Island women who have sought abortion services. Although she didn’t reference it by name, it seemed clear that she as referring to The Sovereign Uterus project that I blogged about yesterday. So while their offer is not enough, it’s a small but meaningful step forward.


The Sovereign Uterus

I’m writing this blog post to share an important link to the following blog:

The Sovereign Uterus

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada found that laws restricting abortion in Canada were unconstitutional on the basis that they infringed upon a woman’s right to “life, liberty, and security of person.” In effect, abortion became a legal medical procedure in the country.

However, like all health care, abortion is regulated by provincial authorities which means that in practice access to abortion can be restricted. Such is the case in my home province of Prince Edward Island. Although the provincial government will reimburse women for the cost of the procedure, associated costs (travel, accommodations) are not covered. Combined with an Island culture that perpetuates the stigmatization of abortion, the barriers to accessing abortion are significant and deeply entrenched for Island women.

The link that I posted above is important because it illustrates the ways – both subtle and overt – that abortion access is limited for Islanders. It also helps dispel several of the myths that cling to the abortion issue – namely that those who seek abortion are irresponsible youth too stupid to use birth control. The stories that are shared demonstrate that is not always – in fact, it seems to be rarely – the case. The women who have shared their stories are from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Some were on birth control that failed. Some lacked access to birth control. Some were in abusive relationships. Some were in healthy long-term relationships. Some already had children. Some knew they never wanted children. Some were young. Some were older. Some were immediately confident in their decision. Some struggled with it.

The value of The Sovereign Uterus project is that in addition to providing a safe space for women to share their stories, it highlights the fact that the decision to have an abortion is unique and personal. It also demonstrates how challenging it is for Island women to obtain this health care, and how unfair it is that they are denied treatment that women elsewhere in Canada are not. Because as their stories show, it’s not just that women have to drive a few extra hours to receive treatment, it’s that they may struggle to find a doctor that will offer the referral necessary to obtain an abortion off-Island . They are often treated poorly when seeking follow-up care on the Island. They are shamed by their fellow Islanders.

Although I am confident in my pro-choice stance, I have hesitated to write a blog post on the subject. I worry that it will upset people, especially people I care about. But as I read through the submissions to The Sovereign Uterus, I felt moved to write about how angry I am that women in my home province are hamstrung by personal politics and consequently denied access to a medical procedure that their country has deemed legal. It’s an injustice that must be corrected, and I applaud the creator of The Sovereign Uterus and its contributors for speaking out.

Read these women’s stories. They matter.