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.