Choosing for Choice in Canada

Artemis of the new (or, at the very least, new to me) blog One Woman Army has an excellent post on A woman’s right to choose in Canada.

Highlights include [emphasis mine]:

Today is the 33rd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade in the U.S. In Canada abortion is decriminalized – ie. not legal but not illegal.

As a woman, I walk around every day of my life knowing that I am a second-class citizen. I feel it when my brother talks to me, when I go to work, when I go to school. I feel it when my opportunities are limited because of my sex. I feel it when my right to choice may be limited.

Right now it’s not. In Canada there is access to abortion (although sometimes limited). If you live in a rural area, your access to abortion might be limited. You might not have the money or transportation to drive eight hours to a clinic where a doctor will perform an abortion. In some provinces, healthcare will not cover abortion. Thanksfully, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the province covers all abortion costs, but if you live in a remote area of the province, such as Goosebay or Nain, you probably won’t be able to get an abortion.


My access to abortion depends on where I live in Canada – but despite that, I know that if I need or want one, I have the choice.

That choice is essential to my right as a woman, as a person – to making me more than just a second-class citizen. It’s essential to my equality in this world.

Tomorrow is Election Day. If the Conservative party forms government, I’m terrified of what will happen to that choice.

To all my Canadian readers of voting age, I hope you’ll pay heed to her call to arms:

If you care at all about women – about your sisters, aunts, friends, cousins, mothers, grandmothers – for all the women in Canada – about women’s equality – then do not mark an x next to the Conservative party on Monday January 23rd.

Our rights depend on it.

Parents are from Mars, Non-Parents are from Venus

I’ve suffered from yet another Attack of the 50-line Comment, so I decided to make a post about it instead of cluttering Jenn’s comment box. Jenn has done what I’ve come to believe is tantamount to death in many feminist circles: she has spoken up for her rights as a non-parent in her post, baby wars. She was firm in her opinions, harsh (perhaps too harsh) in her judgement, and made the mistake of bringing up breastfeeding. Her criticism of our baby-worshipping cultures brought the attention of Dru Blood, a mother very much concerned about parental rights. If you can stomach the tense exchange, I recommend reading it. Just keep in mind that this post is a general response to the arguments, so I’m not pulling quotes or anything. Anyway, on with the show.

One of the main arguments from the non-parents is that we don’t hate parents (or kids), we hate bad parents. The kinds that refuse to teach or discipline their kids, who let them run wild in inappropriate places (sometimes to the point of endangering the kids and those around them), and who freak out at even the most polite suggestion that they, I don’t know, at least keep an eye on where their children are. Overall, I support this stance; kids are kids and therefore it’s the adult’s responsibility to make sure they’re protected and as well behaved as possible. This is, more-or-less, the stance that Jenn took. Dru, arguing for the parents’ side, pointed out that there’s a fine line between parents trying and failing and not trying at all. In many cases it simply is not easy, or possible, to tell which is which. And, she’s right. If the world were black and white, we wouldn’t need to be having these kinds of conversations.

Her point also brings up another issue. While I think that non-parent (childfree or otherwise) advice is valuable, since we offer an outside perspective, I acknowledge that it is that very outside perspective that makes it impossible for us to truly understand a parent’s situation. The same, however, can be said about parents talking to non-parents; yes, your kids may be your world, but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to have a kid right now, nor or even ever. There is a point where parents and non-parents cannot truly understand the other, but I believe that, while it’s an important point, it is ultimately a superficial one.

In my studies on the matter as both a feminist and a childfree woman I’ve found that it is the very same parts of the patriarchy working against both sides of the divide: the institutions/social conventions that want to force mothers into some pre-conceived notion of motherhood (and punish them when they don’t fit into them perfectly) also work against childless and childfree women (and, to a lesser extent, they also work against fathers and non-parent men). One glance at the childfree livejournal community shows that, beyond the anti-[bad]parent venting, many posts are about the frustrations that childfree people face when total strangers shame them for not making the “right” reproductive choices. Having lived in mostly liberal areas, I haven’t personally encountered some of the worst horror stories, but I have had to get into more than a few terse conversations with my friends over my choice to be childfree. The worst I got was my uncle, who I love very much, calling me an “idiot” for wanting to get a tubal ligation.

Again, even though I tend toward the non-parent side, I fully believe that the parents’ arguments are valid, and furthermore I think it’s important for parents to bring some perspective to non-parents in this argument. But, just as I feel Dru Blood got hostile towards Jenn, so too have I felt in the past that many individuals in the feminist communities I lurk in are automatically hostile towards non-parents who are trying to understand but still refusing to slip back into the default value of acknowledging parents’ experiences as more valuable than our own. And, I guess, that’s what I feel feminist circles as a whole have a hard time understanding: individuals may get that the experiences of parents and non-parents are equally valuable, but society doesn’t.

No one is saying parents have it easy, far from it. The patriarchy is about control and it doesn’t care if the women are childed or not. But I would argue that the pervading opinion, in the US at least, is that having a child is the only way to become a 100% human being. And those without children are, by proxy, lesser and therefore we have to just suck it up and deal with it if our lives are intruded on by someone’s child. That doesn’t excuse some of the more extreme non-parent positions, just as the valid arguments of parents who want the ability to go out of their house with their young children doesn’t excuse the more extreme parent positions. All I’m saying is that the valid arguments parents have about their hardships are not exclusive of the valid arguments that we non-parents have.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go to a park and expect to have a nice, quiet stroll sans-children. I wouldn’t expect to go to a matinee G or PG movie on a weekend and not be surrounded by kids of varying age and varying rowdiness. I respect family-friendly spaces; heck, I think we should have more of them. Referencing a point that Jenn made in her original post about flying with a kid kicking your seat (my experience is with a kid dropping hirs pacifier on my foot), I would absolutely love for airlines to offer three kinds of flights: normal (like they are now), family-friendly (designed for kids, with G-rated movies and stuff), and adult-friendly (no kids under 13 allowed, designed for adults with PG-13 movies). With three choices, I see it as a win-win situation. Of course, with the airlines in some serious financial trouble it’s not feasible at the moment (too many people would get shut out of flight times they need), but I hold out for one day in the future.

Bottom line: I want to respect the rights of parents without giving up my own. I think our problem right now is entitlement complexes on both sides, with society goading us to fight each other so we don’t notice how badly our governments are shafting us. The problem isn’t parents or non-parents, per se, but rather a society that wants to control our choices rather than help us make them. An example of what I mean is that when Katrina blew through Miami schools were closed but my friend’s company was not. Because of this, the parents who didn’t have the luxury of having a stay-at-home spouse had to bring their kids in. The workplace had no daycare facility and was obviously not set up to handle children. In my friend’s work area there were four or five children, bored out of their skulls, making a ruckus and making it very hard for anyone to work. I don’t blame my friend for being annoyed (I would be, too). I don’t blame the parents for bringing the kids in (what other choice did they have?). I blame the company and our stupid government for not mandating that a company of that size have a daycare facility for the children of its employees.

As long as we continue attacking each other, nothing will get done. It’s not helpful for us to get all up in each other’s faces about the little things because we’re all fighting for the same reason: we want to be heard and acknowledged. We want society to fix our problems because we can’t do it ourselves. Discourse is good, but not if all it does is divide us further. Neither sides can respect each other as long as we continue to fight as if we’re diametrically opposed. We need, as Jenn has proposed, to communicate with each other. There is common ground and both non-parents and parents alike need to find it. Because otherwise it’s just all of us being oppressed, inconvenienced, and just plain getting the short end of the stick.

On "sick" states and birthrates

So, I was over at Amptoons reading a thread entitled Even For Pro-Lifers, Banning Abortion Makes No Sense, in which Amp makes a bunch of points about reducing the number of abortions that I couldn’t agree more on. Read it, go, I command you. Anyway, I went through the comments and ended up writing a response. Due to my bombastic nature, I decided to cut out one part entirely ’cause it was off on a tangent that deserved more than the page it already had. Ergo, I’m posting it here for your viewing pleasure.

So, first of all, some stats.

Abortion rates in various countries [via Amp]:

As I’ve said in the past, pro-lifers should be asking which countries have the least abortion? Belgium has an abortion rate of 6.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. The Netherlands, 6.5. Germany, 7.8. Compare that to the USA’s rate of 22. Even better, compare it to countries where abortion is illegal: Egypt, 23; Brazil, 40; Chile, 50; Peru, 56.

Approximate net birth rates (births per 1000 – deaths per 1000) [via Robert, formatted for space]:

Belgium: 0.3 Netherlands: 2.4 Germany: -2.3

Compared to:

USA: 5.9 Egypt: ~18 Peru: ~14.7 Chile: ~9.6

(Source for Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, US: | (Source for Egypt, Peru, Chile:

And finally, top 5 countries with highest standard of living [via AndiF]:

1. Norway (birth rate rank 179 of 226)
2. Sweden (birth rate rank 195 0f 226)
3. Australia (birth rate rank 172 of 226)
4. Canada (birth rate rank 186 of 226)
5. Netherlands (birth rate rank 151 of 226)

I think the stats on the top five countries with the highest living standards makes a powerful statement: equal opportunity seems to lead to a true “culture of life” – higher standards of living, less unwanted pregnancies, less abortions, etc. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the countries with the highest standards of living are in general the ones that have gone a long way in encouraging equality and freedom for all and instituting good social programs. Using the birthrate stats, this achievement is often accompanied by a drop in population size, but if a society is looking for the best living standard for its current citizens wouldn’t it make sense for the birthrate to drop off until the number of people was equalized with the country’s resources to maintain a base standard of living for said people?

So, with that in mind I’d like to move on to the comment that sparked this tangent. This particular part of the debate focuses on birth rates and their correlations to “good”/”bad” societies. The main argument posited by the “negative birthrate = bad” side is that those trends will inevitably lead to the demise of the race/culture/country. I’m, obviously, going to be arguing for the “negative birthrate can be good” side.

Glaivester said:

I do believe that a society that refuses to reproduce at levels sufficient to maintain its population is a seriously sick society (unless, of course, this is a conscious and temporary trend to deal with overpopulation, e.g. Japan).

Glaivester’s implicit criticisms on those of us who choose not to reproduce aside, I’d argue that the “refusal” to reproduce at replacement levels is an indicator of a sick society, rather than a cause. Of course, my idea of “sickness” is a society in which people are not free to pursue their happiness to its fullest extent, which may or may not be Glaivester’s idea. To me, a 100% “healthy” society is an ideal one; one in which equality thrives and opportunities are available to all.

Now, since we’re using Japan as an example, I’d like to state my meagre credentials: I’ve done some minor studying of Japan, as it was one of my focus countries in my Asian Studies degree. I wouldn’t be quick to exempt them from the “sick society” label, even by Glaivester’s definition, as their conscious trend in lowering birthrates may not be as temporary as simple overpopulation awareness would be.

Overpopulation is a problem, yes, and one that I would agree the negative replacement rate is helping to combat. But other problems are also leading to the low birthrate, problems that seem to be gaining more attention as women and men make the conscious decision not to reproduce. One such problem is the institution of heterosexual marriage/partnership – because of issues such as the traditional work environment couples rarely see each other due to long working hours. Once kids are introduced to the mix, it falls to the mother (who is expected to have given up her career regardless of her feelings on the matter) to parent the children while the father is consumed by work. Not a healthy situation for any involved, so many married couples are opting out of parenthood. On the same issue, because of pressures such as those I’ve noted, many women are foregoing marriage altogether in favour of keeping their freedom to live their life as they want. These aren’t necessarily people who don’t want kids, but they are people who have decided for various reasons that it’s unacceptable to bring children into the world they live in.

These decisions have started to garner media attention. Sure, most of it is the “oh no! we have an aging population to support, what are you selfish kids doing? underpopulation is a huge problem!” alarmist malarkey, but as more people come forward with their reasons for not having kids the awareness of these social problems is spreading. Unless the government wants to try to institute forced conceptions, a policy that I doubt would fly, it has the choice of accepting the steadily declining birthrate, or improving society in order to make having children a possibility for those people who would want kids in a reasonably healthy society.

What, then, does Japan’s case say about the possible correlation between higher living standards and lower birth rates? Well, my theory is that a lower birthrate is a natural attempt to promote healing of the society. Like I said above, societies without unnatural enforced childbearing (whether it be socially mandated or legally mandated) tend to have a negative birthrate that in turn gives them a greater pool of resources from which to build a strong social network that raises the standard of living in general. So, on one level, Japan’s population drop will increase the resources available to the general populace. However, the political statement made by childfree groups like the NOKS goes beyond population concerns, or even the personal desire not to have kids.

Only time will tell whether or not these declining birthrate countries die out or level off at some point with a high standard of living for all. Still, if I had to bet money on the outcome, I’d wager that, barring unforeseen external events, countries like Norway and Sweden will continue to thrive and Japan will begin seeing some radical policy changes during the next few generations in response to the people who choose not to marry and/or have kids.

What would I know? I'm just a potential host.

Found this gem via feminist_rage [emphasis mine]:

Why dont [sic] you ever let the father decide if he wants to have his child. What gives you the right to decide if his baby lives or dies. It’s not your body your [sic] killing. You are killing another person with a heart lungs head ect… You are just the host.

[From Re: Women’s Rights on Yahoo! News Message Boards]

People like this are why feminism is still sorely needed, especially in the US. Until women are seen as people instead of walking uteruses I’m going to do my part in promoting equality.

New Contraceptive May Save Lives

A new form of contraceptive (microbicides) is under development, one that looks like it might be able to strike a serious blow against the epidemic of STDs, HIV in particular.

It comes in the form of cream, gel, or capsule and has the power to save over 2.5 million lives over a period of three years, as estimated by the Rockefeller Foundation. […]

With 14 different versions in the works and 5 already proven safe enough for scientists to begin testing, microbicides are expected to hit the market at some date in the next 3 years.

Perhaps the most significant benefit is the product’s ability to empower women. Rather than negotiating the use of a condom, women would be able to apply the cream with disregard to the sentiment of their partner.

Over at feministing, Jen asks one question that the article fails to address:

I wonder…the article referenced doesn’t touch on whether it would be usable for gay men. I’d presume that lube would be helpful for anal sex, and a lot of gay men I know would rather not use a condom if they didn’t have to (a lot of straight men too, for that matter), so this could potentially have a huge impact on the gay male community and the impact of AIDS on them. Is this only a vag-friendly cream, or could it be used elsewhere?

Hopefully when this medication gets closer to a possible release date, issues such as these will be addressed. Even if it’s vaginal only, however, if proven safe to use, this medication could save a lot of lives. Of course, with the Christian Right all up in arms in the United States about the potentially life-saving HPV vaccines, because, you know, the women “may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex” (says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council), I expect microbicides will also come under fire eventually. I just hope that, when the time comes, that neither medications will be denied simply because some religious nutbags think that premarital sex is a greater “risk” than saving the lives of women and men.

Via feministing

Midnight Ramblings of a Childfree Mind

When I tell people that, not only do I not want children, but that I intend to get a tubal ligation I often hear the question, “But, what if you change your mind?” There are many responses to that; “when pigs fly,” “when hell freezes over,” “I won’t change my mind,” or sometimes if I’m too weary to argue, “If that happens, I’ll adopt. But it won’t, so it’s a moot point.” The last one thankfully has never spawned a comment like, “But don’t you want to pass on your genes?” Nonetheless, it is wearying to know that no matter what I say, most people just don’t get it.

I’ve been thinking about a way to help people understand that not wanting children isn’t some childish whimsy of my own. When thinking about a similar response to the question “But what if you meet a man who changes your mind?” (as if a man is the only kind of person I’d want to meet, but I digress), I began thinking about relationships and sexuality – something all people can understand on some level.

Think about it this way: if you become life partners with someone, then vows (spoken or unspoken) are exchanged. For better or for worse, you have made a contract with that person to give them your love and affection. In a monogamous relationship, you have given your promise to be with them and only them. If being with that person is something you feel in your heart is right, then do you regret the decision? Do you mourn every time you itch for something new, something different? Do you run off with the first person who takes your fancy, abandoning everything you’ve built with your life partner? No, probably not. The small things can be dealt with easily, and the larger things worked around (relationship counselling or, if absolutely necessary, parting ways).

In some ways, getting sterilized is like taking vows. These vows are not to a partner, but they are still to someone I love. I want to make these vows to myself as a way of honouring part of who I am. A way to make my life better because no longer will I have to face the decision of using birth control, which my body cannot tolerate properly, or relying solely on barrier methods with the constant fear of getting pregnant. It is a freeing decision; a way to ensure that, no matter what my life turns out to be that I will never, ever be pressured or forced into bringing a pregnancy to term. It is something that I need to do for myself, just as marrying someone out of love is something that some people feel they need to do for their relationship and their life partners.

Is it possible that part of me will regret the decision? Sure, but regret is a natural, human response. Part of me even regrets decisions that made my life better. I regret not having found a way to learn Japanese when the program at my university was unbearable. But my education in the general Asian Studies program was as valuable, if not moreso, and going to language school next year in Japan may be even more rewarding than having tried learning in a foreign country with the constant threat of getting bad marks on my mind. None of that will erase the bitterness of what was, but I regret more that it delayed me from what I wanted rather than what I decided to do with that delay. And I don’t regret my decision; I did what I had to do for myself. Right or not, it was my decision to make and I made it.

And, isn’t that what it boils down to? The right to make my decision about my body. To do what is right for me. I don’t want kids, have never wanted kids, and will never want them. I have the right to pursue happiness, and one branch of my happiness has a name: tubal ligation. I will not be happy and I will not be free until I obtain my goal.

My Body, My Morals

Amanda over at Pandagon takes on the “morality” of the so-called “conscience clause” pharmacists. I’ve been trying for so long to explain that someone else’s morality should in no way trump my morality when it comes to issues of my body, but I think Amanda has really hit the issue at its heart.

As a staunchly childfree woman, I need to remember this one for when I start trying to find a doctor who will sterilize me:

Having baby after baby would be wicked of me. I cannot provide for one child, much less 6 to a dozen. And it’s not just a money issue. My boyfriend and I are both crazy busy people who barely squeeze in time to feed and play with our cats, so a baby would certainly suffer at our hands. I have strong beliefs that one should only have children if you are committed to raising that child up the best you can, and since I can’t do that for a child, I feel it would be immoral of me to have one.

Amanda’s right; it is, in my moral code at least, completely immoral to have a child you cannot and/or will not properly take care of. For someone like me, who never wants kids, I have the option of permanent sterilization (if I can find a doctor willing to perform it on a young, childless woman). For others, though, it’s not that they never want a baby, but that they don’t want one right now. For them, using birth control is the only moral choice. And I, for one, stand by that choice: children should be a product of an informed decision, not an accident due to negligence!

The religious right steps up and says, “If you don’t want children then practice abstinence, you immoral slut!” That’s all well and good for some people, but not for me. I may be childfree, but I’m not asexual. My moral code says that I need to do what it takes to keep myself, my partners, and my relationships healthy and happy. For me, that means that I will engage in safe sex as part of that happiness regimen.

And frankly, it’s stupid and immoral to expect me to prioritize the precepts of a religion I don’t follow that worships a deity I don’t believe in over the well-being of myself and my partner.

I could write an article on this line alone, but suffice it to say that Amanda has summarized one of my biggest critiques about the conservative government currently in power. I must say that I’m heartily sick of this so-called “moral” legislation which is “the only morals are my morals.” Really, it’s not so hard of a concept to say that “as long as my morals hurt no one, then they should be protected.” Don’t like BC? Fine, don’t use it! But stay the hell out of my way when I want it.

A Victory for Reproductive Rights in Illinois

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This post is several years old and may not reflect the current opinions of the author.

Finally, someone realizes that pharmacists’ morals should not trump the reproductive rights of women. CNN’s article Illinois governor: No delays in birth control prescriptions is the first real victory I’ve seen on the so-called “conscience clause” pharmacists. It’s refreshing to see legislation protecting the rights of women who need, and have legal rights to, birth control medication.

“Our regulation says that if a woman goes to a pharmacy with a prescription for birth control, the pharmacy or the pharmacist is not allowed to discriminate or to choose who he sells it to,” Blagojevich said. “No delays. No hassles. No lectures.”

One thing that defenders of the “conscience clause” forget (or ignore) is that these pharmacists are discriminating based on gender; it is women, not men, who are the ones being denied their birth control, being lectured, and in some cases having their prescription held hostage. These pharmacists are using their morals to force their choice on the woman, trumping her doctor’s advice and her own decision on her well-being. At least the Illinois government not only gets that, but also believes in a woman’s right to decide what’s best for her and her body.

Menstrual Musings

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This post is several years old and may not reflect the current opinions of the author.

Ever since I started using the Diva Cup I’ve been really thinking about the tampon/pad industry and what it means for women and the environment. Honestly, I don’t think that the current mainstream menstrual companies are good for women and I know they aren’t good for the environment.

First off, there’s tampons. They seem like a perfect solution because they don’t hinder movement in any way and you can swim with them in. But, the biggest problem with them is the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) which is life threatening. There are serious health risks associated with TSS and in some cases it can lead to death.

The FDA’s report on TSS says this:

Approximately half the cases of TSS reported today are associated with tampon use during menstruation, usually in young women.

The rest of the report is focused on minimizing the risks of TSS (it says that “In 1997, only five confirmed menstrually-related TSS cases were reported…” but that number relies on proper diagnosis of TSS by doctors as well as a reason for them to declare it
“menstrually-related”). For some other good information, there’s a discussion on Scarleteen’s message boards.

One of the Associate Editors of the online magazine posts this:

From what my medical informers tell me (I just called my local sex-positive Nurse Practitioner to verify this stuff, so I assume she knows her stuff), the toxic bleaches and synthetic fibers can contribute to TSS by creating a less immunologically sound climate
inside the vagina, and because superabsorbent tampons can actually dry out the vaginal lining so that there’s none of that nice protective immunologically functional mucous left to help protect the body from bacterial invasion through the vaginal wall.


Both things can happen with tampons that aren’t changed often enough or with tampons that are too high absorbency for a woman’s needs and which a) collect a lot of blood in them, making a staph breeding pool, while simultaneously b) drying out the vagina and increasing the chance of bacteria and toxins getting into the bloodstream. Any tampon can do it if the other circumstances are right. Some are more likely culprits than others.

There are some more common problems with pads, too. Scarleteen’s article, “On the Rag” discusses some of the problems on Page 5:

If you’re going to use pads, make sure you do not get any that are scented, or have any added perfumes, as these can cause vaginal infections.

From what I can find, very few objective studies have been done on the effects of popular pads and tampons on women and their bodies. I feel like this is just yet another product of the shame culture that surrounds women’s bodies, but I suppose that’s a rant for another day. Instead of buying into the commercial hype, we women need to take control of our menstrual health by learning and making an informed decision about what products we choose to use. And any men reading this article – learning about women’s bodies is just as important for you. Understanding women’s health, and all the issues surrounding it, is an important part of understanding your mothers, your sisters (and other relatives), your friends, and (if you swing that way) your girlfriends.

Useful Links

Alternatives to disposable pads and tampons: