The Myth of the 39th Week Abortion

29 Sep

If you are a Canadian living in Canada (or even a Canadian living abroad, or maybe even a non-Canadian), you’ve probably been hearing a lot about Motion 312. I know I have!

In case you’ve been living under a rock and/or you’re not up on Canadian politics, here’s a section of the motion that should give you a good idea of what it’s about:

That a special committee of the House be appointed and directed to review the declaration in Subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states that a child becomes a human being only at the moment of complete birth and to answer the questions hereinafter set forth;

 (i)            what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?,
 
   (ii)            is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?,
 
 (iii)            what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?,
 
 (iv)            what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?

You can read the full text of the motion here, on Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s website.

The Conservative government has been quick to point out that this is not a motion put forth to criminalize abortion, or even reopen the abortion debate. They want you to believe that they simply want to update the 400 year old definition of what a human being is.

The issue is that this motion could pave the way to giving personhood to fetuses, which would certainly cause legislation to be passed on when and how abortions can be performed.

Currently, abortion is not limited by law in Canada. This means that you can have an abortion at any point in your pregnancy, right up to the moment when you give birth. By ascribing personhood to a fetus, the Canadian government would begin moving towards criminalizing abortion. Because, of course, having status as a “person” would mean that the fetus would be protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

And on the surface, that seems pretty reasonable. I mean, a typical pregnancy can go to 40+ weeks, but we all know that a baby born earlier can often survive with little or no medical intervention. My son was born at 36 weeks and, other than a little time on the C-PAP machine (which was more likely needed because of my c-section than because of his premature birth), he was totally fine. I even have a friend whose daughter was born at 25 weeks gestation and, while she obviously needed a lot of medical aid in the beginning, she is now two years old and thriving.

So how, in good conscience, could we allow women the legal right to abort a fetus that could survive outside of the womb?

I’m here to tell you that we can, and we should.

When I was pregnant with Theo, I had my first ultrasound at 11 weeks gestation. I’d had some bleeding early on in my pregnancy, and, going into the ultrasound, I was terrified that they would find something wrong with him.

The minute the probe hit my belly, though, itty bitty Theo appeared on the screen. He was perfect; all blobby torso-head and stubby little limbs. When I saw him, I laughed with relief, and when I laughed, he jumped, waving his arms and legs in protest. We watched, mesmerized, as he wriggled around, his heart a flickering beat in the middle of his chest.

To me, in that moment, he went from being two-lines-on-a-pregnancy-test-morning-sickness-and-achy-breasts to being an actual little person. Seeing him on the screen made me fall in love with him.

And this is the problem: if my feelings could make me believe that a baby the size of a fig is a person, then someone can likely argue that any fetus, at any gestational age, is a person. If I, a staunchly pro-choice feminist can, under the right circumstances, believe that a fetus of 11 weeks gestation is a person, then it’s not impossible for our government to come to the same conclusion.

Yes, I understand that in M-312 they promise to examine “medical evidence” in order to decide whether or not a fetus is a “person” before birth, but really, you could find “medical evidence” to back up just about any claim.

Would they say that a fetus is a person once it can survive on its own, outside of the womb, without any medical aid? Because there is honestly no foolproof way to test this.

Would they say that a fetus is a person once it reaches viability  at 24 weeks? Because the truth is that only 50% of babies born at 24 weeks gestation will survive, and those that do live are likely to have a lifetime’s worth of medical complications. As well, dating ultrasounds are not very accurate, especially once a woman enters her second trimester. Without knowing the exact date of conception, no ultrasound tech could say for certain whether a fetus is 23 weeks or 24 weeks.

Would a fetus become a person at 20 weeks, the age at which some studies have said that they can feel pain?

Would a fetus be declared to be a person at 19 weeks, which is the gestational age at which, if a Canadian woman miscarries, she becomes eligible for maternity leave?

Would a fetus become a person when their heart starts to beat, when they start to grow limbs, or even from the very moment of conception?

You could find medical evidence for all of these claims, but there’s no way of empirically proving when a fetus turns into child, except for the moment of birth, when they begin to live independently of their mother’s body. So, ultimately, the decision would, at least in part, have to be based on the emotions of the committee appointed to decide when personhood begins.

Pro-life advocates would like you to believe that abortion is too common in this country, that people use abortion as a form of birth control, or that it’s wrong to abort a fetus because it could grow up to be the person who cures cancer. Most of all, they want you to believe that women in Canada are actually aborting fetuses at 39 weeks gestation via intact dilation and extraction (more often, and incorrectly, called partial birth abortion).

First of all, let’s look at the prevalence. In 2005, the last year for which this data is available, the abortion rate was 14.1 abortions for every 1,000 women – so, 1.41% of Canadian women had an abortion that year. You guys, that is not a very big number.

Of that number, only a tiny percentage – in 2010, it was something like 0.2 percent of the TOTAL NUMBER OF ABORTIONS – were performed after 21 weeks gestation. I am having a hard time finding actual government statistics for this, but I got that number from a pro-life site, so I doubt that they are underreporting.

Regarding the use of abortion as the only form of birth control – I have honestly never known anyone who has done this. Abortion is still a painful medical procedure, and it’s not something anyone wants to go through. My other issue with this line of thinking is that it’s a way of saying that some abortions are okay, but some are wrong. Like, if it’s your first abortion and it’s because the condom broke and you took the morning after pill and for some reason that didn’t work, then it’s fine to have an abortion. But if you’re not careful with your birth control and you’ve have multiple pregnancies terminated, then it’s wrong to abort. As this brilliant article says, there should be no hierarchy of abortions. On demand, without apology.

The any-fetus-could-grow-up-to-cure-cancer argument is one of my favourites, only because it totally ignores the fact that, if the woman does terminate her pregnancy, maybe she will be the one to go on to cure cancer. Maybe the financial burdens of having a child would have made university impossible for her, or maybe the mental distress of carrying an unwanted pregnancy would have meant that she wasn’t up to the task of higher education. Maybe raising a kid would mean that she couldn’t spend hours and hours in a lab looking at test tubes or whatever the fuck it is researchers do. We so often hear about the fetus could-have-beens, but no one ever talks about what greatness the mother could have gone on to achieve.

And, finally, the 39th week abortion. The great myth of the 39th week abortion. This myth exists because technically, legally even, it could happen. Yes, it could happen – but it doesn’t.

I challenge you to find me an incidence of a healthcare professional who provided an abortion at 30+ weeks, because I doubt you can. Even second trimester abortions are hard to obtain in Canada, and women often end up being sent to clinics in the States if they are over 20 weeks gestation. The vast majority of these women are choosing to terminate that late in their pregnancy because they’ve only just learned that the fetus is severely or fatally impaired, or that there’s a significant health risk to the mother, or both.

I promise you that no one gets to 39 weeks of pregnancy and is suddenly like, gee, I’ve been meaning to get this thing aborted, I guess I should stop putting it off!

Finally, criminalizing abortion won’t stop it from happening; history has proved this time and time again. What it will mean is that women will be forced to seek out unsafe abortions with possibly life-threatening consequences. Sadly, this is an indisputable fact.

I’ve never had an abortion, and I hope I never will. I would frankly be beyond horrified if a woman terminated her pregnancy at 39 weeks. I’m still glad, though, that it’s possible from a legal standpoint. I’m glad that there are no laws that say what a woman can or can’t do to her pregnant body, which, by the way, is still her body. Because once you start creating that legislation, no matter how well-meaning it is, it’s a slippery fucking slope. A slope that ends in the Handmaid’s Tale. Kidding. Well, mostly kidding.

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26 Responses to “The Myth of the 39th Week Abortion”

  1. eden September 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    This is wonderful. Abortion as a procedure varies SO wildly depending on so many factors, not the least of which is the situation of the individual person having the operation, how her body responds to it, and how far along the pregnancy is – and so it makes no sense to make ANY restrictions across the board. The abortion I had at just under 12 weeks was nearly painless and unemotional (save the relief and gratitude I felt) but the same operation for a different person could well be traumatic, either physically or psychologically. Totally different, and totally unpredictable.

    The “but some people use it as their only birth control!” pearl-clutching drives me nuts, because then how do you decide what counts as using other birth control well enough? I was using a diaphragm when I got pregnant – does that mean I was being irresponsible by using a method with a relatively high failure rate? I’m only using condoms now – does only using one method mean I’m setting myself up for unnecessary surgery? And if a condom broke, I wouldn’t use EC, because I’m a stroke risk – am I then recklessly using abortion as a backup? And who gets to decide?

    Oh man I could go on forever about this.

    • bellejarblog October 3, 2012 at 1:31 am #

      ” The abortion I had at just under 12 weeks was nearly painless and unemotional (save the relief and gratitude I felt) but the same operation for a different person could well be traumatic, either physically or psychologically. ”

      I’ve heard this from other people too. A friend of mine had some discomfort from cramping and bleeding, but she was so overwhelmed by the feeling of relief that she didn’t care.

  2. Leopard September 30, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    I, too, love the argument- “the baby could go on to cure cancer.” I mean, it is indeed a possibility, but it could also turn out to be a serial killer, or a dictator!

    • bellejarblog October 2, 2012 at 2:56 am #

      IT COULD BE ANYTHING! I feel like this is a tagline for a movie called something like “attack of the fetuses”.

    • What if you're wrong? October 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

      Who, or what, the baby grows up to be is beside the point! It’s a human life – a person who can perceive, reason, and feel emotion. That’s where the value lies, not in what they can do for others.

      • bellejarblog October 10, 2012 at 2:13 am #

        That’s wonderful that you feel that a fetus is a person – since that’s what you believe, I would encourage you not to have any abortions. While pregnant, I also felt that my fetus was a person.

        Of course, the unfortunate thing about feelings is that they’re not universal – the way that I feel, and the way that other people feel are two vastly different things. When another woman feels that her specific fetus is not a person and wants to terminate her pregnancy, I want her to have the right and ability to do that. I respect that the way she feels about her pregnancy is not the way I felt about mine.

        When my government makes laws, I want them to be based on facts, not feelings. And the thing is, there’s no way of proving when a fetus becomes a person. If you could back up your statements above with papers published in well-respected scientific journals, that would be one thing – but I really don’t think that you can.

        As to your question of what if I’m wrong – well, if you’re religious (for whatever reason, pro-life and religion seem to go hand in hand), then I guess in a worst-case scenario I will go to hell, and all of the aborted babies will go to heaven. Whatever the consequences of my beliefs are, though, they are MY consequences, not yours. If you’re Christian, I will remind you that Jesus was pretty damn clear on the whole judge-not-lest-ye-be-judged. And since he hung around with lepers and sex-workers, my guess is he would be pretty cool with us pro-choice people too.

  3. Jennie September 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    We so often hear about the fetus could-have-beens, but no one ever talks about what greatness the mother could have gone on to achieve.

    HOW MUCH DO I LOVE THIS????

    Regarding the supposed preponderance of late-term abortions in Canada, according to Canadians for Choice, less than 1 percent of abortions take place after 20 weeks. So of the 141 out of every 1,000 Canadian women who seek an abortion every year, maybe one of those women’s pregnancy is advanced beyond 20 weeks.

    So women are definitely not seeking late-term abortions in droves.

    The thing I hate most about this trope, on reflection, though, is how purely anti-woman it is. The notion that a woman would blithely seek out an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy speaks to a notion of women who are, indeed, capricious, irrational, and emotionally bankrupt.

    I’m not going to say that abortion is always a difficult choice for women. I don’t think it necessarily should be a difficult choice. But, a woman who has endured even 20 weeks of pregnancy—the sore boobs, the nausea, the water retention, the hormonal shifts, the fatigue, the other delightful pregnancy-related body changes—probably has some investment in the outcome of this process. She’s not going to just decide to get rid of the little parasite, after all that, on a whim. She, and any other involved party, probably has a pretty compelling reason to consider not having that child.

    A person would have to really think poorly of women to think that women go through their pregnancies only in order to kill the baby.

    • bellejarblog October 3, 2012 at 1:29 am #

      “The thing I hate most about this trope, on reflection, though, is how purely anti-woman it is. The notion that a woman would blithely seek out an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy speaks to a notion of women who are, indeed, capricious, irrational, and emotionally bankrupt.”

      YES. This is so perfect. I was debating this issue with someone the other day, and I wish I could have framed my thought into exactly these words.

      And yeah, regarding the “it’s a tough choice!” argument, I have a hard time with that one too. I know why people use it, but I still feel like it makes it sound like some abortions are more okay than others. Like, if it’s not a tough choice, then there’s something wrong with you.

  4. greenstockings October 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    A1

  5. Vanessa October 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    You raise some interesting points, which I would be interested to know/understand more about, please. 🙂

    Why would a 39 week abortion make you cringe? Are there any circumstances where an abortion would be wrong then?

    What do you think of the way abortions are handled at the Foothills hospital in Calgary, Alberta? http://www.euthanasia.com/cannurse.html and also here, where it is mentioned a 35 week abortion took place: http://www.abortionincanada.ca/history/Abortion_Canada_Timeline.html

    It’s interesting to note that with the exception of Canada, China, and North Korea, all other countries have laws that limit when abortions can take place. Do you feel that the political climate towards women in Australia, Great Britain, France, etc resemble “the Handmaid’s Tale”?

    Thank you for your time.

    • bellejarblog October 2, 2012 at 2:54 am #

      Of course I would be uncomfortable about terminating a healthy fetus that was of an advanced enough gestational age that it could live outside the mother with minimal medical aid. And if you asked me, personally, if I thought a 39 week fetus was a person, I would answer yes. But I’m glad that the law doesn’t view them as a person because, as I said, how do you define personhood, exactly? When do you draw that line? And how do you avoid that slipper slope?

      Regarding if I would ever think a 39 week abortion was wrong, my point here is more that they don’t exist. They just don’t happen. There is no way that a doctor would terminate a healthy 39 week pregnancy in such a way that it would harm the fetus. If a woman went to her doctor and asked for that, she would likely be found to not competent to make medical decisions.

      Regarding the two links you posted, it’s hard for me to give an informed opinion about that case because both links are from pro-life sites. If you could find me information from an unbiased news source about that event, I would really appreciate it.

      What I do know from the second link you provided is that the baby in question had genetic problems that were incompatible with life. Had the baby been born full-term, it still wouldn’t have survived. Had the nurses been allowed to feed the child, it’s likely that it wouldn’t have survived in that instance, either. Again, I don’t have enough information to go on here, but I know that there are certain conditions where the genetic problems are so severe that the child cannot properly feed, or else there are some conditions, such as Potter’s Syndrome, where feeding the child can only increase the discomfort it experiences in their short lifetime. Like I said, though, in this case I just don’t have enough to go on, but I have to assume that the doctors did whatever was in the child’s best interest.

      It’s unfortunate that the parents were unable to hold their baby, but we have to accept that everyone grieves in a different way.

      I wouldn’t really call this an abortion, though. The mother was induced, and the fetus wasn’t harmed during delivery. Finding out that her child had genetic problems that meant that he or she couldn’t live after the mother had carried them for so many months must have been incredibly difficult. She would have already set up the nursery and bought all the clothes and picked out names. Choosing to be induced early was, I’m sure, an incredibly difficult decision, and one she didn’t come to lightly.

      I don’t like the laws in France, the UK or Australia, no. I think that it’s ridiculous that in France, if you want to abort after 12 weeks, you need two physicians signing a document saying your life will be in danger without the abortion. I think that it’s very telling that recently in the UK there have been narrowly defeated amendments to their abortion law trying to change it from 24 weeks to 22 or 20. This is the slippery slope I was mentioning. It’s unbelievable to me that up until 2008, it was illegal in parts of Australia to have an abortion at any gestational age unless the mother’s health was threatened. The comment about the Handmaid’s Tale was obviously hyperbole, but yes, I do think that these laws are misogynistic.

      I hope that helps answer all of your questions 🙂

      • Vanessa October 3, 2012 at 4:25 am #

        Hi there
        Thank you so much for patiently communicating with me your views. I really appreciate it, and can see that you do have a lot of compassion, both for babies, and also women.

        Here is a bit more info:
        As you mentioned, it is difficult to find exact statistics on late term abortions in Canada. However, that does not mean that they do not happen-it means that, for political reasons, and otherwise, the numbers are not released. ( http://www.themarknews.com/articles/1651-the-facts-on-abortion/#.UGqVDK4ro4d )
        Also, as you correctly brought up-sometimes the terminology of the procedure is changed, therefore it would not count in the statistics anyways. “I wouldn’t really call this an abortion, though. The mother was induced, and the fetus wasn’t harmed during delivery”.
        However, this seems to be one of the ways abortion is performed in Canada as mentioned in this paper from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. “Late term abortions done in Canada are generally performed via induction of labour.” (full paper here) http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/postionpapers/22-Late-term-Abortions.PDF
        The above paper also mentions that sometimes women, especially teenagers, are in denial about their pregnancy, which could cause them to decide upon a late term abortion of a healthy child.

        I’ve personally known two young women who were in denial about their pregnancies-one denied it til she was in the hospital, giving birth. The other denied it until she was 35 weeks along, and her stepmother caught a glimpse of her changing. Even then, she denied to her parents that she had even had sex-til her stepmother asked her to show them her tummy!

        As you mentioned in your original article, it can take an ultrasound to make that child real to the mother. What if a woman has not had the benefit of seeing her child? I’ve personally had 5 live births, and two miscarriages, and just recently I saw a picture of a 12 week gestational aged baby in the palm of a hand-and had to really check facts to believe that photo was real, and not misdated. To me at that age, they were still fondly referred to as “a bean”. I mean, I’d read “What to expect” and several other books, and knew they were more apple sized, but to see the detail already formed in that small body-I found that picture really startling. I wasn’t the only one-a friend who has had 4 live births and a miscarriage also shared the same reaction.

        You asked to find one case of a 30+ week baby being aborted in Canada. Here are some published incidents: http://www.bigbluewave.ca/2012/07/are-third-trimester-abortions-performed.html
        On the Calgary incidents, here is an article published by the “Alberta Report” publication, which is no longer in circulation. I don’t believe it was strictly a prolife paper. http://www.canadiancrc.com/Newspaper_Articles/Alberta_Report_Slope_to_Infanticide_03MAY99.aspx

        Also, the slippery slope you speak of, can go both ways. Has, even! For instance, killing a newborn child does not carry with it the gravity that one would extend to any other born person, as displayed in the sentencing extended to Katrina Effert, who strangled her newborn son with her underwear, then threw his body over the neighbor’s fence. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2011/09/09/edmonton-effert-infanticide-suspended-sentence.html The judge deciding the case mentioned that “The fact that Canada has no abortion laws reflects that “while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support,” she writes.”

        The example above also makes me wonder-what if, instead, Katrina Effert had been a married woman who had a perfectly healthy 6 month old. They are a lovely little family-til one day her husband dies in a traffic accident. In the ensuing months, she decides she can no longer care for the child, b/c she doesn’t have her husband any more, and caring for the child is taking its toll on her. So she kills her child. Is this permissible, under the circumstances? The child was still dependant upon her.

        Also, in that vein, thinking on the 39 weeker that you personally would call a person, does your opinion of them change if they happen to have Down’s Syndrome, or a cleft palate, or cystic fibrosis, or Trisomy 18, etc? Now we are on the slippery slope of deciding who should live, based on their perceived handicaps. Isn’t that discrimination? Also-even if these babies will not survive very long past their birth, do they not deserve some measures of care in that small amount of time until they pass? At least offering of food/water?

        As for women seeking illegal abortions, if legal options are not available-people still steal, even though stealing is a crime, correct? Sometimes these people even have very good reason to steal-such as to feed their families. Sometimes people are even killed in these ventures. Does this make theft right? Does it mean that we should make taking someone elses’ property legal?

        Women are strong, amazing people. I feel that abortion itself is a form of misogyny. Even when it is not being used to do away with female children, which too often it is. Abortion asserts that women are weak. That we cannot handle pregnancy, and children, or that, in order to be on par with men, we need to be childless. Being able to bear children is strictly a gift of the feminine, and abortion strikes at the heart of that.

        We are a brilliant society-we can put people on the moon, we can develop “smart” artificial limbs to help amputees, have come so far in medical technology that we can now see these tiny babes from conception. I would love to see more dialogue on alternatives to such a violent, “solution” of killing our own young, the most vulnerable members of our society, instead of leaving it as it “status quo”.

      • bellejarblog October 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

        Hi there,

        Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you; there was a lot to respond to here, and it’s been a crazy week for me.

        So here we go:

        1. As someone recently pointed out to me, if I’m pro-choice, then numbers shouldn’t matter. And he was right about that. I believe in the right to abortion whether it’s one abortion that happens per year, or 400. I have no problem with that. I would, however, like to point out that those statistics don’t show how many of those fetuses had genetic abnormalities, or other conditions that were not compatible with life.

        2. It’s completely unbelievable to me that those reports consider 20 weeks to be “viability”. That’s just plain not true. 24 weeks is when a fetus is viable, and even then only 25% of babies born at that gestational age will survive, and those with a great deal of medical care. Also, many abortions occur after 20 weeks because the anatomy ultrasound (where the mother will learn about most genetic abnormalities or congenital deformities) typically occurs around 20 weeks. Had the mother been given that information earlier in her pregnancy, chances are the abortion would have occurred earlier.

        3. There are no facilities in Canada that perform elective abortions after 24 weeks.

        4. Let’s be really clear about something: it took an ultrasound to make ME, a person who had an unplanned but still very much wanted pregnancy, believe that my fetus was a person. Not everyone will be in the same circumstances as I was. And also, the whole point that I was trying to make here is that any abortion legislation will be based on feelings rather than science – there is no way to scientifically prove when personhood begins.

        5. Of the two links that you provided, one was from a pro-life organization and the other was exactly the same article that you linked to before, just posted on a different website. I still don’t have any further information on what was wrong with the child, so I can’t make any kind of judgment.

        6. I doubt that the young woman who strangled her newborn was in a sane frame of mind. The same goes for women who are suffering from postpartum psychosis and kill their children. That is why she got off “easy”, not because people don’t consider a healthy newborn to be a person.

        7. In response to this:

        Also, in that vein, thinking on the 39 weeker that you personally would call a person, does your opinion of them change if they happen to have Down’s Syndrome, or a cleft palate, or cystic fibrosis, or Trisomy 18, etc? Now we are on the slippery slope of deciding who should live, based on their perceived handicaps. Isn’t that discrimination? Also-even if these babies will not survive very long past their birth, do they not deserve some measures of care in that small amount of time until they pass? At least offering of food/water?

        Yes, to me, a child born with Down Syndrome or a cleft palate, etc., would be a person. To ME. It’s not discrimination, though, because a fetus isn’t a person. Also, limiting abortions is not going fix the problem – rather, you should be fighting the discrimination that people with disabilities face in the world, and work on lessening the stigma associated with these disabilities. Also, you should lobby for more government funding and better support for families with children who have disabilities – one reason that many women choose to terminate such a pregnancy is because they just don’t have the money or resources to cope with a child with disabilities.

        Did I say that a child who will not survive long past birth does not deserve some measure of care? No, I didn’t. What I said was that certain medical conditions mean that food or water will, in fact, increase the baby’s distress. I don’t have enough information about the Calgary 35-weeker to know whether or not I am angry about the hospital withholding food and water.

        8. When someone steals, they don’t usually put their own life at risk. When someone has an illegal, back-alley abortion, they almost always do.

        9. “Abortion asserts that women are weak. That we cannot handle pregnancy, and children, or that, in order to be on par with men, we need to be childless. Being able to bear children is strictly a gift of the feminine, and abortion strikes at the heart of that.

        Um, no. Laws limiting abortions assert that women are weak, that they are not competent to make decisions about their own bodies. Limiting a woman’s choices is never, ever the way to empower her. Ever. I cannot stress this enough.

        10. “I would love to see more dialogue on alternatives to such a violent, “solution” of killing our own young, the most vulnerable members of our society, instead of leaving it as it “status quo”.

        I don’t see that there are any alternatives other than changing abortion legislation, which is a dialogue that we have over and over and over. So, no, I’m not really interested in having MORE dialogue about that.

        Thank you for taking the time to write out all these points! Hope you’ve had a great Thanksgiving!

        Sincerely,

        Annabelle

    • Matt October 2, 2012 at 3:08 am #

      Man oh man, I’d just love to be able to type “Calgary Foothills Hospital genetic termination” into Google and be able to find more than two hits, in the first ten pages, that weren’t published by a conservative source. Even more so if those two hits weren’t the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reporting on the fallout of an Edmonton-based pro-life newsletter publishing the names of the physicians and nurses involved, so that their lives could be threatened.

      It would really make it easier to discuss genetic terminations in general, and this case study in particular.

      So, way-late-term abortions, being cast in the religious media as infanticide, because the offspring was born live and refused care. Okay, I can see that; I was raised Catholic. However, reading as far as I’m able to into this case, its clear that the obstetrician’s diagnosis of incompatibility with life was right on the mark. The baby survived twelve hours outside of its mother. This isn’t simply a case where the mother decided at the eleventh hour that she didn’t want the baby–the baby wasn’t going to live. If it had been given care, I doubt if it would have made forty-eight hours. Granted, I’m not a physician, but healthy babies, even healthy newborns, fresh from the womb, can go longer than twelve hours without outright dying. So, even simply from the information available, it’s clear that this baby was going to die, quickly, regardless of when it was born. That the circumstances were a planned termination, on the basis of genetic abnormality, speak to the fact that this was known while the baby was in utero.

      The information that’s missing from the record–probably because CMAJ fought so hard to suppress the publication of it on the grounds of privacy and confidentiality, not to mention safety–is the question of “when did the diagnosis happen?” We don’t know whether she learned that the baby was fated to die a week earlier, three, or more than a month beforehand. Perhaps the diagnosis was made at the twenty-week ultrasound, and it took that long for the mother to not only come to terms with the baby’s fate, but also to decide whether or not she wanted to give birth normally. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she first grieved the child that she thought she was going to raise. But none of this information is available. And frankly, rightly so.

      To say that this is how all abortions at Foothills Hospital are performed is disingenuous at best. These cases are aberrances, where something has gone spectacularly, tragically wrong; as such, they require special handling, and the L&D ward is the only one that is properly equipped for the circumstances. Presumably, most abortions at Foothills take place in an entirely different area of the hospital, since the overwhelming majority of all abortions take place before the pregnancy is halfway along.

      Finally, as far as whether or not putting limits on available of abortions based on gestational age drives society into The Handmaid’s Tale, I think the point is more that once a jurisdiction goes from “no limits” to “some limits”, is becomes legislatively easier and easier to constrict those limits to “no abortions ever”. Maybe not within this Parliament, but if some medical basis for assigning personhood to a fœtus were enshrined in law by this government, then it will simply be a matter of finding another study that says, “actually, it deserves personhood on *this* ground at an earlier gestational age”, until no pregnancy may end earlier than normal birth, for any reason. For God’s sake, women having miscarriages in the USA have been charged with endangerment and murder. “Terribly sorry that you just lost your baby under circumstances beyond your control, ma’am, but you’re under arrest for it.” I shudder to think about what would happen in reliably Republican-voting states if Gov. Romney gets elected in November and actually makes good on his promise to repeal Roe v. Wade and leave it up to each state’s legislature.

  6. transatlanticbelle October 2, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Great article! I am on your thought wavelength.

  7. Cat October 3, 2012 at 1:03 am #

    I enjoyed reading this, as this is actually something I feel quite strongly about. I have never been pregnant, and as a result have never exercised the right to get an abortion, but I like that its there. I like that my body is mine, and no one elses, and I can choose whether or not I want to have a child.

    I also wanted to add an argument that I have heard MANY times before. I took an ethics class once, and the topic of abortions actually came up often. The question that was always asked was “would it be MORE okay if the woman in getting the abortion was sexually assaulted”. It made want to punch people. PUNCH PEOPLE! How could you even try to determine what is “more okay” or “less okay”! It is okay! It is okay to say “I don’t want this baby”! It doesn’t matter why, it shouldn’t matter why. Not to any one but the person involved. This is a part of your slippery slope.

    “We so often hear about the fetus could-have-beens, but no one ever talks about what greatness the mother could have gone on to achieve.”
    This! This 1000 times!! Why do we focus so much on what will never be? There are people alive now trying to cure cancer, if you care so much about curing cancer, donate money to the canadian cancer society.

    In closing, my hatred for harper grows daily. He tries to save unwanted babies, while sending people who are alive and wanted to wars we shouldn’t be apart of, where they might die.

    Oh, and he closed Kingston Penitentiary (and its farm).

    What a dick.

    • bellejarblog October 3, 2012 at 1:25 am #

      I LOVE YOU! I love that you left this long, smart, thoughtful comment. You’re the best!

  8. Vanessa October 3, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    Umm-I don’t really care for Harper either-but he voted AGAINST the motion, and made sure his cabinet knew his preference…. Just thought I’d clarify that…

  9. Vanessa October 11, 2012 at 5:39 am #

    Hi there!

    Haven’t checked back in a bit, it has been busy here too. Going to answer in the same format you did, for clarity.

    1. That is not the point I was bringing up. You asked to find ONE instance of abortions of children over 30 weeks in gestation in Canada. I’ve found you several. But the point I was making was-the statistics are used to hide it, so that “it isn’t *really* abortion”.

    2. Whether it is “unbelieveable” to you or not, it is the Canadian Medical Association using that age for their definition.

    3. There are no facilities in Canada that perform elective abortions after 24 weeks. Except for St. Justine’s in Montreal, as previously posted in this link: http://www.bigbluewave.ca/2012/07/are-third-trimester-abortions-performed.html

    4. there is no way to scientifically prove when personhood begins.
    Then that also means there is no way to prove that these aren’t persons that are being killed….. “persons until otherwise proven” would seem prudent to me… I mean, black people (erroneously!) weren’t considered “persons” for quite some time either….

    5. the other was exactly the same article that you linked to before, just posted on a different website. It was the same article posted on a different website-but it came from a NON PROLIFE newspaper-“Alberta Report (Alberta Report was a magazine publication providing news and analysis of political analysis. It is no longer published), by Marnie Ko, May 3, 1999. “ Prolife websites can post things that come from other sources also, believe it or not! 

    6. I doubt that the young woman who strangled her newborn was in a sane frame of mind. The same goes for women who are suffering from postpartum psychosis and kill their children. That is why she got off “easy”, not because people don’t consider a healthy newborn to be a person.

    Ok-so why would the judge SPECIFICALLY refer to Canada’s lack of abortion laws in her ruling of the case then? Also, going by your reasoning, it could easily be inferred that many women choosing abortion may also not be in a sane frame of mind. Yet we are legally providing this “service” to them….

    7. First of all, no one is saying these women have to keep their children with the disabilities. And while limiting abortion may not fix the problem-having free access to abortions for these kinds of disabilities reinforces the message-“these children are not desirable. Do away with them while it is still legal”.
    Also, while some genetic problems will be lethal, they may not be IMMEDIATELY lethal. Cystic Fibrosis, for example. Yet these babies are still vulnerable to being killed for having “lethal” genetic problems. We are not only talking babies who will die within minutes of birth.

    8. Women are putting their lives at risk having legal abortions. And you haven’t answered my question, you’ve evaded it.

    9. I disagree with you. There are many ways to empower a woman, without aiding and abetting in the murder of children.

    10. There are many alternatives. For starters, more support for women who have unexpected/unwanted pregnancies, from the gov’t (I would MUCH rather our tax dollars go to them, than for abortions), as well as other sources. I see so many people who feel that their support of abortion takes care of the problem, and absolves them of all other responsibilities…. A changing of how we view pregnancy, motherhood, children, and not just healthy children, but those who are born with genetic “defects”.

    Thank you again for your dialogue, and I do hope you also had a wonderful Thanksgiving. 🙂

  10. Vanessa October 11, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Also, with regards to numbers 9 & 10, I would like to offer you this:

    “I have a vast spread of experience with abortion. I know women have to make hard choices every. single. day. I know the world is not perfect. The world needs more love first. More caring. More support. When females are supported, and children are gifts, the “rights” abortion become a moot point.

    That being said, I also see Post Abortion Syndrome victims every day. I read each day (because I make a point to be informed about important issues) about Planned Parenthood and the deceptions they feed. They hide criminals from prosecution by demanding no questions asked abortions to children as young as twelve. If a twelve year old is pregnant, there has been a CRIME committed.

    Abortion causes PAIN for women. Suffering. Depression, Cancer, Infertility. All linked to abortion. Why are we not talking about THAT? About the fact that women are put into a position that they have to choose between their child being born, or putting food in their mouths? What about that? I speak to women every day who have post abortion problems. Where is the ‘choice’ then? For the women who only years later truly see what they chose because they were never given full disclosure about what the child in their womb is?

    I guess for me, I fight the cause to end abortions, not only for the unborn children, but because when we, as a society, step up to the plate (which we will need to do) for these women, abortion won’t be an issue anymore. Women will be held to the high regard that we are. That we (as women) are not just made to have sex with, but that sexuality is just a small but beautiful part of the whole. That the whole of us, and what we have the ability to carry is beyond human respect, but at the highest level of humanity possible. When society degrades that, women are degraded. An abortion law will never end abortion. It will save lives, but more importantly, it should say that we as a society respect and hold dear everything about humanity.”
    Peggy Zallas

  11. Vanessa October 11, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    I’d also like to know-just because a woman does not want to continue a pregnancy with a baby who could survive outside the womb-why does this mean the baby has to die? As mentioned in both the article from both the Abortion Rights Coalition and also in the Calgary instances-it is possible, and often done, by having the woman to end the pregnancy with induction of labour.
    So-it is possible to induce the woman at 35 weeks and allow her the choice of no longer being pregnant. That takes care of her right to choose *for her own body.*

  12. dee June 12, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    If women never have elective abortions after 30 weeks, why do they need to be legal? Its like creating a law against men getting pregnant; Pointless. Obviously, if its legal, someone WILL do it. Even when things are illegal people still do it. People kill newborns all the time, so why would they not kill a 39 week fetus?

    What if a woman is unaware she’s pregnant until 39 weeks and then chooses to dismember and crush the skull of her fetus to protect her precious vagina from being stretched, or her precious abdomen from being scarred? What if she’s just psychotic and the doctor cares more about money than morality?

    You think a person who kills a 39 week fetus should go unpunished? You don’t need any kind of God, Goddess, Allah or Buddah to know that is wrong, just common sense and decency!

    And the whole protecting “women’s rights” argument is bogus! Women and mother’s live under the best conditions in the world in parts of Europe, and those same European nations ALL have some kind of restriction on abortion. The no.1 place holder for womens rights is Iceland and they DO NOT permit elective abortion.

    Restricting abortion is nothing about enslaving or punishing women, its about protecting humanity!!! Do you want to be like China or North Korea who give 0 shits about human kind?

    Child bearing is unique to women. It’s a woman’s issue. Therefore fetal rights ARE women’s rights. Any woman who would not try to save the life of a 39 week fetus should not call herself a feminist!

    Be a decent human being and fight for a balance between the two.

  13. Roisin March 7, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

    Ive always wondered at what fucking point in ones life does one actually become a human????

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Abortions Are Just Like Hot Air Balloons: Your Tax Dollars At Work « The Belle Jar - November 13, 2012

    […] he’s worried that you, dear Canadian, don’t understand what M-312, which deals with fetal personhood, has to do with abortion. Woodworth, his brow furrowed by deep thought, has been wondering and […]

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