By Joyce Arthur, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada
February 10, 2010
A bewildering firestorm of media controversy has erupted over Michael Ignatieff’s strong and principled statements about women’s reproductive rights overseas. The Liberal Opposition Leader has been urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper not to exclude abortion and contraception from his surprising plan to become a champion of maternal and child health in developing countries.
Of course, Ignatieff is a politician,
and bringing up abortion is no doubt a
political strategy in part – but it’s also the absolutely right thing
to do. It is impossible to tackle maternal
without addressing unsafe abortion, which is a leading cause of
in most developing countries. Given the critical importance of
safe abortion in saving women’s lives, and the Conservative Party’s
anti-choice stance, Ignatieff would have been remiss not to make it a
issue. The majority of women in
Conservative politicians and commentators have heaped scorn on Ignatieff’s concerns, however, and condemned him for turning women’s health into a “political football.” But most of the politicking is actually coming from Ignatieff’s critics, who have launched attacks without the benefit of any facts, and even less compassion for women. Some of the coverage is so shockingly ignorant that it qualifies as being misogynist. I’ll critique many of the comments that have been made, but first, please pay attention to some key facts:
Given these facts, let’s look at a representative sample of the inaccurate, ignorant, irresponsible, callous, and misogynist statements recently made by conservative commentators over Ignatieff’s courageous defense of women’s right to safe legal abortion.
“This has nothing to do with abortion. … This is about saving
vulnerable children and mothers in the developing world."
— Dimitri Soudas, spokesperson for Harper. Toronto Star (Susan Delacourt), Feb 3, Michael Ignatieff challenges PM to back aid for abortion.
When one in eight pregnancy-related deaths is due to unsafe abortion, and seven women die every hour from an unsafe abortion, and most of their existing children die from lack of a mother, then abortion obviously has a hell of a lot to do with saving the lives of mothers and children in the developing world. Anyone who believes otherwise is either inexcusably ignorant about these deaths, or indifferent to them.
“This week, [Ignatieff] trolled for votes by dragging out the
issue, apropos of … nothing. Bizarrely, he declared that the right to
is too sacred to become a political football — even though the only one
up for the gridiron is Mr. Ignatieff himself. …even Mr. [Paul] Martin
exhibited so much creepy enthusiasm for spreading the Liberals’
to foreign shores.”
— National Post editorial board, Feb 4. Planned propaganda.
The abortion issue can only be “apropos of nothing” if the lives of women who have abortions are completely worthless to the National Post Editorial Board. In their rush to gloat over a Liberal political “gaffe”, they trample over women’s bodies with an enthusiasm that’s downright creepy. As for the Liberals spreading their “abortion gospel to foreign shores,” it’s a bit too late for that. Abortion has been ubiquitous in pretty much every country in the world for decades, if not centuries and millennia. What Ignatieff and everyone else with an ounce of sense and compassion actually want to do is stop unsafe abortion. The only thing the National Post wants to do is turn it into a political football.
“Is ‘hooray for abortions’ a new Liberal policy? Or was
just extemporizing again? It remains
— Chris Selley, National Post, Feb 4, Fixing the
Yeah, who knows what the hell Ignatieff was talking about? Certainly not Chris Selley, whose ignorance about unsafe abortion is revealed by his delusion that Ignatieff is promoting abortion. It’s Selley who’s being a cheerleader – for the cause of more dead women apparently.
the issues that you could possibly raise about women’s health,
why would you start with abortion? What kind of mindset is that that
to start killing unborn babies in order to help people? It seems to be
the now discredited theory that poverty in the
— Tom Flanagan,
Good question – why on earth would anyone start with abortion? We’re talking about a measly 19 or 20 million women who risk their lives every year with an unsafe abortion. And out of those, a mere 8 million are seriously injured, and a paltry 68,000 die. It’s hardly even worth bothering about! Oh wait, sorry, I see that Flanagan thinks we’re going to “start killing unborn babies” – which means he has no idea that abortion is already rampant in developing countries, no idea that laws don’t stop abortion and fetuses die anyway, and no idea that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. The gap in his mind has instead been filled by an evidence-free delusion that the Liberals want to control overpopulation.
“In light of the many positive contributions that
— Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, LifeSiteNews.com, Feb 4, Toronto Archbishop Slams “Sad” and “Negative” Proposal by Liberal Leader Ignatieff.
What’s astonishing is the Archbishop’s zero concern for women who die from unsafe abortion, the probable sorry fate that then awaits their existing children, and the fact that access to contraception could stop most of this unnecessary mayhem. You’d think Catholic Archbishops would know a little something about abortion, being so dead-set against it. Maybe the Archbishop is not ignorant so much as he is cold-hearted – or perhaps he’s just in stubborn denial. When confronted with the reality of the scourge of unsafe, illegal abortion, anti-choice people have an unfortunate habit of either placing their heads firmly in the sand, or foolishly disputing the numbers. Unluckily for them, overwhelming evidence exists to support the fact that illegal abortion is very widely practiced and that it’s dangerous. Scientists use a range of methods to carefully calculate and cross-check the rates of illegal abortions in various countries. However, it’s difficult to arrive at precise numbers when abortion is illegal, so the numbers are considered at least somewhat, if not grossly, under-reported. (Laura Gil, Assessing maternal mortality due to induced abortion: A systematic review of the literature, 2004. Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research. )
"Harper has promised increased aid for women and children
but Ignatieff would like to make this a political issue. The Liberals
that those who oppose abortion are guided by ‘ideology.’ And the other
— Randall Denley, Ottawa Citizen, Feb 7, While he’s at it, maybe Ignatieff could bring back that carbon tax idea.
true — pro-choice
people are guided by some pretty extreme left-wing ideology, such as
that women have human rights, including the right to life. That idea
offensive to many, but like it or not, it’s the law of the land in
“In a Jan. 26 op ed in the Toronto Star and La Presse, Harper
estimated 500,000 women lose their lives in childbirth and nine million
children die before their fifth birthday every year.”
— Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News, Feb 8. Strike abortion from maternal, child health initiative.
“When Harper announced in Davos that something must be done
500,000 women that die in childbirth each year and the 9 million
die before their fifth birthday, I doubt that anyone outside of
groups said, ‘I know the solution, abortion.’ ”
— Brian Lilley,
Hmm, two different anti-abortion writers, both misquoting Harper on the 500,000 statistic. Because it’s not 500,000 deaths in childbirth, it’s 500,000 pregnancy-related deaths – including unsafe abortion of course. An honest error? Or was it just too tempting and easy to sweep those 68,000 deaths from unsafe abortion under the rug? Well, I have to give Lilley the benefit of the doubt, because his perplexity about why anyone would suggest the “solution” of abortion reveals that facts about unsafe abortion have never been anywhere near his brain.
“But the Liberal leader also delivered what some observers
say may be
the most audacious stance in favour of the practice of abortion ever to
from a Liberal leader.”
— Kevin Libin, National Post, Feb 4. 'They're prepared to take aggressive position'
I hate to sound like a broken record, but an initiative to address unsafe abortion is not a stance “in favour of the practice of abortion.” It’s a stance in favour of saving women’s lives. To clarify, illegal unsafe abortion kills women, and legal safe abortion saves them. That’s not my opinion; it’s a scientific fact that’s been proven over and over and over and over again.
really what Ignatieff wants pre-occupying Parliament when it
resumes? To roll back the clock and reignite the debate over abortion?
the wording of some “motherhood” statement — pardon the pun — that
comes out of G8 meetings promising to help the world’s poor? To what
— Lorrie Goldstein,
Hard as it is for Goldstein to understand, the purpose is not to “reignite the debate over abortion.” The purpose is to save women’s lives. If conservative commentators really don’t want to see all this politicizing over abortion, then they should just stop doing it, and let the government get on with the business of saving women’s lives.
“I thought it was pathetic for a political leader to suggest
abortion is somehow tied to the health of women and children. It was a
particularly crass remark in light of all the orphaned children we now
Never one to shy away from rabid remarks, the good bishop seems almost proud to admit that he knows nothing and cares nothing about women who die from unsafe abortion. Or the 220,000 orphans leftover after their mother dies, most of whom will probably not survive the next two years. I think that’s rather crass and pathetic of him, don’t you?
“…killing a baby in no way improves its health. Nor,
it improve the mother's health -- except in extremely rare
That women in the poorest countries are endangered in childbirth --
in all countries prior to the development of antisepsis by Pasteur and
-- we know. The mother is not endangered by her child, but by the
attending its birth.”
— David Warren, Ottawa Citizen, Feb 7. Safe pregnancies for moms, babies.
you want to read
one of the most eye-rolling misogynist articles I’ve quoted so far,
to the link. But back to the issue at hand – first,
“Yes, women do need better reproductive care … but lumping
with the promotion and funding of birth control methods is offensive in
extreme. It is laughable to talk about protecting the health of
advocating abortion as an acceptable method of birth control. Abortion
certainly isn't good for a fetus' health.”
— Jennifer Cowen, The Intelligencer, Feb 7. Iggy off in support for abortions.
(For a wonderfully hard-hitting critique of Harper’s initiative to improve maternal and child health, read Stephen Lewis’ comments here)