Three words

It’s a trap.

Harper is a lot of things, but he’s not an idiot.  The Harper government had to know that its sudden, almost violent and seemingly vindictive funding cuts to groups that made too much noise about abortion being excluded from the G8 Mat Health Initiative would only turn up the volume.   And that eventually the spiraling debate over funding abortion as part of foreign aid would boomerang as the focus inevitably shifted back to our own domestic policies.  From a fetus fetishist in the comments at the Globe:

Think it couldn’t happen?   Think again.   Our health care system is primarily funded by each province’s own revenue, but it also relies to some extent on federal transfer payments.

Though Canada remains a majority pro-choice country, in harsh economic times the public funding of abortion is a debate we might not win.  The issue of public funding divides even pro-choicers to a minor degree.  And what a neat way for Harper to corral the base —  a heaping helping of fiscal conservatism with a socon dog whistle on the side.

The protest against Harper’s abortionless initiative is probably a righteous and honourable undertaking, but I’m not sure it’s the hill we want to die on.  Tread carefully, and take nothing for granted.  The cost of freedom and all that.

(h/t fern hill)

18 Responses to “Three words”


  1. 1 fern hill Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Yup. I thought about that. Me, I think Canada is way more pro-choice than the blinkered fetus fetishists — including Harpo — think.

    As an aside, my sweetie is a big fan of yours, JJ, and he agrees with you on this.

    So, we’ll see how it plays out.

  2. 2 Reality.Bites Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    My limited understanding of the Canada Health Act is that provinces must provide for all medically necessary procedures. There are definitely differences from province to province as to what is covered. For example, here in Ontario blood tests in private labs are covered, while in Quebec they are not.

    The federal government would be acting (far) beyond its jurisdiction by trying to forbid the provinces from funding abortion. They could perhaps try to define abortion in law as non medically necessary, but I suspect it would end up like Alberta’s attempt to use the notwithstanding clause to exempt itself from the federal definition of marriage – shot down in no uncertain terms by the Supreme Court.

    It would also be starting a big fight with, at the least, Ontario and Quebec, whose governments are firmly pro choice.

    None of this would prevent the Harperites from pretending they could defund abortion in order to titillate their base, just as they spent years pretending to them they could replace marriage for gays and lesbians with civil unions, despite having no jurisdiction over civil unions. As with marriage, the complex tangle of constitutional powers would likely safeguard abortion rights. They can’t stop the provinces from funding it or deny them medicare funding if they do. All they can do is re-criminalize it.

    If Harper wants an abortion fight it’s going to be long, public and ugly. And it’s something that would end up in the Supreme Court. The tenacity of the Canadian Alliance in fighting marriage, despite never having had a prayer (ha!) would be as nothing as compared to the Liberals (mostly), NDP and BQ, plus several provinces, in fighting this.

  3. 3 deBeauxOs Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Another reason the fetus fetishists want abortion defunded as an essential medical procedure is that not only will the principle of access and availability for all women be compromised, but if it becomes only available through private health care clinics, those locations will be easier to target for demos, for harassing staff and for vandalizing.

  4. 4 Reality.Bites Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    From a political point of view, at least two provinces would not consider defunding abortion for a minute.

    Defunding requires the feds to try it, the Supreme Court to allow it, and the provinces to want to do it.

  5. 5 Niles Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Is this your kinder, gentler version of STFU, Ms. JJ? And it doesn’t matter if it’s a ‘muahhhahahah’ Dr. Eeeeevil trap. I think this is beyond abortion and goes to women’s civil rights across the board now. It’s not just foreign aid, it’s general root severing.

    Because if no one protests, the Cons will just go ahead and say *AGAIN* that Canadians are more conservative see? and don’t mind women being put in their place. There’s certainly a vocal segment in the commentaries around all this that are wriggling in anticipation of women’s governmental voices being quietly ‘disappeared’.

    Because those “more conservative” results from Manning and his centre aren’t any kind of pre-set, oh noooo. Say it enough and big enough and no one complains, et voila, it’s true, eh.

    Bad economic times? Isn’t that one of the tipping points for women needing all personal survival options on the table? Because jobless, poverty stricken and pregnant is sure a fine way to be.

  6. 6 Calgal Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    BC and Alberta both considered deinsuring abortion in the 80s and 90s. BC actually did for a short time I believe, under Bill Van D., but the move was reversed by the court. AB tossed it around under Ralph, but after much debate, it was nixed in caucus. During that debate, Stockwell Day stated he would not insure abortions even in cases of rape or incest, (just a reminder). As well, Grant Devine’s campaign promised to deinsure abortion his conservatives won the (1990?) election in Sask. He won, but then sought a legal opinion which stated that if the province were to deinsure abortions, the move would likely result in a charter challenge and would very likely lose on grounds of sexual discrmination against women. So his government backed off. If another province or the Harperites want to have a go at it, I really wish they would look at the above three events, examine why three conservative governments lost the cause or chose not to pursue it and learn from it before wasting everyone’s time and money all over again.

  7. 7 Niles Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I hope no one minds. There’s a good interview with Maureen McTeer here on matters after the news piece.

    http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100505/mcteer-abortion-funding-100505/20100505?hub=TopStoriesV2

  8. 8 JJ Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    fern hill

    I think Canada is way more pro-choice than the blinkered fetus fetishists — including Harpo — think.

    Agreed. Although I’d argue that even Harper is well aware of how Canada rolls on this issue, which is why he’s studiously avoided it for 4 years in spite of the non-stop arfing from socons.

    Something about this whole thing just hasn’t sat right with me from day one when Iggy started jabbering about it. I find it hard to believe that Harper would choose this of all years, almost certainly an election year, to go full-metal “Hidden Agenda”.

    I might be totally wrong, and I hope I am, but it feels like a setup. That’s just my gut feeling.

    (Tell your sweetie I’m flattered *blush*)

  9. 9 JJ Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    RB – Excellent points. I suspected that the mechanics of defunding would be tricky, but I wasn’t sure exactly why and didn’t have time to research it.

    In a sense, marriage equality is far more settled than abortion because it’s the law. Don’t like it? Don’t become a marriage commissioner. Case closed. Plus there’s a whole new generation coming of age for whom same sex marriage is a fact of life, no weirder than any other kind of marriage, they’ve moved on, and they’re the ones writing history now.

    Abortion is another story. It shouldn’t have to be legislated any more than any other surgery, but as long as there are people out there whose mission in life is to get it banned, existing in a legal no mans land sometimes means everything about it, from funding to access, is on shaky ground. As much as I detest the thought of a law, there are times I think it might be helpful.

    If Harper wants an abortion fight it’s going to be long, public and ugly.

    If he was considering banning or restricting it, which I honestly don’t think he would, then yeah: that fight would get ugly, and he’d lose. And make himself look like a real asshole in the process. But funding is something else… nothing changes, except how tax dollars are spent. It could be spun as more of a fiscal issue than a womens’ rights issue.

  10. 10 JJ Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    deBeauxOs

    if it becomes only available through private health care clinics, those locations will be easier to target for demos

    I never even thought of that, but good point. I had mine at a hospital — no gauntlet of shrieking fetus fetishists to run on the way in (there was a fetus fetishist nurse who scolded me after the operation, but that’s another story… sigh… they always manage to slither in one way or another).

  11. 11 JJ Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Niles

    Is this your kinder, gentler version of STFU, Ms. JJ?

    No… I would never presume to tell anyone to STFU, unless I had some kind of insider knowledge about why they should. Which sadly, I don’t. But I sense that people are becoming very exercised about this, and all in the direction of not shutting TFU, so I’m playing devils advocate.

    It’s just that this whole thing has always had the stench of bullshit to me, and I’m trying to figure out why. Just throwing ideas out.

    Bad economic times? Isn’t that one of the tipping points for women needing all personal survival options on the table?

    Exactly, and that’s one of the reasons I favour funding — because the social cost of not funding is so much higher. But the average person might not look at it that way.

  12. 12 Reality.Bites Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Oh I agree JJ that abortion is a never-settled issue. It’ll still be an issue a generation from now. My comparisons to marriage were more of a constitutional nature. Split jurisdictions limit the power of one level of government to unilaterally change the playing field.

    I do strongly wonder though, what Harper’s game plan is.

  13. 13 Holly Stick Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    “…The Harper government had to know that its sudden, almost violent and seemingly vindictive funding cuts to groups that made too much noise about abortion being excluded from the G8 Mat Health Initiative would only turn up the volume…”

    I don’t know, Harper may have truly believed that threatening women with funding cuts, and making examples of some, would shut them up. It does seem to be working for some groups.

    Lately maybe he’s just decided to take the mask off; the next election will make or break Harper. Or maybe he is getting ready to quit and wants to put the boot in while he can.

  14. 14 JJ Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    RB

    I do strongly wonder though, what Harper’s game plan is.

    Me too.

    It’s bothered me right from the time Iggy started running his mouth about the G8 initiative, because there are so many things that could be going on.

    I initially assumed the initiative was a misstep on Harper’s part — why change our policy, esp. this way, esp. in an election year? Maybe it was some kind of trial balloon… but trial for what? I’m really kind of baffled, throwing ideas out there as they come to me. I just don’t buy into the “Oh, here it comes: Harper’s hidden agenda where he’s going to ban abortion” routine. It’s not that simple.

  15. 15 JJ Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Holly

    Lately maybe he’s just decided to take the mask off; the next election will make or break Harper.

    The next election is his last kick at the can. If he gets another minority, the CPC will be having a leadership review. Maybe they could recruit Nancy Ruth to leave the Senate and take over the party? ;)

    Maybe I’m naive, but I find the “taking the mask off” thing unlikely. The “hidden agenda” is what’s prevented him from getting a majority all this time. If he has a hidden agenda, then revealing it in an election year would be politically suicidal. Harper seems far too calculating to do anything that he thinks won’t help him.

    I don’t really think that Harper wants the abortion issue front and center in an election year (or any other time, for that matter). But now that it’s kind of out there, maybe he’s figured out a way to use it to his advantage. I can’t imagine why else he would dig in his heels over changes to a policy we’ve had for years.

  16. 16 opit Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    “Hidden Agenda” is funny. Does anyone remember that Bu$h provided electioneering expertise to Steve’s wild lot so they wouldn’t shoot themselves in the foot with their religious delusions ?
    That was a while back, but P.C.’s have always been a rowdy caucus : happens when the privileged are jockeying for preference.
    And there was another part to Alberta’s problem defunding abortions when Ralphie decided to get pissy about it : and do remember the constant push for privatization ( Translation : Free Lunch for ‘Insurance’ Fraudsters ).
    No : the doctors themselves told Ralph he didn’t have a license to practice medicine. ALL abortions were medically necessary to preserve the health of the patient.


  1. 1 On shutting the fuck up : Canada's online magazine: Politics, entertainment, technology, media, arts, books: backofthebook.ca Trackback on Friday, May 7, 2010 at 9:24 pm
  2. 2 Anti-Choice is Anti-Awesome: Weekly Reader Trackback on Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm

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