Nancy Ruth is a great pro-choice supporter but she is also a Conservative Senator. Her advice to feminist leaders to "shut the fuck up about abortion" so as not to threaten Harper's initiative on maternal health is no doubt her honest opinion about how best to advance women's rights under this profoundly anti-feminist, anti-choice government, but she is very very wrong.
It's not the first time I 've heard such advice from women inside the political system. Way back in the early 80's women inside the NDP government in Manitoba warned us not to demonstrate against the government because they were certain that pro-choice ministers and feminists inside the government were working on the QT to support the Morgentaler clinic, which opened first in Manitoba because Dr. Morgentaler thought it would be a friendly government. Meanwhile, the cops not only busted the doctors, they arrested nurses and did it when patients were in the clinic. Don't worry these excellent NDP feminists said, we will work it out. Fortunately, the pro-choice movement in Manitoba didn't listen and instead built the biggest movement possible even breaking the Manitoba Federation of Labour from the NDP government on this issue.
If Harper is successful in maintaining his position of refusing to support abortion as part of maternal health without a fight, he will assume that the pro-choice movement is no longer able to mount an effective opposition and he may very well move against abortion nationally. But even more important, how can we accept freedom of choice for ourselves and not speak out when our government is denying it to women around the world? Estimates are that 70,000 women a year die from botched abortion and hundreds of thousands needlessly suffer the physical and psychological wounds of back street abortions. Canadian women fought for decades to stop this injustice in our country, we can do no less for women around the world.
Nancy Ruth is working very hard to advance women's rights within the terrible restrictions of this government. I don't envy her that job but that's not the job of women's rights advocates. Our job is to fight for women's rights here and globally. If Harper backs down on supporting family planning as a result, he will be shown to be vindictive, small minded and anti-feminist and he will be shamed and humiliated on an international level. I doubt he will be that stupid.
Some women in this discussion express a fear that abortion could become an election issue. Harper knows as well as I do that the vast majority of Canadians are pro-choice. If abortion is an election issue, he will lose the election. So to that I say, bring it on.