The war on women is still on

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Planned Parenthood rally. Photo: American Life League/Flickr

On Wednesday, in the wake of the majority vote by 25 white Republican men in the senate of one of the most impoverished states in the U.S., #AlabamaAbortionBan was trending both south and north of the Canadian border.

Also trending, #Talabama.

That's because the Alabama abortion ban is one of the most draconian revocations of women's rights since women won the vote, a ban that would force even 11-year-old victims of rape and incest to carry to term.

These forced birthers want to take down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that rendered abortion bans unconstitutional. And why not try to reverse it now, what with Donald Trump and his Republican-controlled Senate packing the bench with conservative judges?

If successful, Alabama would bar "abortion and attempted abortion" by women "known" to be pregnant, whatever that means. The only exception is to "prevent a serious health risk to the unborn child's mother." As for doctors performing the procedure, they are looking at up to 99 years in prison.

This latest vote follows other "heartbeat laws" in states across the South and Midwest. They essentially ban the procedure when a heartbeat is detected, usually about six weeks into pregnancy, a period when many women do not yet even suspect that they are pregnant and aren't exactly rushing into clinics for ultrasounds.

Indeed, so many states -- Arkansas, Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, North and South Dakota, Georgia, Kentucky and, now, Alabama and Missouri -- have passed similar laws that the New York Times says abortion bans are now "mainstream."

Meanwhile, last week, the annual "March for Life" demonstrations, to which Catholic schoolchildren are bused in on the taxpayer dime, took place in Ottawa and in front of provincial legislatures across Canada.

Catholic clergymen, MPs and MPPs, including three provincial B.C. Liberals, spoke to the crowds.

But much was made of Ontario Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff's declaration at the Queen's Park protest that he would "fight to make abortion unthinkable in our lifetime."

"To quote Dr. Seuss, 'A person's a person no matter how small,'" he waxed poetic -- as if "Dr. Seuss" was a medical practitioner -- when confronted by reporters later.

As for Ontario Premier Doug Ford, he just couldn't deal with the topic. He ducked NDP MPP France Gélinas during question period by tapping one of his ministers, who also dodged the question by talking about -- what else? -- the "job-killing, regressive carbon tax."

Later, Ford's office issued a statement saying "the government will not re-open the abortion debate."

Yet.

Meantime, in Alberta, Jason Kenney got the blessing of anti-choice groups in his successful run for the premier's post. And, although he too has said he won't re-open the debate, recall that he was the founder of the "Pro-Life Caucus" on Parliament Hill. What's more, he appointed Adriana LaGrange, the former president of Red Deer Pro-Life, as his education minister.

So the war on women is still on and my side is still losing.

We don't have equal pay. Lawmakers are trying to strip us of the right to control our bodies. And, when we do make babies, we have little access to safe and affordable child care. It's no wonder there are so many struggling single mothers and children who go hungry -- in Canada, in 2019.

It's obvious, let women work and everybody profits, and that includes government coffers via taxation. It's been proven in Quebec.

But in Ontario, Ford has cut child-care centres' general operating funding, which helps pay child-care workers, by $40 million. He has also slashed the capital funding portion, which is used to build new centres, by $93 million, leaving only $10 million in the kitty.

That's a full-frontal assault on women's rights, and a short-sighted one as well.

This week, Oxfam Canada urged federal parties to put publicly funded child care on the ballot. Citing a 2017 International Monetary Fund study, Oxfam reported that a 40 per cent reduction in child-care costs would result in 150,000 highly educated stay-at-home mothers entering the workforce. This would increase Canada's GDP by two percentage points, or $8 billion a year.

But there's little chance this will happen, even in another "feminist" Justin Trudeau government. (Remember years and years of child-care promises by the federal Liberals in the '90s?) But at least Trudeau openly stands firm on abortion rights.

As for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, there's no chance at all. In fact, given his "pro-life" beliefs, even abortion rights are at risk.

In Trumpistan, legislative attempts to ban abortion are a blatant sign that women are under attack.

In Canada, the war on women is escalating, but slowly and stealthily, as Conservative governments form majorities across the country.

How soon before we see #Vaticanada trending on Twitter?

Antonia Zerbisias, former CBC-TV journalist and Toronto Star columnist, writes about society, media and politics.

Photo: American Life League/Flickr

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