Stephen Harper Will Not Re-Open the Abortion Debate and Why That Scares the Crap Out of Me

A few years ago I was watching a biography of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. They interviewed political friends and foes alike on the Little Guy’s political acumen. One of those interviewees was Stephen Harper. While no fan of Chrétien, Harper did talk about how impressed he was with how wily Chrétien had been on his election promise and subsequent flip-flop on axing the much-hated GST.

He made much ado about how Chrétien, while giving the impression while in opposition and on the campaign trail that he would cut the GST once elected, never actually said the words, in sequence, “Once elected Prime Minister I will abolish the Goods and Services Tax (GST)”. Harper pointed out how Chrétien has uttered many variations on the theme “We hate it and we’ll cut it” while never specifying what ‘it’ was.

As all Canadians know, Chrétien did become Prime Minister and he did NOT, in fact, abolish the GST. He had never really said he would, Harper said. Not really.

I never forgot this grudging praise for such a slimy move from a political opponent. Oh, yes- the tactic made a big impression on our current Prime Minister back in the day. Harper is many things but he’s no dummy. He recognized the bait and switch as a stroke of political (deceptive) genius.

And he took notes.

Fast-forward to today. Federal election number 41 has delivered a majority Conservative government in Canada. The people have spoken. While it’s the outcome I predicted, it is most definitely not the outcome I had hoped for or that is good for Canada.

I want to find a silver lining (possibilities of electoral reform, of grassroots uprising, the death of apathy and uniting of the left) in all of this, because there is hope. Always. But right now, I need to feel out the dark spaces into which this election has forced me. I’m scared senseless and deeply, deeply sad. The Canadian electoral system, such as it is, has permitted the political party loaded (not entirely but disproportionately) with sexist, racist, misogynist, bigoted, contemptible, paternalistic, cynical and well, just plain mean MPs to win fair and square.

Good grief, MomForChoice! That’s awful.

I know!

As feminists and pro-choice advocates, what can we expect from this government in the next five years?

I’m glad you asked.

Back to Stephen Harper and his parliamentary education. We have heard him repeat time and time again, especially on the campaign trail, “As long as I am Prime Minister, we will not re-open the abortion debate.” Now think on what he learned from Chrétien’s GST deceit. What conclusion can we draw?

No, he or his whipped party member won’t re-open the abortion debate. In their minds, there is no debate! They oppose abortion. Period. Full stop. End of discussion that will never be had.

There will be no debate, but there will be legislated changes to abortion laws and laws governing access to reproductive services. They have a majority, now. They can do this.

Harper will not re-open the abortion debate. He said so himself.

I want to know what you think. Am I over-reacting? Am I fear-mongering? Will you join me in this fight to preserve women’s reproductive rights in this kick-ass country of ours?

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Running With Mo

I’m in a running rut. It’s been the better part of a year since I’ve run with any consistency, but I call myself a runner just the same. Despite an inauspicious running debut (I took up the sport out of spite but that’s another blog post), running has been a part of my life since 1996. I’m still running 15 years later, but today I run for me.

I’ve run at home in Cape Breton and through a frigid and equally glorious Arctic winter. I’m pretty slow but my stamina is quite good. Running has been the constant in my life through career changes, cross-country moves, pregnancies, injury and baby open-heart surgeries. It has brought me more than I ever thought possible, including friendship and my “outing” as a pro-choice feminist.

When our first-born was nine months old, I joined a Strollercize group. One of the other moms running was a feisty red-head who I’ll call Mo. Mo seemed no-nonsense, confident and strong. She was…cool. I liked her instantly and made it my business to get to know her. We kept running. We soon learned we were both recovering Catholics and both staunchly pro-choice. We ran our first 10k race together. We became friends.

My own pro-life hypocrisy had met a glorious end in 1991 when I chose an abortion when faced with an unintended pregnancy. My pro-choice education came in waves and my feminist philosophy evolved as the years passed. I knew in my heart that I would some day commit myself to a cause that was close to me and related to feminist issues. Sexual assault? Too close for comfort. Childhood sexual abuse? Ditto. Abortion? Possibly, but at what cost? People who advocate for reproductive freedom paint a set of cross-hairs on themselves. I didn’t think I had the courage to take on that fight.

Then I met that feisty red-head.

She had a few years on me and she had spent many of them dedicated to this very issue. She invited me to join her and her friends in the fight for reproductive access in Canada. I didn’t hesitate. Fate had found me and who was I to argue?

It’s been almost eight years since she and I first met. We still run together when life craziness allows. Our kids play together. She has been a great friend and she has been a mentor. She’s moving away in a few days (for only two years, thankfully) so it’ll be a while until we run together again. Ottawa Race Weekend 2013 sounds like as good a time as any, wouldn’t you say, Mo?

I’ll be getting back into running in the next little while. I plan to kick things up a notch with a fitness coach to help me cross-train more effectively and safely. It’ll be tough but the incentive is strong.  I have an important running date to keep, after all.

See you in two years, my friend!