I meant to write about Rona Ambrose’s vote shortly after it happened, but then life happened so I didn’t get a chance. Anyway…
On September 26 (last Wednesday), a private member’s motion to study when life begins was defeated in the House of Commons. That wasn’t shocking — it was clear that it would go nowhere, especially since the prime minister himself said he had no plans to re-open the abortion debate. What was shocking was that Status of Women minister Rona Ambrose voted in favour of the motion.
In case that wasn’t clear, the minister for the status of women voted to re-examine when life begins. I, and many others, found that to be a huge affront to women.
In the resulting outrage, two columnists I do usually respect — Jon Kay and Andrew Coyne, both of the National Post — continued to assert that Rona Ambrose was not obliged to vote for “the feminist dogma;” she was allowed to vote based on her personal beliefs.
Kay followed up with a column entitled “Canada’s pro-choice culture warriors have lost their sanity,” which elaborated on the same argument.
I would not say they were wrong, in theory. Members of parliament are completely entitled to vote based on their personal views. But when Rona Ambrose voted yea to re-examine where life begins — AKA voting to re-open the abortion debate, something that has been blessedly closed for years — she, to borrow a phrase, sucker-punched women.
I, personally, felt sucker-punched.
I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in a country that respects my right to decide what I want to do with my body. It’s even written into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as “freedom of the person.” Coming from my place of privilege, seeing what women in the USA are going through — a constant threat on their right to choose what’s right for their bodies — is frightening to me. I couldn’t imagine having to live in constant fear like that. I couldn’t imagine having to worry that the results of an election could determine what basic human rights I was allowed to keep.
And then this motion came along, and suddenly I was a little bit more fearful. Especially when the minister who is supposed to represent me, and my interests, and my rights — and the rights of all women, for that matter — voted in a way that did not represent me at all. It’s scary to see another woman vote in favour of a motion that could take fundamental human rights from women.
It’s easy for Andrew Coyne and Jon Kay and others to say that Rona Ambrose was entitled to vote based on her conscience. It’s easy for them to say that because they’re among a fortunate group of people whose bodies will never be politicized. They’re lucky, in that respect, that their fundamental right to make the choices that are right for them will never be threatened by their government. They’re lucky. I don’t hold that against them. But I do hold it against them that, being privileged, they forget that some people aren’t as lucky.
If Rona Ambrose wanted to properly represent women, she should have voted nay. A pro-choice vote benefits all women, because, bottom line, no one forces abortions on anyone. But being forced to have a baby in the name of the “sanctity of life” because apparently a cluster of cells is more important than a living, breathing woman — that has happened before. For hundreds of thousands of women, all over the world.
A pro-choice vote acknowledges that every woman has license to her own body, and that she has the option to make a choice that’s right for her — whether it’s having a baby, or aborting it. It acknowledges that she is more than just a womb.
Contrary to what this may sound like, I don’t dislike pro-lifers. I don’t think they should all convert to pro-choice or perish. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion — even Rona Ambrose. If you choose to believe that life starts at conception, that’s okay. You’re entitled to. If you’re a woman who believes life starts at conception, that’s still okay — it’s not “threatening feminism,” like some people believe. But what’s not okay is pushing those beliefs on other women. The world is not obliged to live according to your moral code. So please keep it out of my uterus.
(As an end note, I do respect Jon Kay and Andrew Coyne as writers. Just not on this issue. I firmly believe they were patently wrong.)