Abortion, Infertility, A Nation's Responsibilities, A Woman's Rights

**NOTE: This is my newspaper column for this week. I've decided to reproduce it in it's entirety here as I'm interested in what others have to say on this topic and the questions I raise.

I’m not normally a wishy-washy person. Nor am I, despite what some may say, a non-feminist. But I do often question my stance on abortion. I often say I’m pro-choice politically, but pro-life personally. If you understand that, you’ll understand where the incentive for this column came from.

Despite the fact that I don’t consider abortion an option for myself, I know not every woman feels that way. And I don’t want to take away any woman’s right to make that decision for herself. I don’t think anyone is really for abortion itself, rather for a woman’s right to chose what happens to her body.

In support of abortion, I understand that there are some women, and girls, for whom abortion is a very valid and reasonable choice. Certainly any woman who has been raped should have the option open to her. So should any woman whose health, either physical or mental, is at risk. Crack-addicted 14 year olds and perpetually drunk mothers of seven are probably better off not bringing their progeny forth. That’s my personal opinion; I know some will differ in their beliefs.

I know that these are not the only people who seek abortions. It is open to all. Every woman in Canada, whether I personally believe her choice is valid, can make the choice to have an abortion. I think that that’s the way it should be.

Interestingly, Canada has no real abortion laws. Certainly, abortion is legal, but only in that it’s not illegal. It is completely and utterly unrestricted. A woman in her 38th week of pregnancy could, if she could find a doctor willing to do it, have an abortion. I think this is an area that does need to be addressed. However legislating anything around abortion is a political minefield and could lead to a very slippery slope.

A woman would not find a doctor willing to perform such a procedure. Apparently it is getting more difficult to find a doctor willing to perform an abortion at all. Outside of actual abortion clinics, the procedure is hard to get.

However, when a woman does decide abortion is her best choice and she finds a practitioner willing to do it, it is covered one hundred percent by our healthcare system. No matter who, where, or how old, it is covered.

This, too, I don’t think is wrong. I would certainly rather see a scared sixteen year old at the Morgentaler clinic than in some cheap motel room having her boyfriend beat her until she miscarries. It is a tragic enough decision for a woman to make, she shouldn’t have to be forced out of it due to financial restraints.

However, while I don’t think it’s wrong for our healthcare dollars to fund abortion, I do think it’s wrong to do so in the absence of funding the opposite. And while terminating a pregnancy is completely unrestricted in Canada, creating one is not.

It is illegal to purchase donor sperm, eggs, or embryos in Canada. It is illegal to pay someone to be a surrogate mother. And while in rare cases some fertility treatments are covered under provincial healthcare plans, the majority are not.

Every woman in our nation who chooses abortion has it legally and financially available to her. But women and couples who chose to have children do not have the same rights. Their rights are not protected by our healthcare dollars or our laws.

A couple that desperately wants a child but cannot reproduce in the “natural” way face some hefty costs from $100 for a single round of clomid to $17,000 for in-vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection. And, unfortunately, the success rates are often low, meaning couples may have to pay those fees two or three times before they experience a successful pregnancy.

In Newfoundland, our government will pay you $2200 to have a baby. That’s $1000 upon delivery with monthly instalments of $100 for the next year. I’m not arguing against this.

When our youngest was born, that money came in very handy. But to someone who finally did conceive and carry a child to term after spending $30,000 of their own money, it would be a mere drop in the well of their child-related debt.

To those families that cannot afford fertility treatment, the $2200 is a slap in the face. Our government will not invest in helping them conceive, but it rewards those who do.

In my mind I picture two women. One has just peed on her fifth pregnancy test, all positive. Another has done the same, all negative. As much as the first woman is devastated, so is the second. But there’s a key difference. One has power over what happens to her body, the other does not.

We, as a nation, protect and help the first woman; we turn our backs on the second.

I don’t think that’s right.

What do you think?


  1. Just wanted to post a comment from a pretend name, just so you wont know who I am. This is very difficult to share, especially in public, but I'm from the US, and I was that first woman three years ago. It's a secret. I mean, it was the last thing I'd thought that would EVER happen to me; my boyfriend and I were and still always so careful. But it happened, but I was in college. It was a really scary time for me...Anyway, now I just worry about when I do want to have a kid. What will I tell this child when it grows up? How will I feel throughout the entire pregnancy? How am I gonna feel when I see the sonogram, and how far I'm along is when I ended it? I'm sorry it happened, I'm going to suffer the consequences for the rest of my life.

    ...Anyway, I just really, really needed to share that. Not even my boyfriend and I talk about it. About three other people know about it other than my finance (the same man), none of which are family or who I even know in person.
    As for my opinion about such things, I think it's horribly unfair that the woman who does not want the baby can get more help than the one who desperately wants to have a child. Being pro-choice is SO controversial here, it's almost the exact opposite here. Both woman should get non-judgemental help. I just wish women could get the help we need without us feeling like this. Alone, and full of sorrow.

    What I did is going to be my burden to bear for the rest of my life. I don't regret my decision...I just....I don't know. I can put myself in both those womans' shoes. I was that first woman, and the other one deserves to get the help she needs. It shouldn't cost her 30 grand to get the family she wants.

    Thanks for listening. I would appreciate it if you all didn't slam me or say vicious things. I'm sorry if I was offensive, Dara.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Someone posted a comment, which was delivered to my inbox, but I think she decided to delete it one it posted to the site as it's not showing.
    "Becky" I understand completely and you were not at all offensive. What you describe in terms of your feelings is why I'm pretty sure I couldn't do the same. However, what you did was responsible and brave.
    And I really appreciate that you can acknowledge the unfairness of the situation as it currently stands.
    I'd love to repost your comment, but I will leave it off unless you tell me otherwise.
    Thank you for sharing, even if it's only with me.

  4. Fascinating, I had no idea Canada's abortion stance was so unrestricted in light of its tighter fertility treatment options. I see this system as flawed in my heart and mind but can see why it may be hard to resolve. I imagine the number of women seeking fertility treatment far outnumbers those seeking abortions and thus abortions come at a smaller cost, particularly as they guarantee an outcome where fertility treatments don't guarantee that a woman will conceive. Things like this shouldn't come down to cost but when costs could potentiallys spiral, I'm sure red flags go up. It seems fairer to me to reduce that $2200 child incentive and reinvest this money in some type of program for fertility assistance though agreeing such a move and hashing out a coherent program would no doubt be a major challenge.

    There is an award for you over at mine.

  5. Thanks, Dara. I don't feel too much better, but I feel better putting it out in the open.


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