Keep your rosaries away from my ovaries

On Oct. 2, the Pro-Choice Moncton / Moncton Pro-Choix group organized a “Choice Chain” protest in response to the annual “Life Chain” demonstration put on by pro-lifers in Moncton. Approximately 15 Mount Allison students carpooled to Moncton and attended the pro-choice rally that Sunday afternoon, standing in solidarity with the Pro-Choice Moncton organizers and activists. Although the protest was peaceful and relatively small – each side only had about 30 demonstrators – the impact and significance of attending the protest was not lost on any of us.

Pro-choice activists are changing attitudes towards reproductive health services in New Brunswick. Shannon Power/Argosy
Pro-choice activists are changing attitudes towards reproductive health services in New Brunswick. Shannon Power/Argosy

Over the past few years we have seen the war between pro-choice and pro-life advocates come to the forefront of the political arena in both Canada and the United States. The reproductive justice movement in Canada is one of the most important battles we are currently facing, particularly here in the Maritimes. After the closing of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in July 2014, women in New Brunswick who needed access to abortion services were forced to abide by Regulation 84-20, which stated that “abortions need to be deemed ‘medically necessary’ by two different physicians in the province.”

Although Premier Brian Gallant and the Liberal Party amended this regulation, many obstacles still remain to accessing reproductive services in New Brunswick. While Clinic 554, a private clinic offering access to abortion services, has opened up in the same space that the Morgentaler Clinic once occupied, the New Brunswick government still refuses to cover the costs of abortions. Clinic 554 is the only private clinic offering these services in all of New Brunswick.

The “anti-choice” culture and attitudes in New Brunswick, and much of the Maritime region, do not revolve solely around accessing abortion. Many physicians still refuse to prescribe contraception to patients, many individuals simply cannot afford birth control or emergency contraceptives such as Plan B and some folks do not have a family physician at all. The barriers surrounding access to reproductive health care and services range from an individual’s financial situation, gender identity or sexual orientation to where they are located geographically. This is why the pro-choice movement is so incredibly important.

Organizations such as Reproductive Justice New Brunswick are fighting every day to raise awareness and take action against the lack of access to these essential services. Circulating petitions, information pamphlets and zines, as well as remaining active in the discussions surrounding reproductive health care services and fighting to improve accessibility to these services across the board, are all crucial to the pro-choice movement.

Pro-choice activism is changing the attitudes towards reproductive health services in New Brunswick, the Maritimes and beyond. We must stand up and speak out against politicians and governments who use our bodies as political tools to sway voters and win elections. Pro-choice activism works towards empowering us to make decisions about our bodies because it is OUR choice what we do with our bodies. Whether those choices are to have an abortion, go on birth control or simply educate ourselves on sexual health, it is crucial for us to be able to make these choices on our own terms without fear of judgment from those providing these essential services.

Whether we are a group of 15 students or a group of hundreds, we must collectively come together and fight for the eradication of these barriers and restrictions to reproductive health care across the country. We must ensure safe, legal and accessible reproductive health services for everyone. Our voices must be heard.

For more information about reproductive rights in Canada, visit the Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights website at http://www.sexualhealthandrights.ca.

Katharyn Stevenson