Saturday, April 26, 2008

Joyce Arthur and the Yellow Brick Road

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada head longs for the good ol' days in Oz

Over the past several months, one has heard the litany of complaints over Edmonton-Sherwood Park MP Ken Epp's private members' bill, Bill C-484 -- the Unborn Victims of Crime bill.

According to Canada's pro-abortion lobby, the bill is an outrage -- nothing but a back-door "attack" on women's abortion rights.

Unfortunately for Joyce Arthur and the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, many opponents of the bill have reached this conclusion by intentional misreadings of the bill in question -- often refusing to acknowledge the existence of entire passages of the bill that don't fit the narrative they're so desperate to push.

Like many demagogues, Arthur has often pushed this particular narrative by promoting it in the places where it will receive the least possible scrutiny. What all too often emerges is a portrait of the pro-abortion lobby's fantasy version of the legislation, instead of the real deal.

"It’s very sneaky," says Arthur. "[Epp] is trying to rewrite the Criminal Code definition and allow a fetus to be treated as a person."

Which, of course, would be just awful -- that is, if you're a member of the pro-abortion lobby (more on this shortly).

When one examines the entirety of Arthur's complaints -- regarding both the bill and the government -- what quickly emerges is a portrait of an ideologically-constructed fantasy world in which Arthur, and those who share her opinions, are entitle to force their views on other people, often to the detriment of those she was supposed to be trying to help in the first place.

One particular point Arthur is stewing over deals with recent changes to Status of Women Canada -- transforming the organization from one that engages in lobbying, advocacy and research to one that provides funding to actual services for women in their community.

Arthur insists that the move was a blow to women's equality, and was intended as such -- despite the fact that the moves were largely managerial in nature. For example, the closing of a number of regional offices -- rendered less necessary by the access granted through the organization's website -- freed up $5 million for community-level services and support for women.

Arthur's objection to this really demonstrates a purely ideological view of how women's equality can be achieved, and what that represents.

To individuals like Joyce Arthur, women's equality demands that women be treated as equal in all respects, even in situations where they may not be. Certainly, women should be considered equal in all formal aspects -- and according to the letter of the law, they are.

But there's a difference between legal equality and practical equality. The test case for this always seems to be a hiring process wherein a man and a woman are competing for the same job. The principle of formal equality insists that, the two being equal in practical respects -- skills, capabilities and experience applicable to the job, the man should not be hired over the woman by simple virtue of being a man (nor should the woman be hired over the man by simple virtue of being a woman; this should go without saying, but all too often, is left unsaid).

However, if the man's skills, capabilities and experience exceeds the woman's, it should absolutely not be considered discriminatory to hire the man over the woman.

What ultimately emerges is a rather simple fact: legal equality is not necessarily practical equality.

The funding changes to the Status of Women that Joyce Arthur opposes, meanwhile, provide for many such things as job and skills training for women, to make them more competitive in the job market. If one favours practical equality between men and women, this is something they should certainly support.

If one favours legal equality over practical equality -- or believes that a woman's qualifications shouldn't have to match or exceed that of a man's in order to be hired over him -- than one would certainly oppose the changes. But it could be considered quite ironic that a group so preoccupied with equality would want to advance such a comparatively hollow definition of the concept.

They also seem to have a fairy-tale imagination for what such equality would mean for women -- that it would represent some sort of magical panacea for women, protecting them from all forms of violence so effectively that no further legislation would ever be necessary to help protect them.

"Ensuring women’s equality will go a long way to making them more safe," Arthur insists. "If the woman is safe, however we do that—through social supports or whatever—then the fetus is going to be safe too."

But Arthur reserves her finest vintage of rhetoric for espousing the threat that recognizing any fetal rights would allegedly pose to women's rights (actually a threat to Arthur's ideologically-driven world view).

"The bill basically gives fetuses a form of personhood," says Arthur. "It’s giving them a separate status apart from the mother, and the moment you do that, whatever else you say about that, you are setting a very dangerous precedent."

Dangerous for the pro-abortion lobby, perhaps. The distinct challenge posed by the concept that unborn children should have rights has been detailed elsewhere, but reiteration is necessary.

The recognition of the scientific fact that an unborn child -- or fetus, as preferred by the pro-abortion lobby -- very much is human life represents a devastating threat to the pro-abortion lobby's characterization as "nothing more than a clump of cells".

If one recognizes an unborn child as human life -- as more and more people are -- it becomes increasingly apparent that Canadian law needs to put measures in place to help protect it.

Furthermore, the implications of the pro-abortion lobby's attempts to dehumanize unborn children become more and more apparent, as the organization's own rhetoric begins to undermine it. The house of cards built on the fundamental principle that that unborn children are not human quickly collapses.

Of course, there are, as Arthur herself notes, portions of the criminal code that explicitly define an unborn child as "not a person". This is established both by Section 223 (1) of the Canadian Criminal Code, wherein it reads:

"When child becomes human being
223. (1) A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not

(a) it has breathed;

(b) it has an independent circulation; or

(c) the navel string is severed.
Then again, Canadian law once failed to recognize women and ethnic minorities as people, too. The explicit and counter-scientific establishment of unborn children as not human beings is no less an injustice, but unfortunately for the pro-abortion lobby, it's an injustice they're interested in perpetuating, not resisting.

Unfortunately, Arthur does have some allies in her ideologically-driven quest to deny unborn children what is indisputably already theirs by virtue of simple biology.

"In my almost 40 years in the women’s movement," said former NDP leader Alexa McDonough. "I have never had a single woman, a single advocate, a single representative of a single organization or an individual family member come to me and say this is a law they would like to see implemented."

Of course, it's unlikely that McDonough would tolerate her staff allowing any woman who did favour such a move through the front door. The hostile treatment by left-wing women's groups of organizations such as REAL women, or of individuals such as Mary Talbot -- the mother of the slain Olivia Talbot and grandmother of Lane Talbot Jr, and supports Bill C-484 -- is evidence enough of that.

The more one examines Joyce Arthur, the more sorry one feels for what the so-called "women's movement" has become. All too often, an extremely exclusive club of like-minded individuals. As some individuals have noted, membership in the so-called "women's movement" has all too often become more about what politics one believes in than what gender they belong to.

But that's another story for another time.

The women's movement has foresworn its time-honoured legacy of resisting social injustice. The same lack of personhood that was once vehemently rejected as it regarded women is now equally vehemently embraced as it regards unborn children.

And all the while, Joyce Arthur clicks her ruby slippers together telling herself "there's no place like home, there's no place like home". Sadly, not even the Wizard of Oz can give individuals like Arthur the courage to face legitimate challenges to her ideology, the intelligence to recognize they need to do so -- in cooperation with of all the people who favour legalized abortion (this author included) -- or heart enough to care.

Better to live in an Oz-like fantasy world.


  1. Nexus of Assholery is well-named. S/he is definitely a centre of patterns of behavior consistent with that of assholes. In this case it seems to be of an asshole plagued by diarrhea. It would likely be wise to refrain from commenting on this post, but it is so bizarre and twisted that I am forced to make at least a couple of corrections regarding the portrayal of Status of Women Canada (SWC).

    I don't know how one can so blatantly misrepresent the truth regarding the changes at Status of Women Canada! I mean, there are many websites which have documented how the changes have impacted women and women's organizations in Canada. Really, it is quite incomprehensible how NoA has twisted things! And the fact that the doors of numerous organizations which support women have been forced to close demonstrates only that NoA is incapable of rigorous research.

    Furthermore, Status of Women Canada's “lobbying, advocacy and research” was essential to ensure that laws created by a predominantly male House of Commons did not negatively impact women. SWC also provided gender analysis services to government departments and its staff met wiwth women -- on the ground -- who were organizing to create a better world for women and their families. It also provided funding to women's groups who engaged in “lobbying, advocacy and research” and services to women. Most organizations that work to improve the condition of women in Canada engage in some kind of lobby work, but that is now disallowed even if the organization does necessary and important work.

    In Saskatchewan, for instance, the work of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses (PATHS) was integral and absolutely necessary to having the Province not only develop, but also make into law, the Domestic Violence Act. And that Act was absolutely necessary to ensuring that the justice system – at all levels, from the first response officers through to the judges – take the issue of domestic violence seriously. If another organization in another province wants to engage in that kind of good and important work it will be deemed ineligible for funding from Status of Women Canada. Why? It is ineligible for funding simply because it lobbies for legislation.

    Worse is that Canada's Getting Old Government also removed the word equality from its mandate, suggesting that women are already equal and no longer require the support of the state to overcome the systemic barriers set in place by a country which was established at a time when women were considered chattel. To suggest that these barriers no longer exist is foolish, at best. All one can really deduce from the government's moves is that the Government of Canada does not want to change the status quo for women.

    In fact, it seems to want to create a worse situation for women and is doing so by supporting the Private Members Bills put forward by Ken Epp and Maurice Vellacott. As I have already pointed out at the regina mom blog, these pieces of legislation are attacks on women's reproductive freedoms. As Madame Justice Bertha Wilson said some 20 years ago, regarding the former law to restrict abortion, “The primary objective of the impugned legislation is the protection of the foetus.”

    Epp's legislation is all about protecting the fetus and argument suggesting it is about protecting women are, quite simply, stupid. To protect women from violence, stop violence. Certainly Epp's law will be struck down because the Supreme Court has already determined that the woman and the fetus she carries are one and the same until the moment of birth.

    As for the work of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, I, for one, am extremely grateful that there are people like Joyce willing and able to give freely of their time so that my right to reproductive freedom can be maintained. There is no need for laws to tell me whether or not I may have a child; I can decide that for myself, thank you very much. Women have decided for themselves for centuries, ever since they became wise to their own cycles.

    It seems to me that Nexus was perhaps burned by an affirmative action program - a bandaid solution to the inequities of our system - and is apparently scarred by that experience. Or something. S/He would do well to clean up her/his thinking and strategies for arguing so that we could discuss the issues raised as rationally and sane human beings.

  2. Wow. Where to start?

    Well, first off, most of the examples I've come across of those groups were organizations that were using federally-granted funds for advocacy. That money will be much better spent on more practical things, that provide real services for women: women's shelters, job training, skills training -- things like that.

    Secondly, considering the fact that three of Canada's four political parties are anything but biased against women, it's unlikely that the House of Commons would manage to pass anything that "negatively impacts women".

    Third, the Fetal Homicide Bill explicitly excludes abortion. In writing. In the bill. In almost exactly those words. So no points for you there.

    Fourth, one of the ways in which the law protects women against violence is by providing a deterrent. The Fetal Homicide Bill will provide such a deterrent. I agree with you that domestic abuse laws should be strengthened considerably, but this is not an either/or equilibrium. As a society, we can do both. To pretend otherwise is promoting a false choice.

    The Fetal Homicide Bill won't tell you whether you may or may not have a child -- it doesn't even tell you whether you may or may not have an abortion (contrary to the hysteria you're trying to promote here).

    And, nope, I've never had a run-in with affirmative action in any way, shape, or form. I just know it's wrong, and that it doesn't work.


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