I NEED YOUR HELP
I am being targeted by the University of Waterloo as an activist for reproductive justice. They have banned me from their campus because I attended a counter rally at Stephen Woodworth’s lecture on May 13. I am the only person being banned our of 40 or so activists.
Stephen Woodworth is trying to backbench women and trans folk reproductive rights by redefining an unborn foetus to have full human rights. This Motion, Motion 312 must be stopped. A collective of activists rallied his lectured and this is why the ban is on place. The University is not giving me sufficient reasoning or evidentiary support of this ban, how long it is for, why I am targeted, or any other clarifying questions.
Please read this petition, sign it if you wish, and share it if you can.
Thank you for your support,
“Don’t accept any law that says some human beings are not human beings! No Member of Parliament should remain silent in the face of any law that says some human beings are not human beings. Now there might be some people who can convince themselves that a child magically transforms into a human being when their little toe pops out of the birth canal…However, I’ve concluded that modern medical science will inform us that children are in reality human beings at some point before the moment of complete birth. History is littered with disastrous examples of laws which pretended some people were not human beings to achieve some desired result or suit someone’s philosophy…Just laws must be based on accurate evidence, not arbitrary lines unrelated to reality. If there’s no objective criteria for who’s a human being, then personhood and the fundamental rights that go with it can be defined in any way any powerful person or group decides. Is that the Canada you want?”—Canadian MP Stephen Woodworth
Abortion debate reopens in Canada
Until recently, after reading headline after headline about bills relinquishing women’s reproductive rights in the United States, I have always taken having the option of abortion for granted. I’ve been lucky: for all the years I’ve been sexually active, I’ve had the ability to access a free and safe abortion should I have gotten pregnant accidentally. And even after the total number of bills limiting a woman’s right to choose her own destiny in the States this year alone surpassed 130, I still didn’t bat an eye because of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise to not revisit the issue. However, as of April 26th 2012, abortion access is up for debate in Parliament.
So has the GOP’s “War on Women” planted seeds of hope in the minds of right-wing conservatives up here in the Great White North? Possibly. Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth has introduced the private member’s motion calling for a committee to be formed to reexamine the legal definition of when human life begins—which is currently the moment after a birth is complete. Woodworth argues that the “400 year old definition of life” is in need of updating in terms of modern medical knowledge. Even though he claims to show no interest in legislation concerning abortion itself, his interest in “shedding light on when a child becomes a human being” and stance that there shouldn’t be any laws dictating when a human being is a human being, is obviously a way to have the issue of abortion reopened as it is inextricably linked to the definition of life.
Many liberal Canadians are left wondering why did this happen at all? Harper on multiple occasions has stated that the Conservative government has no interest in the issue and that a woman’s right to choose is not up for discussion. Hell, it was part of his platform in the last election. So, as Evan Solomon at CBC News pointed out, how could he let one of his party members put forward such a motion?
There have been protests and online resistance. I think my favourite so far has been the Radical Handmaids.
The activist group’s name was inspired by Canadian feminist author/environmental activist Margaret Atwood’s novel A Handmaid’s Tale. If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States in which “handmaids” are women owned by elite couples for the sole reason of producing and raising children.
So far the news is that the vote could be as early as June but most likely will happen in September. NDP leader Tom Muclair and Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae have been very vocal about their plans to vote against the motion and the Prime Minister has stated that the motion is unfortunate and that he will be voting against it as well. Because of this expression of support some are convinced the motion has a 0% chance of passing, but why should we trust it? Please talk to your local MPs and contact the Senate. In a post about the omnibus crime bill C-10 (which has since been passed into law :’( ), I included the contact info for the Canadian Senate and the emails of each Senator. You can click here to go to it. And here is the Prime Minister’s contact info:
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
It literally just takes a couple minutes. I’ve already sent out a mass email. You can bet your butt that hundreds of Anti-choicers have already done so because they get shit done. And that’s our folly. Liberal Canadians have let conservatives have the louder voice even though over the years polls and surveys have suggested they are an overwhelming minority. So please, take a few minutes out of your day to stand up for a basic human RIGHT.
Motion to reopen study of when life begins opposed by opposition, Harper
Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s private member’s motion was discussed in Parliament today. Motion 312 called for a study of the legal definition of when life begins. Members of Parliament, including PM Stephen Harper and Conservative MP Gordon O’Connor as well as the Liberals and NDP spoke out in opposition to the motion. It will be brought to vote Wednesday.
Read about it at CBC
Glad to hear that it isn’t likely to go any further than this.
Human Rights & the Dividing Point of Sympathy
Reading: Gilles Deleuze. Empirisme et Subjectivité. Presses Universitaires de France, 1953.
“Nous condamnons les parents qui préfèrent, à leurs enfants, des étrangers.” (24)
Violence exists within sympathy on both sides sides of partiality. The clan has an immediate sympathy for itself and a mediated sympathy for those to which it is partial. Mothers love their daughters, yet still sympathize for their neighbours’.
“Et c’est un fait : la sympathie existe, elle s’étend naturellement.” (24)
Sympathy crosses the boundary of partiality. In crossing the boundary, it reinforces the boundary, because in crossing, sympathy changes qualitatively. Sympathy acts as forces on two sides of a brick wall that keeps it in its place. On the anterior side, sympathy binds the clan or community. On the exterior side, sympathy dilates, losing its authenticity, reinforcing the border/wall that defines the clan/community.
Examples: Armchair activism and charity ‘giving plans’.
The sympathy that leads to sponsoring a hungry child is certainly sympathy. Though it is very different from the sympathy that leads a father to work a 9-5 for his family. Again, sympathy extends, but it reaches a limit point where its authenticity dilates.
What is this (politically invented) point of dilation? It is the point where the privilege of self-interest in the status-quo of governance turns into the disadvantageousness of the unrecognizably of one’s self interest in the status-quo of governance.
“Les législations sont les grandes inventions ; les vrais inventeurs ne sont pas les techniciens, mais les législateurs (29)
The western world loves to have sympathy for the wretched and hungry; a disabling, dilated sympathy because the wretched and hungry are on the other side of the brick wall. The wall is legislatively determined. Just look at all of the effort trying to keep Palestine out of the UN for risk of Israeli allies having to legalize rather than just sentimentalize their sympathy for the Palestinians (Obama, take note).
Legislation is an act of invention, yet unfortunately legislators lack all inventiveness in their construction of partiality. They invent according to natural pre-givens.
“La société ne peut pas garantir des droits préexistants : si l’homme entre en société c’est justement parce qu’il n’y a pas des droits préexistants.” (35)
Society doesn’t respect pre-existing individual rights, it invents them and in inventing, reinforces the notion that they exist as natural pre-givens. For an individual to have his or her rights respected, he or she must not only be included in the society (on the anterior side of the wall) but exercise a position within it that carries a certain power. It can be a little as citizenship, in cases where it is valued, or may require as much as owning property, being of a certain race or gender, etc.
Natural rights don’t hold sway in the real politics of society.
The irony is that so much legislation and mass-mediatized political discourse revolves around the transcendental category of human rights. This tendency runs through the mouths of both progressive and reactionary politicians alike. Progressives, in the case of Palestine for example, demand that the human rights of Palestinian to be respected. They appeal to international law to highlight the colonial violence of Israel state policy through its illegality.
On the other side of the spectrum, sadly, we need not look far to see how what seems to be the progressive concept of ‘human rights’ can be co-opted by the right. Stephen Woodworth’s anti-abortion campaign is entrenched within human rights rhetoric – protecting the ‘human rights’ of the unborn.
This raises the thorny question: to what extent can human rights really be an emancipatory concept if it lends itself so easily to the discourse of the anti-choice Christian right?
The valid answer is a tactical solution, and thus it is yet to be decided; it will be decided in the act of political becoming. Using human rights law to undermine the Israeli expansionist programme is certainly a must. But human rights won’t suffice save us if our appeal to them comes before political engagement and the active construction of new societies that re-draw the borders of partiality along the interest for shared peace and not clan superiority (however diverse that clan may be).
As for now, the trumpeting of human rights by bourgeois Western nations (See Stephen Harper’s recent trip to the Congo for the Francophonie summit) is simply a dilated sympathy that reinforces non-action.