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Reproductive Rights Part II lecture outline.doc

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Social Science
SOSC 1350
Julie Dowsett

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS (PART 2) Making abortion illegal neither eliminated the need for abortion nor prevented its practice… Women who are determined not to carry an unwanted pregnancy have always found some way to try to abort. All too often, they have resorted to dangerous, sometimes deadly methods, such as inserting knitting needles or coat hangers into the vagina and uterus, douching with dangerous solutions like lye, or swallowing strong drugs or chemicals. The coat hanger has become a symbol of the desperation of millions of women who have risked death to end a pregnancy. —Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (1998) I would suggest that we reevaluate the adversarial and individualistic perspective that pits the fetus against the pregnant woman and makes the physician or the father or the state the fetus’s advocate. We need to step back from the isolationist picture that fails to understand the social context in which women gestate and deliver their babies. We could consider the idea that protecting and caring for the fetus means protecting and caring for the pregnant woman—through adequate housing, nutrition, education, medical care and freedom from physical and emotional abuse. Genuinely respecting fetal life would require genuinely respecting women. —Christine Overall 1. Birth Control, Abortion and the Law a. women healers (or lay practitioners) and midwives (mostly female) b. British law and “quickening” (1803) • Quickening- when a women can feel the fetus move c. three explanations for making birth control and abortion illegal (in Canada, the U.S. and Western Europe) i. anti-feminist backlash • supposedly women were being protected • feminist argued that its more about controlling women than protecting them ii. changes to medical profession and attempts to eliminate midwifery • midwife- a woman who assists another woman during child birth • doctor were the most for illegalizing it • midwife was then eliminated • the growing power of male doctors iii.eugenics movement • it was racist and classist • it was race suicide • eugenics was worried that nice women (white, married) were not reproducing enough • banning access to birth control and abortion for white women • “immoral” women were sterilized • Respectable women had no choice but to reproduce d. higher numbers of abortions in 1890s (while abortion was illegal) than today • making it legal sort of increased the dangers • poor women and women of colour were more likely to die • paid to get abortion/ fake doctors e. risky (and sometimes deadly) illegal abortions • it was risky for women to get abortions done and it was hard to find someone to do it safely f. “obscenity” laws of late 1800s • Make it illegal to access information about birth control in the 60’s • Went against community standards • Remained on the books for a long time g. Criminal Code (1892) sections 272 and 273 • Make it illegal for anyone to perform abortion of a women • Life imprisonment • If a women life was at risk, this could be done • Law was very unclear so many doctors did not want to risk losing their medical license, so hence many women died h. Trudeau’s 1969 reforms; establishment of TACs • Progressive, help reduce the jail time for women • If wanted to get an abortion had to sit in front of 3 doctors and they had to decide if your life was at risk • Therapeutic abortion committee (TAC) i. Criminal Code section 251 • Abortions could only be performed at hospitals
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