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Apr 2nd 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) • Women were driven to get rid of unwanted pregnancies • There were doctors who were willing to do it if you had links or you had the money • Poor women and women of colour were most likely to die from abortion, lack of resources 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) -for several centuries, there has been history of woman helping woman with birth and abortion -until the mid 1800’s, woman healers provided and distributed birth controls, did abortions, and taught other woman -abortion wasn’t prohibited by law in the English common law tradition until 1803 b. British law and “quickening” (1803) -first anti-abortion law, English common law banned abortion and made it illegal -quickening- when a woman can feel the fetus move -prior to this, abortion was legal in Canada, and then was prohibited after quickening -high mortality rate -cant explain the attack on birth control -most lay remedies for abortion were safe 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 from birth control, feminists argue that it was more of protecting women then controlling them, controlling them in the sense of child rearing -feminist protecting women from abortion happened around the same time they were fighting for suffrage -“we don’t like what these woman do” ii. changes to medical profession and attempts to eliminate midwifery -women healers/midwife have historically played a very important role -male doctors started to take over -many doctors did consider that feminists, midwife, were a threat to the economy iii. eugenics movement -declining birth rate amongst the white middle-class people -worried about the danger of race suicide -eugenicists were worried that white women weren’t reproducing enough -eugenises on one side wanted to eliminate the choice children from woman and men (Leilani muir), and some they wanted to do the opposite such as banning abortion and not providing birth control d. higher numbers of abortions in 1890s (while abortion was illegal) than today -in Canada, making abortion making abortion illegal didn’t eliminate abortion or prevent its practices -in the 1890s, there were more abortions then there are today -it was a danger practice e. risky (and sometimes deadly) illegal abortions - Women were driven to get rid of unwanted pregnancies -There were doctors who were willing to do it if you had links or you had the money -Poor women and women of colour were most likely to die from abortion, lack of resources f. “obscenity” laws of late 1800s -birth controller, was considered a derogatory term g. Criminal Code (1892) sections 272 and 273 -made it illegal to preform an abortion on a woman and the sentence was life imprisonment -there was little bit of leeway if the woman was at risk -273 made it illegal for women to perform an abortion on herself h. Trudeau’s 1969 reforms; establishment of TACs -if a womans life was on risk, abortion was absolutely legal -how do you determine how an
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