SOSC 1350 Study Guide - In Vitro Fertilisation, Antifeminism, Surrogacy

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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)
- women helping other women for reproduction (including birth control and abortion)
- Many were women healers and midwives (someone to help you give birth)
b. British law and “quickening” (1803)
- in 1803 abortion is an evil act, “quickening” (feeling the fetus move, usually when shes 4 months
pregnant)
- Abortion was a dangerous procedure
- Had condoms made out of animal intestines
- Generally 3 main explanations why birth control and abortion was illegal in 1800s
c. three explanations for making birth control and abortion
illegal (in Canada, the U.S. and Western Europe)
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i. anti-feminist backlash
- many anti feminists are protecting women of dangers of birth control and abortion
- Was not about protecting women more about controlling women ***
- ^ control them by restricting their child bearing roles
ii. changes to medical profession and attempts to
eliminate midwifery
- women healers and midwives were aiding women (like birth control or helping pregnant women giving
birth)
- Then male doctors were in the medical field and women healers and midwives started to be eliminated
- Male doctors started gaining control over health care (competing with midwives)
- ^ when you get rid of midwives and birth control and abortion they believe the nation will “grow”
iii. eugenics movement
- a declining birth rate for middle class white people in Canada
- Eugenics movement were concern with the declining birth rate
- ^ “race suicide”
- Some women and men could not make the decision to have children and those are allowed to have
children
- ^ disabled women were sterilized, unfit mothers, coloured women
- Highlights Who would never choose to have children and those who can have children *** (part of C in
final exam)
d. higher numbers of abortions in 1890s (while abortion was
illegal) than today
- abortion rates were higher in the 1890s than in the 1990s (when it was legal)
e. risky (and sometimes deadly) illegal abortions
- dangerous practice
- Some took a coat hanger to have an abortion, which lead to infections and deaths
- Lots also pretended to be doctors, some demanded sex before they can abort the baby
f. “obscenity” laws of late 1800s
- restricted to right to know about birth control and what it was used for
- Information on birth control was seen as absurd and going against society’s morality and laws
- ^ Obscenity laws remained until the 1960s
g. Criminal Code (1892) sections 272 and 273
- made it illegal to perform abortion on women and sentenced to life in prison
- ^ however a doctor could perform an abortion only if a women’s life is in danger
- But since it was vague, doctors were afraid therefore many women died
h. Trudeau’s 1969 reforms; establishment of TACs
- 1969 where the laws of abortion were clarified and birth control became legal (as well as information
about birth control)
- ^ but Trudeau did not legalized abortion only if a women’s life and health, she could have an abortion
- TAC’s were abortion committee, where they determine whether or not a women could live or die
- If a doctor performs an abortion where the women did not go to a TACs or if her life was not in danger
the doctor was sentenced to life in prison
- These laws did not protect the women only the doctors
i. Criminal Code section 251
- abortions were only legal in hospitals that had TAC’s
- ^ if you lived in rural area and did not have one, you were out of luck
j. R. v. Morgentaler (SCC, 1988)
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Document Summary

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. 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.

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