c-537: final verdict

I first blogged about C-537 here, and was met by some objections I hadn't considered, from health-care workers' perspective.

To summarize, I had said:
Health care providers cannot be allowed to pick and choose what legal procedures they want to perform or assist with. If a person cannot in good conscience have anything to do with abortion, or any other legal medical procedure, that person shouldn't be working in health care.

My friend Jen suggested this revision:
I'd amend that to "If a person cannot in good conscience have anything to do with abortion, or any other legal medical procedure, that person shouldn't be working in: Labour and delivery/ER/post partum".

Likewise, those opposed to/don't understand electro-convulsive therapy should steer clear of the psych units, those opposed to/don't understand harm reduction should steer clear of public health, etc. Health practice, individuals and patient needs are all to many and too varied for there to be an expectation of everyone to be on the same page.

My friends the nurses weren't supporting C-537; they were pointing out flaws in my reasoning against the bill. I know these folks to be smart and progressive people, as well as caring health care practitioners, so I took their concerns seriously. Their comments are significant and worth reading. Some excerpts:
. . . the College of Nurses of Ontario and College of Physicians and Surgeons . . . both allow their members to refuse to perform procedures they object to via scope of practice statements. Even in NY State as nurse I was free in my practice to refuse to perform acts that I deemed objectionable and the state board of nursing protected that right.

. . . I don't believe as a nurse, I should be asked to do anything that violates my personal, ethical or religious beliefs as I've defined them. This could be widely interpreted to include a good deal of other issues besides abortion and abortion-related practices.

. . . Health care professions are self-regulating and autonomous. It was a long hard fight to be able to say "no" and advocate for the patient against unsafe and/or unethical practice (e.g.: giving meds, especially sedation, against the patient's will or unbeknownst to them; withholding information from patients at family's request, etc). . . .

The "by law you must do this" approach to practice was a huge motivator (among many other things) in the eugenics movement as another example of the end result of a very slippery slope.

These comments (which I hope you'll read in their entirety) brought a lot of food for thought to my table. Their concerns made sense to me. But the bill was still bothering me. A lot.

So I've thought more about this, and read what many other pro-choice bloggers have written. And now my thoughts are crystal clear.

This bill would define human life as beginning at conception. Meaning it would define the fertilized egg as a human being. That's all we need to know.

I am quite sure life of some sort begins at conception. After all, an amoeba is a life form. So is a cow. So is a carrot. So, too, the zygote. But we must reject any legislation that seeks to define the zygote as a human life under the law. The implications are obvious.

Reproductive freedom is the cornerstone of women's equality and self-determination. If a zygote has the same rights that I do as an adult woman, then disposing of that blob of cells is murder. And we can't take one step down that road.

The concerns about autonomy and personal ethics raised by my nurse friends have much merit. And, as they've pointed out, their concerns are already addressed by their professional regulatory bodies. Just as C-484 is unnecessary because the criminal code already speaks to the same issues without defining the fetus as a legal person.

C-537, like C-484, is an anti-abortion bill dressed up in a costume of concern. C-484 is supposedly about concern for female victims of violence: but we know better. C-537 is supposedly about concern for health care workers.

But both are really about abortion. Both are attempts to chisel away at our rights. If you feel as I do, make sure your MP knows how you feel.


skdadl said...

I share your conclusions. The parts of Vellacott's bill that aren't about abortion are redundant, principally because doctors and nurses are already held to much higher standards by their professions, and I wouldn't want to see it any other way.

James said...

I am quite sure life of some sort begins at conception. After all, an amoeba is a life form.

For that matter, unfertilized eggs and spermatozoa are both alive. Conception isn't something that makes life out of non-life; it changes two living haploid cells into one living diploid cell with a mix of genetic material.

L-girl said...

James, excellent point, and one always ignored.

Cue Allan's Bill Hicks quote about wiping out whole continents with a sock.

issachar said...

I'm sorry, I didn't see your comment policy link in the sidebar. No offense intended. I won't be offended at all if you delete my comment. It's your blog and your rules.

L-girl said...

Issachar, again, I thank you. It's my own fault for not posting my usual disclaimer.

L-girl said...

Also Issachar, if you'd like to re-post the first part of that comment, referring to why the bill is unnecessary and what Morgentaler said, please do, as it is completely on-topic.

issachar said...


I also fail to see why Bill 537 is necessary. As your nurse friends pointed out, health care workers are already reasonably protected against performing procedures they find unethical. Henry Morgentaler himself says that health care workers should be allowed to opt out of procedures. So it would seem that the law is purportedly trying to do something that has already been done.

The statement I'm reffering to is about a third of the way down the page. Search for "doctors should not be obliged" if you want to skip to it.

redsock said...

Cue Allan's Bill Hicks quote about wiping out whole continents with a sock.

I wasn't going to, but (with added context) ...

"Here's another idea that should be punctured, the idea that childbirth is a miracle. I don't know who started this rumor but it's not a miracle. No more a miracle than eating food and a turd coming out of your butt. It's a chemical reaction and a biological reaction. You want to know a miracle? A miracle is raising a kid that doesn't talk in a fucking movie theater. ...

"I'll go you one further, and this is the routine that has virtually ended my career in America. If you have children here tonight -- and I assume some of you do -- I am sorry to tell you this. They are not special. I'll let that sink in. Don't get me wrong, folks. I know you think they're special. You think that. I'm telling you -- they're not.

"Did you know that every time a guy comes, he comes 200 million sperm? Did you know that? And you mean to tell me you think your child is special? Because one out of 200 million sperm connected ... that load? Gee, what are the fucking odds? Do you know what that means? I have wiped entire civilizations off of my chest, with a grey gym sock. That is special. Entire nations have flaked and crusted in the hair around my navel. ... I have tossed universes, in my underpants, while napping. That is special."


Okay. Back to the discussion.