This is what winning looks like when it comes to reproductive rights. Here is a lovely article describing how teen pregnancy and abortion rates in Canada dropped 36.9% between 1996 and 2006. 36.9%! Wow. If anything deserves my most seldom used punctuation mark, the exclamation mark, this does.
The study is from the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada and Alexander McKay, one of the reports' authors, credits this incredible decline to Canada's "balanced, sensible approach to adolescent sexual health." McKay says that, "Generally speaking
what you find is that the more a society has an accepting attitude toward the
reality of adolescent sexuality, the lower the teen pregnancy rate is.
Canadians tend to have a more relaxed attitude towards adolescent sexuality
than people in the United States.” Canada has a teen birth and abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, of 27.9% while the United States' rate is 61.2%. The United States' emphasis on abstinence only education has clearly not worked. This coupled with a lack of universal health care and poverty have meant higher teen birth rates. McKay says, "The United States has large, well-entrenched pockets of inner city poverty
and that clearly is linked to higher teen pregnancy rates." Further, he notes “In those communities where young women feel optimistic about their
educational and employment opportunities, the [teen pregnancy rates] tends to be lower.”
There is a lot of good news in this story. This is what winning looks like. This is what success in the pro-choice movement looks like.
Here is another success story. Teens in Toronto can now simply text for accurate information on sexuality, thanks to a new program by Planned Parenthood. Their new text messaging service lets teens connect directly with trained peer volunteers for personalized answers to their sexual health questions via text message. Fantastic! (Another exclamation mark!)
Access to accurate and timely information on sexuality and unrestricted access to the full range of reproductive health services from contraception to abortion allows women to reproduce consciously and willingly. This is a good thing.
All of us who are involved in the reproductive rights movement in Canada need to take a few minutes of joy from this study. Good work.
Winning goes far beyond the necessary defeat of ridiculous motions like 312 and the short term battles we are sometimes forced to fight with those who wish to take us backwards. This summer, once again we will have to witness what the anti-choice are all about. They have announced something they are calling the "new" abortion caravan. Co-opting and perverting the message of the original Abortion Caravan of the 1970s, the very same Abortion Caravan that contributed to de-criminalizing abortion in Canada, they are going to send a fleet of fetus-mobiles across our great country, offending as they go, and try to take us backwards. It's going to be an ugly summer of bloody fetus porn and misinformation. I have no doubt that the insanity of this particular tactic will send people running from them. Sometimes they make it so easy.
In their fights against access to health services and their spreading of misinformation, the anti-choice show us what losing looks like. Their despicable and offensive tactics, their insistence on limiting access to information, their preference for abstinence only education, their desire to bring an end to all abortion, will only increase teen pregnancies and the abortion rate. They want to drag us into American style culture wars, those endless and embarrassing assaults on human rights. It's hard for me to understand how they can't comprehend the evidence that is in front of them.
Winning comes from sustained work to improve access, work that has taken place over decades, work that included the real Abortion Caravan, work that is done in doctors' offices and clinic offices and in Planned Parenthoods and affiliated sexual health organizations, in the Bay Centre for Birth Control and in the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, in advocacy organizations like Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and in research by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. This is the long term work that we have done, work that is demonstrating long term, positive, results including a decline in abortion rates.
This is the work that helps all of us win.