Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition Conversation with Kathy Dawson

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition, which was formed in 1994?

Kathy Dawson: Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition was formed to give voice to pro-choice people in the Calgary area, I approached them last year about expanding to Alberta and rebranding as the Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition because there was a need:

  • Access in Alberta has been limited to two clinics (Edmonton and Calgary) and one hospital (Calgary).  Rural and northern people must travel, miss work, incur hotel and other expenses to access a basic health right, even in communities that are equipped to handle miscarriages (similar procedure as abortion).
  • Sexual health education has been compromised in some school districts that invite anti-choice groups to teach abstinence-based/sexual risk avoidance.  Many US based programs, an example of the lessons and how they undermine sexual health and consent education can be found here:
    1. http://www.communityactionkit.org/index.cfm?pageid=923
    2. Waxman Study from the US: http://spot.colorado.edu/~tooley/HenryWaxman.pdf
  • I’ve been doing quite a bit advocacy in the Edmonton area and across Canada. We needed to go province-wide in Alberta. So, that’s what we’ve done; I joined the Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition and we rebranded to represent all of Alberta, it is now called the Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition.

Jacobsen: For the Canadian population big minority that lacks a formal faith, are the people who tend to be anti-choice the people that one would usually expect from religious organizations and advocates?

Dawson: Most of the anti-choice come from religious perspectives and organizations (faith-based perspectives can vary – see the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) position paper). There is a minority that claims to be secular and not religious, but their definition of the beginning of life comes from a religious view, not a scientific view. Some anti-choice have attempted to rebrand themselves as pro-woman, feminist and secular, yet they work to restrict the rights that women and trans people have.

The Canadian Association of Pregnancy Support Services (CAPSS) is an affiliate organization of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and displays a logo from the Canadian Council of Christian Charities on their website.  Many crisis pregnancy care centres in Canada are affiliated with CAPSS and agree with their Core Documents that make it clear they are Christian missions:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3knVGoGcpZkdl9MMVVwVXFWUHc/view?usp=sharing

Some resources that address the religious nature of their opposition:

  • Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC): Position Paper #93 Religion and Abortion:

Not all religions are opposed.

http://www.arcc-cdac.ca/postionpapers/93-Religion-and-Abortion.pdf

  • The Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURs) is a collaborative project to safeguard the universality of rights. They identify a coordinated effort on behalf of several religions to undermine feminist and sexual rights worldwide.

This “unholy alliance” of traditionalist actors from Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Russian Orthodox and Muslim faith backgrounds have found common cause in a number of shared talking points and advocacy efforts attempting to push back against feminist and sexual rights gains at the international level.”

https://www.oursplatform.org/resource/rights-risk-key-opposition-actors/

Jacobsen: What would be one of the arguments that they might propose, and what would be one of the responses?

Dawson: It should be noted: “The right to abortion is not debatable, because access to legal, safe abortion is a fundamental human right, one that is protected by law and supported by the majority of citizens. The provision of basic human rights is not open to debate.”

http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/debate.shtml

“The real key question behind the legality of abortion is: How much do we value women and trans people’s rights and lives? Because focusing on the fetus always has dire legal and social consequences for them. It’s also insulting, because it usurps their moral decision-making, as well as their bodies and wombs.”

http://www.prochoiceactionnetwork-canada.org/articles/fetus-focus-fallacy.shtml

Anti-choice claim to want abortion stopped, yet they oppose comprehensive sexual health education and most contraception that would reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

The pro-choice perspective focuses on the right of women and trans men to make informed decisions for themselves. We also support and work towards preventing unwanted pregnancies through promoting contraception and education. We recognize the right of people to choose to be pregnant or not and be parents or not.

Jacobsen: Also, these come from an international context. The ones that have the evidence behind them and their rights behind them, where the United Nations, or organizations in alignment with it, would state that things such as abortion are a human right.

Human Rights Watch would state “equitable access to safe abortion services is first and foremost a human right.” So, in a way, the most religious organizations or secular organizations taking religious arguments are in short anti-human right rather than anti-choice in a way.

Dawson:  Sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion, are human rights.

Many anti-choice organizations are also opposed to LGBTQ+ relationships and erase the existence of trans people. The CAPSS and their affiliated crisis pregnancy care centres believe in “celibate singleness; and in faithful heterosexual marriage as God’s design for the family” (Core Documents). These organizations, although focused on restricting rights for women also actively work to undermine other human rights, including LGBTQ+, minority rights, and the right to medically assisted death (death with dignity).

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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