‘Feminism, the new religion? lol”

Flatlander readers share their thoughts about abortion. Meanwhile, the Snowbirds had their third crash in four years. The cause of the crash is being investigated.

Hello Flatlanders,

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the problems with the aging Canadian Forces Snowbirds in How long can Moose Jaw’s Snowbirds fly?

Unfortunately, Tuesday, the Snowbirds experienced its third crash in four years. The cause is under investigation, and luckily the pilot seemed to escape the incident uninjured.

A witness in the area reported hearing what sounded like a plane with engine trouble as the aircraft went down during takeoff. The pilot managed to turn the jet around, return to the airfield and land, but the aircraft blew past the end of the runway.

Earlier this summer, the Tutor planes the Snowbirds fly were grounded as the Air Force dealt with a technical issue in a device that sets the timing for deploying a parachute during an ejection.

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While it will likely take months for the accident report to be written and released for this most recent crash, it will be interesting to compare it to the previous two accidents to see if there are any overlapping issues, such as problems with the plane’s ejection seats or a fuel delivery system failure that was believed to be the cause in the 2019 crash when the pilot lost engine power.


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Readers weigh in on abortion

Speaking of past issues, I thought I would share reader feedback on The Flatlander’s past issue on abortion Winnipeg, a battleground city in Canada’s fight for abortion, which looked at what was akin to Canada’s “Roe v. Wade” moment.

One of my pet peeves is that as Canadians, we are sometimes more aware of American history and politics than we are of what is happening or has happened in our own country. And I am guilty of this myself.

I was under the age of 10, when R. v. Morgentaler went to the Canadian Supreme Court, so I didn’t know much about how abortion was legalized until I researched the June 28 issue of The Flatlander.

Since writing that issue, I heard from several readers—some are prolife and others are prochoice, which is to be expected as Flatlander readers are diverse in their opinions.

Bernadette wrote:

Thanks for this issue! I worked on the pro-choice campaigns in the 80s and 90s, having had an illegal abortion in 1986. I had to lie, said I was a student in Saskatoon, gave my friend’s address, in order to have the procedure in Saskatoon. The Therapeutic Abortion Committees had strict residency restrictions and I’d been refused by the one doctor performing the procedure in Regina. “I will not be a welfare doctor,” he said. Whatever that means. But the underground network told me Dr. John Bury was, no questions asked, in Saskatoon. He, I later discovered, was integral to medicare and published a memoir about it before he died but I haven’t yet read it.

Anyway, it was an honour to work with Dr. Sally Mahood, Alison Hayford, Pat Robinson, Susan Robinson, Debbie Pierce, and all the other women who moved through the Regina Reproductive Rights organization. They’d been in the battle much longer than me and as a student activist I learned a lot. I was even able to attend a Canadian Abortion Rights Action League conference in Toronto and meet Judy Rebick for the first time before she became president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. And being part of that strong national community that had been doing good work for a long time was very empowering for the shy girl whose pastor told her she had sinned and must ask for forgiveness because she terminated a pregnancy. And so ended my tie to the church community. The women’s community fit nicely as a replacement. Feminism, the new religion? lol

Herb wrote:

How sad that Winnipeg became a city known for the killing of unborn children. No wonder they are embarrassed to celebrate Canada Day, calling it “New Day” instead.

Jay wrote:

Thanks for this well-researched story about Manitoba’s historical role in the abortion issue. It made me want to refresh my knowledge about Dr. Morgentaler and what ‘sacred’ really means. There is a primal and fundamentally flawed aspect of the pro-life movement – how willing some elements within it are willing to take a life in the name of preserving it.  I’m a songwriter, and the idea of singing about Morgentaler intrigues me. I find that the fundamental beliefs upon which anti-abortionists base their actions find their parallel in a literal (and it would seem an Old Testament) interpretation of Christian dogma – they profess a belief that all human life is sacred, whereas in fact,  what ‘sacred’ actually means to them has been skewed to conform to an anti-deluvian, fear-based view of reality;  (ie) an eye-for-an-eye attitude towards retributive justice, whereby they, in all their proselytizing fervour, have no problem violating the human rights of those in need of abortion, nor (in the case of the more fanatical element) of killing in the name of their God  anyone who contradicts their views – regardless of the scientific and humanitarian realities which apply. A quick reading of the Old Testament, and all the smiting of Christians, Jews and Philistines alike that goes on there in the name of, and/or supposedly by a vengeful Christian God, eerily presages the anti-abortion stand on the sanctity and sacredness of human life. 

Probably the most interesting email I received was from Peter. He wrote:

I appreciate your publication but am disappointed that you do not consider the fundamental value and rights of the pre-born. Consequently, your coverage, though gentle (and that is greatly appreciated), is one-sided

I recognize the rights of the unborn child could be addressed from a philosophical, religious, moral, or personal point of view, but what is most interesting to me is how the Canadian courts have addressed the rights of the fetus over the years.

Basically, in Canada, embryos and fetuses are not legal people and therefore have no legal status until born alive. This means a baby’s purported rights cannot take precedence over those of its pregnant mother.

This is as per the Criminal Code definition of a human being:

Section 223 (1) – A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not (a) it has breathed; (b) it has an independent circulation; or (c) the navel string is severed.

This, of course, has been challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Winnipeg Child and Family Services  v G. 

Back in 1997, there was the case Winnipeg Child and Family Services (Northwest Area) v. G. (D.F.).

Basically, a woman addicted to glue-sniffing was five months pregnant with her fourth child, and there was concern that her addiction would damage the nervous system of her fetus.

Two of her previous children had been born disabled because of her addiction and were made permanent wards of the state.

A lower court ordered this woman be placed in the custody of the director of Child and Family Services and detained in a health centre for addiction treatment until the child was born.

At the time, this lower court acknowledged its fundamental right to protect children, and that its ruling would be the first protective order placed on an unborn child.

The order was later stayed two days later and ultimately set aside on appeal.

The issue eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld the appeal because the courts do not have jurisdiction over unborn children. Therefore, it could not support an order for the detention and treatment of a pregnant person for the purpose of preventing harm to the unborn child.

The Supreme Court also noted the courts generally make incremental changes to laws, and they are not in the business of making major changes that involve moral choices and conflicts between fundamental interests and rights. Such complex decisions are best left for Parliament, according to the court.

In some ways, the case was rather moot, the Supreme Court observed because damage to the fetal nervous system occurs in the early stages of pregnancy long before the initial court order was sought.

Another interesting point made by the Supreme Court is that the woman in question had, at an earlier point in her pregnancy, sought treatment but had been turned away due to lack of facilities.

Later when she was asked to take treatment like she had initially wanted, she had given back into her addiction and refused, which led to the court proceedings.

Dobson v. Dobson

A few years later, in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada was once again asked to rule on fetal rights in Dobson (Litigation Guardian of) v. Dobson.

A woman in her sixth month of pregnancy lost control of her vehicle while driving in a snowstorm and collided with an oncoming vehicle.

Her son had to be delivered by C-section later that day and suffered mental and physical impairment.

A lawsuit, pursued on the child’s behalf, alleged his prenatal injuries were caused by his mother’s negligent driving.

The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the lower court decision when it ruled that, while a child can sue a third party in negligence for injuries sustained in utero, they cannot sue their own mother.

The court reasoned it would be impossible for judges to determine the standard of behaviour pregnant women should engage in to be within the law.

According to the Supreme Court, such decisions would be an intrusion into the bodily integrity, privacy, and autonomy rights of women.

Permitting this type of lawsuit would involve severe psychological consequences for the relationship between mother and child, as well as the entire family, the Supreme Court stated.

Punishing fetal murder?

In 2012, back when Stephen Harper was prime minister, Conservative MP Stephen Woodsworth introduced Motion 312 calling for a Parliamentary Committee to examine whether the Criminal Code definition of “human being” should be changed to include fetuses. The motion was defeated. Had it passed, the motion would have potentially opened the door to give legal status to fetuses and allow the re-criminalization of abortion.

Over the years, dozens of private member bills and motions have been introduced by prolife Members of Parliament, many of which would give fetuses some degree of legal recognition, if not personhood.

The most recent bills called for separate charges for fetuses injured or killed when a pregnant woman is the victim of a crime, but again, using past Supreme Court precedents, this would imply the fetus is a person and in turn possibly endanger the rights of pregnant people.

Here is an interesting opinion piece on the issue of murder: Without new abortion laws, there’s no way to seek justice for fetal homicide victims

Retroactive rights of the fetus

Fetuses do have a limited form of retroactive rights in Canada after being born alive. As mentioned above, in the Dobson v Dobson ruling, a child can retroactively address issues, like physical injury, which occur during gestation, such as a physical injury. They just can’t seek redress from their mother for her actions during pregnancy.

A baby in the womb can also inherit property and money following the death of the person who willed it to them, again if they are born alive.

Pregnant couple having sonogram.
GETTY IMAGES.

The mother’s rights over the fetus

One of the issues I’ve been reading about this week is on how America’s maternal mortality rate will increase now that Roe v Wade has been overturned.

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, America had the highest maternal mortality rate by more than double any other developed nation, including Canada.

Why Catholic Ireland eventually legalized abortion

There was a famous case in Ireland that, back in 2012, caused the mostly Catholic nation to legalize abortion. This involved Savita Halappanavar who was having a miscarriage at 17 weeks. Because there was a fetal heartbeat, she ended up dying of septicmia, basically blood poisoning caused by bacteria. Doctors in the U.S. point to Halappanavar’s death as an example of the legal and ethical challenges they now face, as how does one determine when abortions are “necessary to preserve the life” in a way that would not be scrutinized by anti-abortion laws.

Fatal birth complications

One doctor in Texas already says she is seeing more cases of sepsis or hemorrhaging after her state passed a heartbeat law in 2021.

NPR recently did a piece on how the heartbeat law caused a woman to receive delays in receiving medical care after a premature rupture of membranes.

And the New York Times did a story over the long weekend about how a woman, who is normally prolife, had to cross state lines for an abortion after her fetus developed a rare defect that threatened the mother’s life.

A scene in the NYT article that really illustrates the complexity of the situation is when the woman goes to the clinic for her abortion.

A protester yells: “Are all of you OK with killing babies?” And the woman’s mother explains to him that they are on his side, and that they don’t generally support abortions, but because of the defect the baby would die outside the womb.

The protestor responds with a question. “You trust doctors more than God?”

So, determining what the rights of the unborn child should be in relation to the mother’s health is a very complicated matter.

Could abortion be overturned in Canada?

Meanwhile, the overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States had some writers wondering if Canada is in danger of having the same happen here and what could be done to prevent this. To read more on this, The Conversation ran a piece earlier this month: Could a Roe v. Wade-style reversal of abortion rights happen in Canada? You can also check out the Toronto Star article Could abortion be criminalized in Canada? And the CBC looked at the fact Canada has no abortion right law. Does it need one?

Broken campaign promises?

The Tyee ran an article this week about how the federal Liberal party seems to have so far broken its 2021 campaign platform that promised to no longer provide charity status to anti-abortion organizations that provide dishonest counselling to women about the options available to them at all stages of pregnancy.


Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed

  1. Residents of Peguis First Nation face an impossible choice as they tackle yet another major flood
  2. Manitobans down in financial dumps: poll
  3. Manitoba signs agreement with Norway House Cree Nation on forestry development
  4. One-third of rural or northern ERs in Manitoba closed over the long weekend: Doctors Manitoba
  5. Bear Clan gets financial boost from province to help keep Winnipeg safety patrols operating

Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed

  1. Saskatchewan  wants more control over immigrant selection as hospitality jobs go unfilled
  2. The blue line gets thinner: Saskatchewan police services face recruitment challenge
  3. Exorcisms, violent discipline and other abuse alleged by former students of private Saskatchewan Christian school
  4. Saskatchewan NDP call for audit on ‘ballooned’ cost of social services software
  5. FSIN offers unspecified award if its employee writer Dawn Walker is not found after 48 hours

A section of the Boundary Bog Trail during autumn in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan.
Boundary Bog Trail in Waskesiu, a hamlet in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan. GETTY IMAGES.

Until next week…

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Thanks for reading, and kind regards,

Kelly-Anne Riess

Important work at a critical time.

Over the last 20 years, on the Prairies and beyond,  local newsrooms have shrunk, which means not much investigative journalism gets done in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Flatlander is changing this.

 

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