True Colors

Pink ribbon turns brown:

Komen breast cancer charity severs ties with Planned Parenthood

Susan G. Komen for the Cure says it will stop funding Planned Parenthood centers. Many suspect the move is a result of political pressure by antiabortion activists.

 It may be a bit more complicated.  The foundation may have recently added a very silly stipulation; namely, that it won’t support anything under government investigation.  The question, then, turns back to why they made their funding so susceptible to governmental whims:

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leader in fundraising for breast cancer research and famous worldwide for its iconic pink ribbon, said Tuesday that it was halting all partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates because of recently adopted criteria that forbid it from funding any organization under government investigation.

In September, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) launched an inquiry to determine whether Planned Parenthood uses public money to fund abortions. Planned Parenthood receives federal money but cannot use it to provide abortions.


Choosing Abortion and Sex Selection: Two Different Moral Problems

Calling Canada a “haven” for sex-selective abortions, a recent editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) ““It’s a girl!”— could be a death sentence” recommended withholding information about the sex of the fetus from pregnant women until 30 weeks, to prevent the problem of sex-selective abortion. Sex selective abortion (which almost always means terminating a pregnancy because the fetus is female) has become a common practice in many Asian countries and it’s finding root in Canada with new immigrants, says the CMAJ editorial.

This has some Canadians worried. An Angus-Reid poll says that of Canadians asked 60% think “there should be laws which outline whether a woman can have an abortion based solely on the gender of the fetus.” There are currently no legal obstacles to abortion in Canada—though access for some women may be limited by such factors as geography. There are two different approaches to this question. One is to limit access to information on which the choice is made, i.e. don’t tell people whether the fetus is male or female as the CMAJ recommends. The other is to limit access to abortion if one believes it’s being done for reasons of sex selection. The first option would be hard to enforce given Canada’s proximity to the United States where such information is easy to obtain for a price. The second option strikes me as intrusive and dangerous.
What surprised me though was the hand wringing among my feminist friends who wondered whether abortion ought to be forbidden if the abortion was being undertaken in order prevent the birth of a female baby. As much as I worry about the undervaluing of female life, I didn’t find myself hemming and hawing at all. I was easily prepared to stick to my preference for a policy of unrestricted access. I found myself prepared to defend the meta-principle (preserving women’s choices) even when the exercise of that choice resulted in actions that I think set back women’s interests.

I realized too that I do this all the time. Lots of things women do individually are bad for women as a group (and sometimes bad for themselves individually) and yet I think restricting the freedom to choose isn’t the right answer. As feminists we want to change the context in which those choices are made and in this case that means making it less likely that will couples will value male children more than female children. In fact, denying women the freedom to choose seems to me to perpetuate beliefs about women’s lives being less important and less valuable than those of men.

In a thought provoking Globe and Mail commentary, Why care less about the disabled fetus?, Roxanne Mykitiuk compares sex selective abortion with the common practice of aborting fetuses with disabilities. What makes the two cases any different, she asks. In the case of sex selection Mykitiuk puts the question this way: “Do we, as Dr. Kale suggests, ban the disclosure of information about sex until after 30 weeks, or do we implement policies and educational strategies targeting the sexist thinking (daughters are a burden, daughters cost too much) and practices (dowry, celebration of only the birth of boys, passing down the family name only through boys) underlying sex selection?”

My strong preference is for the latter approach.

Reader query: advice on discussing FGM?

I run a discussion group at my University called ‘Just A Thought’. Just A Thought brings committed dialogue and debate to issue concerning women’s justice. For our next session we are going to be talking about the topic of Female Genital Mutilation. I am writing to you to ask for your advice on how to lead the session/discussion on this topic. What themes do you suggest discussing? What philosophical/moral/political questions should I use as the foundation of the discussion and do you have any readings, documentaries, films you would recommend to assist in our understanding of the topic.

New Canadian regulations threaten transgendered travelers

Transport Canada airline identity screening regulations came into effect in August 2011 that include the following.

“An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if . . . the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”

To date no one has been refused travel because of the regulations. Transport Canada says this is because medical documentation would address the new rule.

“If, for medical reasons, a passenger’s facial features do not correspond to the photo on his or her identification, the air carrier may authorize the passenger to board a plane if he or she provides a medical certificate relating to this,” says Transport Canada spokesman Patrick Charette.

But not all trans identified travelers have medical documentation, not all transgendered persons have involved the medical community in their transition, and not all transgendered persons feel that they should be required to share confidential medical information.

You can read more here:

Chris Milloy’s blog,
Toronto Star–transgendered-people-outraged-over-canada-s-identification-rules-for-air-travel?bn=1
Huffington Post

In the US Pregnant Women Vulnerable to Firing

I was shocked to read that because of a gap between laws protecting persons with disabilities and laws protecting women against discrimination, American women often don’t have legal protection against being fired because they’re pregnant.

According to the NYT, “the Americans With Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees (including most employees with medical complications arising from pregnancies) who need them to do their jobs. But because pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, employers are not obligated to accommodate most pregnant workers in any way. As a result, thousands of pregnant women are pushed out of jobs that they are perfectly capable of performing — either put on unpaid leave or simply fired — when they request an accommodation to help maintain a healthy pregnancy.”

You can read more here.