Women’s Rights

Women’s rights are the guarantee the human rights of women and girls, including their rights to equality and non-discrimination. Among other international agreements, Canada is obliged to meet the rights guaranteed by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Canada shows support for global reproductive rights, launches UNFPA State of World Population Report 

Ottawa, October 17, 2018 – To realize each person’s ability to exercise reproductive choice, countries must provide universal access to quality reproductive health care (including contraceptives), ensure better access to comprehensive sex-ed that is inclusive, be champions of gender equality, and adopt a human rights-based approach to health-related policies and programmes. These are among the conclusions of the 2018 State of World Population Report published today by the UNFPA, the sexual and reproductive health agency of the United Nations.

This year’s State of World Population Report focuses on the power of choice when it comes to reproductive rights.

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights and the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (CAPPD), in collaboration with Global Affairs Canada, are pleased to host the Canadian launch of the report in Ottawa.

This launch signals Canada’s increasing role as a global leader on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the face of concerted attempts to roll-back previously won advances on these issues at regional, national, and global levels.

“The Government of Canada has truly stepped up its efforts when it comes to sexual and reproductive health and rights. We see this as part of a trajectory towards sustained political and financial leadership on the most stigmatized and neglected health and rights issues. Namely safe abortion care, comprehensive sex-ed, and young people’s sexual health,” says Sandeep Prasad, Executive Director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

The launch is taking place in the lead up to the International Parliamentarians Conference of the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI), which was first hosted in Canada sixteen years ago. This conference will bring together more than 150 parliamentarians from around the world who champion sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The conference provides a strategic convening space for parliamentarians, who, as legislators, are critical in the fight to advance progressive laws and policies, eliminating discriminatory laws and policies, and advocating for increases to spending on critical sexual and reproductive health and rights issues – domestically and globally.

As part of Canada’s journey towards greater support for sexual and reproductive health and rights, the 2018 State of World Population Report and the IPCI Conference are opportunities to examine concepts of choice and reproductive rights domestically and globally.

“In Canada, realizing reproductive freedom requires equalizing access to abortion, including the abortion pill, cost-covered contraception, and quality sex-ed across all provinces and territories,” adds Prasad.

Action Canada is among the Canadian civil society organizations who are looking to Canada and all parliamentarians attending the upcoming conference to hold firm on their commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights and mobilize towards greater support for these issues as a community of champions.

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Media Contact
Ani Colekessian
[email protected]
613.241.4474 ext. 7

 

 

[Event] Empowering Women in Emergencies

Sexual and reproductive healthcare in emergencies saves lives – just like food, water and shelter. Activists, parliamentarians and humanitarian actors discuss best practices and remaining gaps for upholding the right to sexual and reproductive health information and services in humanitarian settings.

Annual Report 2016-2017

Whether it’s been campaigning for universal cost coverage of medical abortion, launching a cutting-edge resource for teaching sexuality education in schools, securing a major investment in global SRHR from the government Canada, offering thousands of people the health information they are looking for, or supporting sexual and reproductive rights defenders around the world to hold their governments accountable, we’ve been working tirelessly to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in Canada and globally.

Read our Annual Report to learn about the significant strides we made in 2016-2017 »

Having trouble reading the report? Click here to download in PDF

Thirty years after Morgentaler ruling on abortion rights, Canada ‘still dealing with the same issues’

Only one in six hospitals in Canada performs abortions and some provinces have no standalone abortion clinics at all. New Brunswick, meanwhile, continues to refuse to fund abortions at the province’s only clinic.

Source: Brett Bundale | Canadian Press | Toronto Star

It’s 1979. A 20-year-old student misses her period.

“I was in my third year of university. I used oral contraceptives but I got pregnant,” the woman, now in her late 50s, said in a recent interview from Montreal. “I hadn’t finished my degree. I wasn’t ready for a family.”

She avoided the French-language Catholic hospital where she lived in Moncton, N.B., and instead booked an appointment with a gynecologist at the city’s English-language hospital.

“If you were early enough, I heard he would perform an abortion. It’s where all the French girls went,” she says.

But there was a catch: she was told she had to be suicidal to obtain the procedure.

“I had to say I would kill myself. It had to be a life-or-death situation,” she recalls.

She declared herself mentally ill, but says now she felt lucky considering the difficulty some women had getting abortion services at the time.

“I was in a safe environment in a hospital. It wasn’t a back-alley office somewhere,” she says. “I didn’t die and I wasn’t left infertile.”

This January marks 30 years since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s abortion law as unconstitutional.

The Jan. 28, 1988, Morgentaler decision overturned a law that criminalized abortions unless a panel of doctors agreed a woman’s life or health was threatened by the pregnancy — likely the rule that compelled a Moncton gynecologist in the 1970s to require a woman to declare herself suicidal.

The country’s highest court found the criminal law violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ guarantee of life, liberty and security of the person.

“Bravo for the women of Canada!” Henry Morgentaler, doctor and abortion rights advocate, said outside the Supreme Court chambers. “Justice for the women of Canada has finally arrived!”

Three decades later, the landmark abortion ruling still stands as the country’s touchstone on abortion rights.

But the issue continues to be a source of polarizing debate, and voices on both sides have called for legislation: Anti-abortion groups want a criminal law banning or restricting abortion, while advocates of women’s right to choose say legislation is needed to improve abortion access and curb harassment against doctors and patients.

“Even though 30 years have passed since the abortion law was struck down in Canada, we unfortunately are still dealing with the same issues,” says Arlene Leibovitch, Morgentaler’s widow and owner of the Toronto and Ottawa Morgentaler clinics.

Anti-abortion groups rally outside abortion clinics, wielding graphic placards and intimidating doctors and patients, she says.

“The Morgentaler clinic in Ottawa has been subjected to some of the most vicious protesting in the province and women’s rights to privacy have been grossly compromised,” Leibovitch says. “It’s extremely stressful for both the staff and the patients to get basically attacked by a barrage of very vivid posters and signs and people yelling at them as they’re coming into the clinic.”

Ontario’s so-called bubble zone legislation — aimed at creating safe access zones outside abortion clinics — is expected to take effect soon. But she questions why it’s taken three decades for the province to act.

“How could this still be happening in this day and age when abortion has been legal for 30 years?”

The Supreme Court’s watershed 1988 decision made Canada one of a handful of countries without a law either restricting or ensuring access to abortion.

It’s a legislative void some anti-abortion politicians and advocates have tried hard to fill. They argue that the intention of the court was not to remove all limits on abortion, but rather to ensure those limits didn’t violate a pregnant woman’s right under the charter.

But attempts to re-criminalize abortion have failed.

As justice minister in Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government, Kim Campbell introduced a bill in the late 1980s that would have made abortion a criminal offence unless performed by a doctor who believed the health or life of the woman was threatened.

The bill, which replaced the opinion of a hospital committee with one physician, was approved by the House of Commons only to be defeated in the Senate following a tied vote in 1991.

Since then, successive federal governments have sidestepped attempts to criminalize abortion. Several private members’ bills have attempted, and failed, to make aspects of abortion illegal, including a bill to criminalize inducing an abortion after 20 weeks gestation and a bill to make it an offence to injure an unborn child while committing an offence against the mother.

Abortion rights advocate Joyce Arthur argues that granting legal rights to a fetus is a slippery slope that could lead to restricting the rights of pregnant women in the future.

“We need to make sure anti-choice (advocates) have no grounds to build on,” says Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. “Without any restrictions, they don’t have a framework to build on.”

In other countries, Arthur says criminal laws that make abortions illegal after certain gestational ages are used as a foothold by anti-abortion activists to try to further limit abortion access.

Yet abortion opponents argue the Supreme Court’s Morgentaler decision left the fetus unprotected.

“We literally are a lawless nation with respect to abortion,” says Jack Fonseca with Campaign Life Coalition, a group that opposes abortion. “A woman could legally abort her unborn child at any point before going into labour, right up to the moment of birth.”

The Toronto-based organization wants an outright ban on abortion with few exceptions.

Natalie Sonnen with LifeCanada, an anti-abortion group, says “any law at this point would be better than the current situation where abortion can be obtained throughout all nine months for any reason.”

But Joanna Erdman, Dalhousie University’s MacBain Chair in Health Law and Policy, says those claims are false.

“It’s really a red herring. It’s a total falsehood that someone just walks into a clinic in Canada and asks for a late-term abortion and gets it,” says Erdman, an associate professor at the university’s Schulich School of Law.

While there is no criminal law restricting abortion, she says it’s treated like any other medical procedure and is regulated by medical policies, codes of ethics and protocols.

“We have no unique criminal law provision on abortion because there are lots of laws that regulate abortion as a medical procedure,” Erdman says. “Suggesting that women are regularly accessing late abortions just doesn’t at all reflect the reality of abortion practice.”

In 2015, the Canadian Institute for Health Information recorded a total of 100,104 abortions across Canada in both clinics and hospitals.

Only hospitals, where about one-third of abortions are performed, report gestational age. About 2.5 per cent of abortions were induced at a gestation over 20 weeks, according to the federal agency’s figures.

However, Arthur says hospitals do the vast majority of late-term abortions. As most clinics only do abortions up to 12 or 16 weeks, she estimates just over 0.5 per cent of abortions are done after 20 weeks.

“In practice, almost all abortions over 20 weeks are done for lethal fetal abnormalities. The fetus is not viable and won’t survive after birth,” Arthur says. “A small minority are done for other compelling reasons, such as a girl abused by her stepfather.”

Erdman adds that for the most part, late-term abortions are “absolutely tragic cases of wanted pregnancies in which there is a diagnosis. It’s absolutely cruel to force a woman to carry a stillbirth to term and not have a way to intervene.”

Meanwhile, finding a physician who is trained and willing to perform late-stage abortions makes them largely inaccessible.

Lianne Yoshida, medical co-director of the Termination of Pregnancy Unit at the QEII Hospital in Halifax, says abortions later in pregnancy are limited for many reasons.

“The main one is surgical expertise. The procedure is more complicated and requires different equipment and skill set for the doctor to be able to do them safely,” she says.

The recurring anti-abortion stance that the lack of a criminal law will lead to women aborting a nine-month-old fetus is one Arthur calls “misogynistic and insulting.”

“It’s been refuted over and over again but they keep saying it,” she says. “It’s based on the assumption that women are so stupid and callous that they are going to have an abortion at nine months for any trivial reason and a doctors will do it. It’s nonsense and it’s infuriating, and it’s a form of hate speech against women and doctors.”

Arthur adds: “We’ve had no restrictions on abortion for 29 years so that itself is proof we don’t need any.”

Early in his career, Morgentaler turned women seeking abortions away. It was illegal, and he didn’t want to break the law.

But it gnawed at his conscience, Leibovitch says, and in 1969 he opened his first abortion clinic.

“For Henry, the fact that women were dying was wrong and unnecessary. It’s a very simple procedure,” she says, noting that abortions up to 12 weeks take about two to three minutes.

Morgentaler was repeatedly arrested and thrown in jail for performing abortions. But juries repeatedly acquitted him, refusing to enforce a law perceived to be unjust.

Even after the landmark 1988 ruling, Morgentaler continued to advocate for abortion funding and access across the country despite death threats and the bombing of his Toronto clinic.

“Young people today have a hard time understanding how incredibly hard the fight was to achieve the rights that they have,” Leibovitch says. “Women were trying to self-induce abortions from unqualified doctors with devastating results. They were often subjected to perforation and a lot of them bled out or ended up with massive infections unable to have children in the future.”

While access to abortion has improved significantly since the Morgentaler decision, women in rural areas are often forced to travel some distance for the service.

“I think access has absolutely made huge strides but there are still barriers,” says Sarah Hobbs Blyth, executive director of Planned Parenthood Toronto.

Only one in six hospitals in Canada performs abortions and some provinces have no standalone abortion clinics at all. New Brunswick, meanwhile, continues to refuse to fund abortions at the province’s only clinic.

“We have had a significant and long-standing lack of leadership within executive branches of government to actually make access to abortion a barrier-free reality,” says Sandeep Prasad, an Ottawa-based lawyer and activist with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.

For example, Mifegymiso, the two-step abortion pill, became available in France and China in 1988 — the same year Canada decriminalized abortion.

Health Canada didn’t approve Mifegymiso until July 2015, and barriers still remain to its use — it can only be prescribed up to nine weeks, and can be subject to a requirement for an ultrasound.

“It’s been available for 30 years and it’s just reaching the Canadian market now,” Prasad says, noting that while an ultrasound is recommended, there are other safe methods to rule out ectopic pregnancy and confirm gestational age.

“In many areas of sexual reproductive rights, we have a long way to go as a country.”

It’s been almost 30 years since that cold January day when the country’s highest court struck down the criminal law against abortion.

While there continues to be opposition to abortion, multiple polls in recent years suggest Canadian attitudes have shifted towards a woman’s right to choose.

Leibovitch credits much of the progress in the area of women’s reproductive rights to Morgentaler, who passed away in 2013.

“Henry Morgentaler was an extremely brave and courageous man who fought for what he believed in and for the rights of the people of Canada,” she says.

“He suffered through the Holocaust, lost almost his entire family, pursued a medical degree despite anti-Semitic climates that were still ongoing in Europe and he arrived in this country as an immigrant and struggled for decades so others could have rights.”

This holiday season, will you be the change?

We’re at a defining moment for reproductive rights in Canada. And you are an important part of history in the making.

The progress made through the campaign for better access to Mifegymiso (the abortion pill) has put issues of abortion access back into public discourse and continues to create major opportunities to address historical inequalities. Action Canada is taking a leadership role through the campaign and our influence among decision-makers is growing. Will you join us?

Right now what lies before the leaders of this country is a choice. It’s a choice between whether Canada is going to resolve the long-standing barriers to access in our country or accept the status quo. If things don’t change, abortion will remain largely a privilege for folks in urban centres close the US border.

Mifegymiso has the potential to change all this. It holds the promise of access to abortion within every community – urban, rural or remote.

We’re getting closer. But we have a long way to go! Provinces have signed on to provide cost coverage of Mifegymiso, but the rollout has been uninspiring at best,  despite government pledges and commitments.

Will you help? Every dollar is a step forward.

As a supporter your help goes both “upstream” to address the barriers standing  in the way and “downstream” to support the very people who face challenges in accessing services, stigma-free support, and objective fact-based information.

Now is not the time to rest! Every day we here about anti-choice
politicians in the media, provinces staying silent on abortion
access, and myths about abortion and contraception.

Policy shifts in the US are being felt around the world with funding losses and legal changes that eliminate women and trans people’s right to choose.

After 30+ years we are closer than ever to abortion being a readily available medical service without stigma, where people have full autonomy (fully have the right to choose what happens to them and their body). Bodily autonomy is central to human rights work. And human rights are central to the work we do.

On Action Canada’s Access Line, we hear from countless folks, mostly younger or lower income women, who are seeking access to abortion and cannot find these services in their own communities. They are forced to travel sometimes hundreds of kilometers, often having to raise the travel funds themselves from family and friends, while negotiating the multiple barriers or gatekeepers in the way of access to services that are fundamental to rights!

Our Emergency Fund helps people in Canada access abortion, people who otherwise wouldn’t have access despite almost 30 years since the Morgentaler decision! There is so much demand that each year the fund is still drawn down to $0.

We need your support to be able to offer access *right now* and we need your support to continue the fight to make barriers obsolete.

Thirty years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that the abortion provision in the Criminal Code violated people’s rights. Strong advocates across the country rallied together to remove senseless barriers, advocates that have been working on this issue for 30+ years!

Action Canada carries this rich history in the work of our predecessor organizations who saw sexual and reproductive rights advocacy through crucial times in the past: Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL), Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada (PPFC), Canadians for Choice (CFC), Canadian Federation for Sexual Health (CFSH), and Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD). We remain committed to their vision and are grounded by the real stories of real people who come to us daily.

The path to change has been shaped by the courage and determination of activists, health care advocates and feminists. We keep rising to the ongoing challenge, adding our own energy and expertise. We want Canada to be a leader in sexual and reproductive health and rights and Action Canada brings lifetimes of expertise as well as a network of dedicated supporters, experts, and advocates to the table.

This year, you have been a part of the tidal wave of support that led to real changes in the landscape of access in Canada. You have helped push Health Canada to drop the unnecessary regulations that were curbing access to the drug. Together we rallied activists, politicians and the medical community, wrote letters, got petitions into the House of Commons, navigated the lack of national pharmacare and shot for the stars by advocating for universal cost coverage for the abortion pill. We leveraged expertise on sexual health and rights across the country, engaged our elected officials at ministerial meetings and made sure the media and the public were kept informed! We worked “upstream” and “downstream” at the same time for #RealAccessNow!

We are building on the momentum in the fight for reproductive health and rights! And your support is urgently needed! Your gifts help us continue to knock down barriers that stand in the way of access to services and information people need to make decisions that are the right for them. It helps fight the “downstream” barriers people face in real time every day, like being unable to pay for a train ticket, and the “upstream” that exist today, like holding provinces accountable to their promises for increased access and choice.

Canada’s provinces have made promises to make access more equitable. Canada’s international assistance policy has declared itself feminist. After years of education, advocacy, and public health research the picture upstream is changing but the promise of choice, autonomy, and access will take real work to be felt downstream.

This next year we need to keep up with the effort! With your help we can see this year’s promises realized.

Our campaigning work needs support so that we can push the hold-out provinces and territories to commit to universal cost coverage of the gold standard of medical abortion (as other jurisdictions have done). We need to work to ensure that doctors and nurse practitioners are supported to start prescribing Mifegymiso and that midwives are empowered too. Without such support, we will fall short of realizing rural and remote access and a vision where abortion is available in all communities across Canada.

What else are we doing to keep up the pressure for #RealAccessNow? With your support, we can replicate the win in Ontario with Bubble Zone legislation across the country to ensure that new and existing abortion providers are protected as they provide abortion care. And we can ensure all people, including federal patients and uninsured folks, have access to the care they need.

You can take additional action to help build the national sexual and reproductive health and rights movement today. 

Because he believes in our work, a generous donor is matching every new dollar donated until the end of the year by three! That means, your dollar has the power of $4. Please share our Facebook and Twitter posts about the donor match with people who, like you, believe that all people should be able to make choices about their bodies that are right for them!

When I last spoke to him about the donation, here’s what he said:

For years I’ve been haunted by the “upstream story,” famous in public health circles and credited to Irving Zola. He tells the story of a person who sees and rescues a series of drowning people caught in a river current. Finally, the individual goes upstream to investigate why so many people are falling into the river in the first place, but in the process, people continue to drown. Action Canada works “upstream” and “downstream” by providing direct support through the Access Line and emergency funds for people with lower income who have to travel in order to access the care they need, by helping resource professionals with stigma-free and factual information, and by shaping policy and systems to address deep systemic challenges in sexuality and reproduction. From the global to the local, change is needed. Advocates and health professionals around the world are making ground through a sexual and reproductive health and rights movement that we can be a part of.

Will you join him in supporting this vital work? Please give what you can today.

As we near the 30th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision it is time to ensure the right to choose is truly available to all, regardless of income tax bracket or postal code.

 

New UN report on world’s population connects reproductive health to inequality

Source: Karl Nerenberg | Rabble

On December 6 we remember women who were victims of violence, because on that day, 28 years ago, a killer with a gun singled out and murdered 14 women who had the effrontery to study engineering, math and science. This year, on that same day, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) came out with a new report which reminds us that violence against women does not flow solely from the barrel of a gun.

The UNFPA’s State of World Population for 2017 paints a picture in which poverty and gender inequality are intertwined, each contributing to the other.

“Inequalities in sexual and reproductive health correlate with economic inequality,” the report states. The poorest women “have least access to services essential for exercising their rights to prevent pregnancy, stay healthy during pregnancy and deliver safely.”

Gender inequality and related inequalities in sexual and reproductive health rights do not explain the “totality of inequality in the world today,” the report admits, but then adds, “both are essential pieces that demand much more action.”

Many government officials and their corporate allies in the affluent West pay solemn lip service to the United Nations, with its sustainable development goals, and its demands on multinational businesses to show respect for — to cite one example — traditional occupants of arable land in developing countries.

Privately, however, they will tell you that the UN tends to go too far. It is too demanding of the private sector and the West, in general, they complain, and is simply not realistic and practical.

Those folks will not like the blunt statement with which the UNFPA opens its latest report.  It says that the “combined wealth of the world’s 2,473 billionaires… exceeds $7.7 trillion.” And in case that number is too abstract, the UNFPA provides this comparison. Fewer than 3,000 billionaires own and control resources that are “equivalent to the combined gross domestic product of a four-fifths of the world’s countries.”

The UNFPA report adds: “While some privileged households budget for billions, many hundreds of millions of families barely scrape by on less than $1.25 a day.”

The report’s main focus, however, is on women’s reproductive rights, throughout the worlds. For much of humanity, those rights are more honoured in the breach than the observance. As the UNFPA reports:

“A poor woman with little education in a rural area is likely to have few options for preventing pregnancies, staying healthy during pregnancy or delivering with the assistance of a skilled birth attendant. And, in seeking to exercise her reproductive rights, she may face social and institutional obstacles that her affluent, educated and urban counterpart may never encounter or may easily overcome.”

The report then ties gender to economic facts on the ground:

“Inequalities in sexual and reproductive health correlate with economic inequality. Within most developing countries today, access to critical sexual and reproductive health care is generally lowest among the poorest 20 per cent of households and highest among the richest 20 per cent.”

The report does recognize that “many developing countries have improved their capacity to provide modern contraception for women seeking to avoid or delay pregnancy and to reduce wealth-based inequality in satisfying this demand.”

It provides detailed tables showing the relationship of wealth and geography with the availability of contraception and other reproductive health services. And it does not focus exclusively on the developing world. In rich countries, too, access to sexual and reproductive health services is related to income. Women in the bottom 20 per cent economically have the least access to those services.

The biggest success stories in the UNFPA’s 2017 report are Lesotho in southern and Rwanda in central Africa.

“The two countries,” the UNFPA reports, “made the most progress over about a 10-year period in reducing inequality in meeting the demand for modern methods of contraception across wealth groups and in increasing coverage of modern methods of contraception.”

Today, about 70 per cent of women, of all social classes, in those countries have access to modern methods of contraception.

There is much more in this thorough report. It is worth examining in detail. In the end, though, the report’s insistence on putting gender and reproductive rights into the broader context of global inequality is what is more striking.

UN report highlights link between reproductive health, global inequality

Click here to watch interview with UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem on CTV News

Source: CTV News

Investing in sexual and reproductive health services is key to global development and prosperity.

That is the message the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund is bringing to Canada as she meets with International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau on Wednesday.

Dr. Natalia Kanem and Bibeau will discuss the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNPF) latest major report, titled Worlds Apart, which looks at inequality and the state of reproductive rights around the globe.

The report, released in October, warns that failing to protect the rights of the poorest women around the world “could undermine peace and world’s development goals.”

Millions of women lack the ability to access sexual health services and make their own decisions about how many children they will have and when they will have them. That prevents girls and women from getting a proper education and seeking jobs outside the home, which contributes to financial inequality in many countries, the report says.

“Even in countries that are better off, there is inequality,” Dr. Kanem told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday.  “The gap between the rich and the poor is growing.”

Dr. Kanem said the Worlds Apart report is “pathbreaking” because it shows a direct link between women’s reproductive health and global development. She commended Canada for contributing to global humanitarian efforts that focus on the empowerment of girls and women, and said countries like Canada need to continue to invest in reproductive health rights, and especially in the education of young girls.

“Information can be life-saving for a young girl. Many girls get pregnant without having a clue.”

The UNPF report makes a number of recommendations “for a more equal world.” They include abolishing discriminatory laws that prevent girls and women from accessing sexual health services, bolstering childcare options so that women can enter the workforce, and eliminating girls’ obstacles to getting a secondary and higher education.

Globally, women earn 77 per cent of what men earn, while in Canada, women earn 87 per cent of what men earn, according to the report.

“Inequality remains a barrier to women and girls accessing comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive health services, and family planning and contraceptives” Bibeau said in a news release ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

“Partners like the UNFPA continue to play a vital role in removing barriers and addressing the gap while providing critical sexual and reproductive health services.”

This #GivingTuesday will you support the right to choose?

Fighting for the right to choose what happens to our own bodies, for stigma-free fact based information, and for health systems that empower and support individuals! We answer daily calls on the Access Line, help women and trans folk access our Emergency Travel Fund, are prepping for Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Week in Feb, planning with the United Nations Population Fund for the State of World Population report launch and UN Under-Secretary-General visit next week, and promoting Beyond the Basics – a resource that helps teachers teach sex-ed! We’ve been busy! Join us in advancing human rights and equity in sexual and reproductive health and rights today. Until the end of the year each new donor dollar will be matched by three more, meaning your $1 has the power of $4! Click the video above to learn more about the intersections of sexual and reproductive health and rights. Sexual health and rights are human rights!

Click here to donate today!

Striving towards equal rights for all. Not just some.

Action Canada’s Meghan Doherty lends her voice to CBC Canada 2017 to talk about sexual and reproductive rights and striving towards equal rights for all. Not just some.

Reevely: Ontario to forbid anti-abortion protests near clinics, homes of providers

Source: Ottawa Citizen | David Reevely

Ontario will ban anti-abortion protests near clinics that provide abortions, near pharmacies that dispense pregnancy-ending pills and near the homes of people who work in any of those places, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced Wednesday.

“They will just have to call the police and the police will take care of the rest,” Naqvi said at a clinic specializing in women’s health in Toronto.

He was moved to act after complaints that regular protests outside The Morgentaler Clinic on Bank Street, Ottawa’s one standalone abortion clinic, had escalated into outright harassment and a woman’s being spit on.

“Patients have a right to access abortion services with their privacy maintained,” Naqvi said.

The law, if the legislature passes it, will create automatic 50-metre “bubble zones” around Ontario’s eight standalone abortion clinics where protests will be forbidden; the government will have the power to shrink the zones or expand them to 150 metres by ministerial order.

A 50-metre zone around Ottawa’s clinic would cover the sidewalks on its block, on both sides of Bank Street, and extend a little past the intersections at each end. A 150-metre bubble would go from Wellington Street in the north to Albert Street in the south.

Other places that offer abortions as part of a broader range of services, including hospitals, individual doctors offices and pharmacies that dispense abortion pills, will be added to the list if they ask, Naqvi said. The homes of people who work in such places will automatically have 150-metre bubble zones around them, and the law will forbid harassing abortion doctors or their staff over their work anywhere in the province.

People who violate the new law, once it’s passed, will risk fines of $5,000 and six months in jail for first offences.

“Women will not be intimidated. Women will not be harassed. Women will not be bullied when trying to gain access to abortion services,” promised Indira Naidoo-Harris, Ontario’s minister for the status of women, sharing the lectern with Naqvi.

Naqvi’s legislation is similar to existing laws in British Columbia (which has had one for 20 years) and Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador (which each passed their own versions last year). The B.C. law has been through multiple court challenges and survived them all.

Some Ontario abortion clinics have bubble zones already, laid on by court injunctions against ferocious anti-abortion protests in the early 1990s. They only cover clinics that were open then, though — and Ottawa’s wasn’t. Naqvi’s law will make the zones automatic wherever an abortion clinic happens to be, and wherever abortion providers happen to live.

“I know some people will not agree with our approach, but that cannot and will not diminish our resolve,” he said. “Because I believe that policies like this are more important now than ever. In an increasingly polarized society, it is critical that we protect a woman’s right to choose.”

Indeed, anti-abortion group We Need a Law answered with a complaint that the restrictions Naqvi plans will be unconstitutional. Abortion isn’t a right, researcher Anna Nienhuis said. Governments could restrict it. Unlike free expression, which is a constitutional right.

“I find it ignorant for the attorney general of Ontario to suggest that abortion is a right. He should know better, and he has definitely crossed a line by suggesting that this fabricated right can undermine fundamental freedoms,” she argued.

On the flip side, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, an Ottawa-based pro-choice group descended from the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League that fought for legal abortion in the first place, is thrilled.

“Supporting reproductive rights requires governments to recognize the intersecting barriers individuals face when trying to access health care,” executive director Sandeep Prasad said. “There is ample evidence that anti-choice harassment and intimidation is a huge problem throughout the country and that access-zone legislation works to protect patients, practitioners and their staff.”

The Liberals shouldn’t expect too much trouble getting the legislation through, even in the supercrowded schedule they’ve given themselves in the lead-up to the next election. Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown fired out a supportive statement before Naqvi had even spoken.

“Let me be very clear: I am pro-choice. That includes protecting women exercising their rights from intimidation or harassment,” the statement says.

Brown, who had a sterling anti-abortion voting record as a federal Conservative member of Parliament, accused the Liberals of trying to bait him into talking about social issues instead of “creating good jobs, relief for beleaguered middle-class families, and closing the door on waste and corruption.”

Only Premier Kathleen Wynne wants a divisive argument about abortion, Brown said.

It’s probably a bit of both. No doubt the Liberals would be happy to talk about abortion rights instead of, say, electricity prices. Such things are a much bigger problem for the Tories’ fractious coalition of Bay Street types, libertarians and social conservatives than they are for either the Liberals or New Democrats. But the complaints from Ottawa’s Morgentaler Clinic went on for weeks before Naqvi promised to do anything — his staff initially pooh-poohed the notion that a new law was needed, in fact.

Wednesday, Naqvi seemed on the verge of tears as he told the story of the woman who was spat on as she went to the clinic.

“As soon as I learned, in my own community that a woman was spat on for just simply going to get health-care service,” he began, and then paused. “Action was needed. And we worked as hard as we could to get this legislation here …

“That is our No. 1 job, is to protect people. To protect people’s rights. That’s my No. 1 job as the attorney general, and there’s nothing more important to my colleague and I,” he said, indicating Naidoo-Harris next to him, “to our premier and our government, (than) to protect women’s right to choose.”

And yet Naqvi couldn’t resist a counterpunch to Brown’s line that the Liberals want a divisive abortion debate, when a reporter put it to him.

“Let me be very clear. Ensuring women’s safety is not a divisive issue,” he said. “It may be a divisive issue in the conservative caucus, but you can ask any of these advocates, that unfortunately women are being harassed, are being intimidated, are being threatened, just to exercise their right to access health-care services.”