Monday, October 1, 2007

Waiting On Choice

Just a quick note to point you all in the direction of an article today in the Globe and Mail on abortion wait times in Ottawa.

The interesting thing that arises from this article, for me, is the lack of attention given to either side of the debate; it just isn't talked about anymore. Does this mean that abortion is any more 'acceptable' than it was in 1988? I don't think so, no. I do think, however, that the lack of attention is actually a way of counteracting the positive gains made by pro-choice groups to make safe and legal abortions a reality for all women.

The main problem in Ottawa is money and time - specifically, operating room time. Doctors are willing to perform abortions, but the OR schedule is packed and there aren't enough nurses and anesthetists to go around.

The push to reduce wait times overall has actually made things worse, experts say, because the province's priority areas, such as joint replacement and eye surgery, take operating room time away from everything else, including abortion.

"The Ontario government has begun extra funding [for those priorities] but there aren't any more nurses or anesthetists, so that means other things have to be decreased," says the Ottawa abortion provider.

For example, she says, the hospital has cancelled six abortion clinic days per year - which adds up to about 120 abortions - to give more operating room time to orthopedics.

"It's insane that no more funds are given by the provincial government for abortion services," Ms. LaRue says.

The provincial government pointed the finger at local health authorities, noting that overall funding has increased for both the Ottawa Hospital and the Morgentaler clinic in recent years.

The abortion wait time is a local problem, a health ministry spokesman said.

"We do not track wait times for abortions," said A.G. Klei, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Health.

I find it distressing that as funding for other surgical procedures increases nothing is done by the government to counterbalance the resources which are siphoned off from other surgical domains. This applies to surgeries other than abortion. However, that a hospital should need to offload its extra procedures to an already overloaded private clinic does not bode well for the state of abortion funding in Canada.

One rare thing activists on both side of the issue agree on: The Canadian public doesn't think much about abortion any more.

Anti-abortion activists decry the lack of attention to their issues. "Why aren't we looking for a way to support these women and help them in their pregnancies?" asks Joanne Byfield, president of LifeCanada.

Pro-choice supporters, meanwhile, say they're struggling to lessen the stigma of abortion and bring access issues to light. "I have not figured out how to say this so people grasp what is happening and how unfair it is," Ms. Wright says.

For now, abortion wait time is an issue that's confined to the shadows.

Women who need abortions are reluctant to speak out publicly, and few people are willing to stand up for a silent, stigmatized constituency.

"They know women will never complain," Ms. Wright says. "Not about this."



As this journalist observes those who need abortions are not in a place of rhetorical power--indeed they are a marginalized "constituency."
Abortion is one of those things that we cannot wait on; it must be talked about--regardless of your ideological opinions on the issue, ignoring it isn't safe for anyone...

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