Research Topic: Abortion
Research Question: How does the power of the patriarchy in Canadian society inhibit women from safely getting an abortion?
Definition of abortion as a social issue and how it impacts Canadian society:
There has been a continuous uphill battle in recent centuries for women to gain autonomy over their decisions and bodies in an ever-present patriarchal society – for example, only in recent decades have women been allowed to divorce their husbands without having to provide an abundance of evidence as to why they should be granted one. This battle continues to permeate throughout Canadian society as women try to take the reigns from men in regards to the traditional control over their over-commodified sexual and reproductive capacities – especially in terms of abortion. Although abortion is fully legal in Canada and has been legally classified as an essential medical procedure, many social barriers still exist that prevent women from exercising their fundamental right to get one (Shaw 2013). While there are no longer any legal barriers that prevent women from accessing safe abortions, a consistent devaluation of women and their rights is still perpetuated throughout Canadian society. Abortion has been a controversial social issue for decades – those against it view it as the murdering of a baby, while those for it view it as the termination of a fetus and a fundamental right that allows women to have control over their reproductive systems. Many Canadians far and abroad are either against the idea of abortion due to moral and religious purposes, or they simply do not think this issue is important enough to propose some changes to rules and regulations that further make it an accessible and affordable medical procedure to all. This is a prime example of how the patriarchy is still widely in control over the society we live in today as it is mostly men who are major influencers in positions of power, and thus their misogynistic views still permeate throughout Western society, of which prevent women from becoming fully autonomous in their decisions and pursuance of opportunities. While the government has legally acknowledged that every woman should have the right to an abortion, there are still mass amounts of people who disprove of or simply do not care about this notion because it only impacts women. There are still numerous social barriers rooted in misogynistic rhetoric that still exist in Canadian society of which reinforce patriarchal values and overall inhibit women from exercising their fundamental rights.
The attempt to socially control women’s reproductive rights and expression of sexuality has been a relevant social issue for centuries – it is a key element in the patriarchal control over the rest of society. Women’s reproductive and sexual capacities have been sites of commodifcation by men since the dawn of civilization and have always been used as tools to successfully claim women as the sexual property of men (Chesney-Lind and Hadi 2017). Whether this commodification of female sexuality is through the over-sexualization of women, which results in them being viewed as objects used to fulfill men’s sexual fantasies, or through the shaming of women for actually expressing their sexualities, men have consistently and successfully perpetuated the rhetoric throughout society that the degree of freedom to which a woman may express her sexual and reproductive desires is ultimately in the control of men. For centuries women only had access to social class via their fathers and husbands, and as such they were expected to carry themselves as “respectable women” who engage in no forms of sexual “deviance” – which means that they needed to adhere to all perceived norms regarding their sexual and reproductive capacities as their duty of being a man’s “property” (Chesney-Lind and Hadi 2017). As stated in the article Patriarchy, Abortion, and the Criminal System: Policing Female Bodies, “It is through the man that women have access to or are denied access to the means of production and to resources. It is through their sexual behavior that they gain access to class” (Chesney-Lind and Hadi 2017). Men have therefore consistently demonized the concept of abortion throughout history as they view it as the ultimate insult to their inherent masculinity; this is because for centuries women’s bodies were seen as the property of men and their ability to reproduce was only valued in the sense that they were able to continue a man’s bloodline. Thus, men have traditionally used shaming as a tactic to keep women’s desires of becoming “deviant” in their pursuance of sexual and reproductive autonomy at bay, so that their own masculinity is not threatened. The establishment of this ultra-patriarchal sentiment continues to permeate throughout modern Canadian society, as men have traditionally been in positions of power throughout history and have thus continuously reiterated these ideas throughout our social and legal policies. Anti-abortion groups and healthcare professionals continue to perpetuate this patriarchal rhetoric in contemporary Canadian society, who were raised to believe that abortion is morally wrong and thus must be abolished; the perpetuation of this sentiment ultimately works in favor of the ever-reigning patriarchy. The anti-abortion sentiment in contemporary Canadian society consists of myths about the safety of abortions and their lasting impact on women. Through the continuous spreading of falsehoods and refusal to provide information about abortions by anti-abortion healthcare professionals and groups, the abortion stigma is perpetuated which thus causes women to be misinformed about the care that’s available to them and to overall feel shamed about taking control of their own destiny (Shaw 2013). The anti-abortion sentiment in Canada has an innate anti-woman tone to it that dismisses a woman’s autonomy to make her own decisions regarding her sexuality and reproductive capacity, which overall reinforces the long-term interests of the patriarchy (Gordon and Saurette 2016).
Canadian provinces disproportionately disperse abortion clinics across the nation, putting most in urban cities, and thus leaving women that live in rural areas without access to adequate abortion centers. Women that live in these areas are forced to travel far for this procedure, and some may not have the means to do so – thus leaving them at a huge disadvantage and stripping them of their autonomy and legal right to safely access an abortion. However, women that live in urban areas have access to numerous abortion services located at a variety of clinics and hospitals (Sethna 2012). The Canadian government is fairly sloppy in the way that they handle the dispersion of abortion clinics across the nation – it seems as though they only care to put abortion clinics near urban centers of which will garner the highest amount of revenue; it is assumed that abortion clinics in rural areas would make less money and would garner less activity, and thus women that live in these areas are highly disadvantaged. The government is perpetuating an extremely unfair system in which only those that are geographically and economically advantaged are able to safely access abortions – despite it being classified as an essential medical procedure decades ago. This causes women to be systematically stripped of their fundamental right to have control of their own bodies and more specifically, their reproductive systems. While the Canadian government did make a highly beneficial leap by legalizing abortion, they still have many barriers in place that bar women from actually being able to exercise their rights – the government is choosing to value economic prosperity and geographic convenience over the autonomy and freedom of their female citizens. The Canadian government is perpetuating the misogynistic ideals of the patriarchy by simply allowing for its regulations to be so lapsed that the rights of countless female citizens are consistently devalued. The government’s lack of dispersion of abortion clinics promotes the message that because abortion is a medical procedure that is exclusively accessed by females, it is not important as all other essential medical procedures that affect both sexes and thus may only be accessible in places that the government deems convenient to their economic agenda.
Whether one is pro-choice or pro-life, most people in Canadian society do consider abortion to be a prevalent social problem that impacts people negatively. Both sides explain themselves with passionate vigor as their conceptualizations of this issue are deeply rooted in their value systems and emotions – majority of Canadians are on one side or another. People are so passionate about this issue as they believe that it is a defining characteristic of society’s value of human life, as well as quality of life. However, it is very few people that realize that the actual pressing problem behind the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate is the fact that the entire issue is rooted in patriarchal dominance over female autonomy. The debate should not be about whether or not abortion should be considered ethical, but about whether or not extraordinary measures should be taken in order to stop the commodification and control of female sexuality and reproduction by the rest of society. As Western society has progressed immensely in regards to the granting of equal rights for both women and men, there has been a somewhat sense of false consciousness bestowed upon most of society – because we have came so far in terms of equalizing rights over the past century, people think that the problem is solved and that there’s nothing left to fight for. However in actuality, most parts of our social and legal systems are still rooted in traditional patriarchal values and ultimately work against female autonomy and rights truly progressing to a point where they are equal with men’s – a fact that men will continue to attempt to hide as they dominate majority of the powerful positions in our society, thus continuing to further the patriarchal agenda.
Critical Analysis of Abortion from a Marxist Feminist’s Perspective:
I will be using Karl Marx’s theology to explain the social issue of how the patriarchal power in Canadian society inhibits women’s abilities to access safe abortions. Just as Marx explains the power of the bourgeoisie and how they exploit the proletariat, I will analyze the immense power that men have had over women for centuries in society and why this power imbalance results in women being exploited and ultimately stripped of their autonomy. Historically, it has been mostly men that have made up the bourgeoisie group in society, and since they have no issues exploiting the people that work for them, it makes sense to me as to why they would have no problem exploiting women, with whom they have for centuries seen as inferior and undeserving of the same level of autonomy. I will discuss how women’s sexuality and reproductive rights have consistently been a site of commodification by the most powerful people in society (men). Specifically, I will analyze my issue from a Marxist feminist perspective, which combines Marx’s theories with feminist ideology; this perspective claims that all women should have total control over their bodies and decisions. I think this perspective directly reiterates my analysis of why the immense patriarchal power in contemporary Canadian society inhibits women from pursuing goals and opportunities, as well as making decisions in regards to their own bodies.
The concept of anti-abortion sentiment has been used as a tool by men for decades in order to keep women at bay and protect the ongoing success of the patriarchy in a capitalist Canadian society. Men are aware of the fact that if a woman is pregnant, her ability and freedom to adequately work and pursue jobs will be inhibited, thus increasing their own positions of power by eliminating competition. If women are able to get abortions, this somewhat levels out the playing field for men and women and thus puts men in a lower position of power. Capitalism and the patriarchy as a whole attempt to keep women reliant on men and thus allows for the continuance of male dominance and power in a society. When a woman is unable to control her own reproductive system and is forced to give birth to a baby, she becomes reliant on other people for support, which thus causes her personal socioeconomic status to decline. If a woman is reliant on a man to make money for their family, it is expected of men to fulfill the duty of working in order to support their growing families. Therefore, if it is only men that are involved in the workforce, this causes them to be in a dominating position in comparison to women as they have the ultimate control of their family’s finances. When a woman becomes pregnant and unable to work, her ability to participate in economic, social, and political discourse decreases (Shaw 2013). This allows for men to be the main contributors to public rhetoric, which influences legal and social policy changes. Since men have traditionally been the main contributors to legal and social policies, as they were the only gender allowed to voice their opinions/allowed in the workforce for centuries, male interests have continuously been at the centre of most policies – policies that are still widely relevant in contemporary society. So it makes sense as to why there is still so much misogynistic discourse that permeates Canadian society – because for centuries the interests of men were so strongly valued over the interests of women, an idea that is still visibly rooted within Canada’s legal and social structures, as well as the way we go about dealing with social issues (ex. abortion). This advantage is something that men are not quite willing to fully give up yet, and thus will do anything possible to protect – whether that requires only hiring men in the workplace or promoting anti-abortion sentiment in order to eliminate female competition. Regardless, the ultimate reason as to why supporters of the patriarchy are so against abortion is because it undermines the male dominance that has perpetuated Canadian society for centuries.
Overall, abortion is an essential medical procedure that all women deserve access to, regardless of socioeconomic status, in order to pursue the best interests of herself and her family. It is crucial to a woman’s health and safety that she is able to control her own body and that she has the autonomy to determine whether or not her current economic and social circumstances are well-suited to start a stable, happy, and healthy family. No woman should ever be forced to give birth to a baby that she does not feel like she can provide for, nor should any baby be born into an environment in which they are unwanted.
Chesney-Lind, Meda, and Syeda Tonima Hadi. “Patriarchy, Abortion, and the Criminal System: Policing Female Bodies.” Taylor & Francis Online, Springer International Publishing AG, 26 Jan. 2017, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/08974454.2016.1259601.
Saurette, Paul, and Kelly Gordon. “The Changing Voice of the Anti-Abortion Movement: The Rise of “Pro-Woman” Rhetoric in Canada and the United States.” University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, 9 Feb. 2016, journals.scholarsportal.info/pdf/00084239/v46i0001/157_aatnadic.xml. Accessed 10 Jan. 2018.
Sethna, Christabelle. “Travel to Access Abortion Services in Canada.” Social Sciences Research at The University of Ottawa, University of Ottawa, 2012, socialsciences.uottawa.ca/feminist-gender-studies/sites/socialsciences.uottawa.ca.feminist-gender-studies/files/csethna_worldideas.pdf. Accessed 10 Jan. 2018.
Shaw, Jessica. “Abortion in Canada as a Social Justice Issue in Contemporary Canada.” University of Windsor, 2013, www1.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/abortion_in_canada. Accessed 10 Jan. 2018.