Rebick withdraws support for May

Judy Rebick, the former publisher of, a former President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and the current Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University, in an open letter to Elizabeth May has withdrawn all support for the Green Party of Canada.

I have carefully reviewed your statements on abortion and I have to say that I am sorry but I will no longer be supporting you or the Green Party in any way.

As you know I was very supportive of your running as leader of the Green Party and despite my differences with some of the platform of the Party I have up until now felt that your presence added a great deal to the federal political scene. But now you have questioned the most important victory of the women’s movement of my generation.

I have to admit that I’d not yet taken time to read May’s statements, until just now.  And I am inclined to agree with Rebick.  I was very disheartened by a large part of what May said:

I respect people who say, “I’m against abortion because there is a right to life, and the fetus is sacred.”

I respect that, because I think all life is sacred.

And I think one of the things I would like to bring to Canadian politics is to show enough respect for the other view, that we could actually have a dialogue about it. Because one of the things that is wrong about polarization is the language becomes a barrier to understanding.

So if one group of people say, “A woman has a right to choose,” I get queasy, because I’m against abortion. I don’t think a woman has a frivolous right to choose.

What I don’t want is a desperate woman to die in an illegal abortion. But I also don’t think it’s right to say – Well, you see, you end up having this conflict.

What I’d like to do in politics – and I’ve talked about this in some other settings besides here today, because this is the first time it’s come up in London North Centre – what I’d like to do in politics is to be able to create the space to say, “Abortions are legal because they must be to avoid women dying. But nobody in their right mind is for abortions.”

I’ve talked women out of having abortions. I would never have an abortion myself, not in a million years. I can’t imagine the circumstances that would ever reduce me to it.

For May to suggest that a woman’s right to choose is frivolous demonstrates how little she really knows about the issue.  To suggest  an inability to imagine the circumstances that would make women choose abortion seems to indicate she has no compassion for women and girls who have been sexually assaulted and find themselves pregnant.  And, as Rebick says, it trivializes the decades of work that women have done to have the procedure legalized.

But now you have questioned the most important victory of the women’s movement of my generation.

If you had said that you personally oppose abortion but you support a woman’s right to choose, I would have been fine with that. Instead you said that a woman’s right to choose, something tens of thousands of Canadian women fought for for decades, was trivializing an important issue. It felt like a slap in the face.

Since you have so little respect for me or for the women’s movement which mobilized for so long to win this hard-earned right, I hope you will understand that I ripped up the cheque I had written to the Green Party and you can no longer rely on me for support.

I am very sorry about this Elizabeth, but I cannot attribute your comments to ignorance of the issue since you were around when the issue was being debated.

And now I have to think very carefully about where I will place my energies come the next federal election.  I was one of those tens of thousands of Canadian women Rebick mentions, who fought for decades to legalize abortion.  This casts a whole ‘nother light onto the federal scene.

Thanks, Judy, for making me think again.

And again.


15 thoughts on “Rebick withdraws support for May

  1. I can defend her on everything, except the word ‘frivolous.’ Bad choice of words.

    Elizabeth supports abortion only as a public health issue.

    The GPC supports it as a matter of policy, being a pro-choice party. In the GPC, leaders don’t make policy, the membership does.

  2. Let’s be clear about what the Green Party stands for (or at least as clear as one can be). This was posted on babble by a Green Party member, and other party members have confirmed the content. The leaders position is dangerous. The party’s position is dangerous.

    Green Party Choice resolution, adopted August, 2006

    WHEREAS the Green Party of Canada is Canada’s Pro – choice Party.

    WHEREAS the Green Party of Canada affirms that each woman’s body belongs to herself. No
    woman should be forced either to bear a child or to terminate a pregnancy.

    WHEREAS the goal of the Green Party of Canada is to make abortion less necessary and more
    rare, we support efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies.

    WHEREAS there are health risks associated with any medical and surgical procedure.

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Green Party of Canada will target the problems of teen
    pregnancy and family preservation, by providing tax credits and vouchers to support a culture that promotes families in all their various forms, including single – parent families, especially low income women.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Green Party of Canada recognises the problems caused
    by unwanted pregnancies and supports a multi-policy strategy to reduce them including:
    a) Since education is in the Provincial sphere of influence, the Green Party of Canada will invite the Provinces and Territories to participate in our National Strategy by ensuring the provision of adequate sex education and life skills training in all schools through the provision of increased transfer funding for all provinces.
    b) Ensuring adequate financial and social support for parents, particularly lone parents and those with disabled children. For lone parents we will provide a program of housing, and transportation subsidies. We will also increase the Child tax Benefit to assist parents raising children.
    c) Financially assisting the Provinces and Territories in order to ensure adequate provision of free family planning advice by properly trained health workers and counselors and the provision of free contraceptives.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Green Party of Canada will not support any change to the
    current laws on abortions that would aim to make it more difficult for women to obtain them.
    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Green Party believes that counselling should be offered to
    every woman considering an abortion. However, the ultimate decision about whether or not to
    terminate a pregnancy should always lie with the pregnant woman.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Green Party of Canada will put greater efforts towards
    preventing unwanted pregnancies and encourage adoption while offering real support and
    meaningful alternatives for women at greater risk for unwanted pregnancies, especially for low-income women.

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Green Party of Canada will advocate tax credits that
    facilitate the ability of mothers and pregnant teenagers to financially and socially support the raising of their babies. If circumstances prevent this, the child’s immediate or extended natural family will be provided the tax credit support encourage them to raise the child.

  3. Given the response of the rabble membership, I’m not surprised by the move. As the central NDP discussion forum in Canada, it’s hardly shocking or newsworthy beyond blog circles anyway.

  4. Writer, thanks for this. It is, indeed, dangerous.

    Saskboy, you presume to know what women in Canada find important and newsworthy. You presume incorrectly, for when it comes to a woman’s body and her right to control it, it is big news.

  5. Why exactly do some of you think the GPC policy on abortion is dangerous? There is not a word in there that suggest to in anyway reduce access to abortion or a woman’s choice. Instead, to me it sounds like a policy put together to include more “preventative” measures to try and reduce the frequency of women having to be in some of the variety of circumstances that lead to the choice to have an abortion. I know several women who had to make such a choice, and it was one of the toughest things they ever did and not one that they could easily get over later. Clearly, not all instances of women having to go through the difficult ordeal of an abortion can be reduced by the policies suggested, but some certainly could.

    Just as our healthcare system needs much more on the preventative side, perhaps the unwanted pregnancy issue could use some preventative socialcare.

    Now, I also found May’s comments somewhat surprising if not disturbing. I think she could have worded some things better, but remember that she’s not a sly, smooth politician like many of the other politicians, so she has not had as much practice choosing her words carefully. Non of the politicians out there that say what you hear necessarily actually believe what they tell you, they just tell you that because the experts tell them what to say to get votes from certain groups of people.

    Remember, the GPC is primarily for the environment, something all Canadians should care about. So, their policies are meant to be such that Canadians from all areas of the political spectrum who care about the environment could support the party. Now, frankly, even if you think some of their policies are a no-go for you, why would you withdraw support just based on that? Which is more important, the future of our planet, or some other issue which won’t matter if we have no planet? Aside from that, it’s not like the party is going to form government anytime soon.

    I personally support the party, despite some of their policies not being to my liking, mainly because I think it is about time we had some members of parliament from a party that would push government to get on with making the environment (and hence the future of the planet) a prime issue in all other policy making.

  6. I should add that I am certain for most women who are pregnant and don’t want the pregnancy, the choice they wish they had is that of not being pregnant in the first place. Hence, any true “pro-choice” policy should concentrate on preventative measures in addition to providing adequate access to abortions for those who need them.

  7. GH, I’m not going to go through that policy word by word, but several points spring out right away as typical Green problems. Tax credits?!? To teen mothers?!? Get serious, GH. Tax credits mean something only to people who have not only an income but a substantial income. The Greens really reveal their class assumptions with bone-headed lines like that. And then we are told by former Greens that the party policy has been changed, to take out an acknowledgement of the health risks of pregnancy and childbirth (much greater than abortion) and to emphasize instead the health risks of “any medical procedure.”

    As for your “which is more important” question: I pity you if you can’t work for justice on more than one front at once, or if you still think that one struggle for justice is in competition with all the others, so we must prioritize them. To a lot of us, that sounds very much like yet another order to get to the back of the bus. Sorry, man, but those days are long gone.

    “nobody in their right mind is for abortions.” Sorry, Elizabeth: beyond the crummy grammar, that attack on me, not to mention the blithe, callous reference to mental illness, hardly seems a civilized intervention to me.

    Elizabeth May is trying to bring Hillary Clinton’s politics to Canada, and not just on abortion. She would be fine on the right wing of the U.S. Democratic Party. We can do much better here.

  8. Excuse me? Jason, you have chosen to be 100 per cent a cheerleader for a political party, to equate serious political action with electoral politics, and that’s fine. Everyone has a choice to be that superficial.

    But do watch the way you project your superficiality on to other people, could you, Jason? I’m not the NDP when I write. I am also not babble — I left babble in April and I left on principle, so I’d appreciate it if partisans like Saskboy could drop that cheap routine, too.

    The women who are speaking back to May and the Greens — and now, it appears, to the Cherniakians — are women, Jason and Saskboy. None of us is playing the shallow kinds of electoral games you do on this topic.

    What you, in your shallowness, Jason, have missed — “supports legal abortions for the wrong reasons” — is that she does not support choice. She and the Greens are raising again the spectre of “therapeutic” abortions — that spectre appears in the full text of her comments — and no decent, informed, liberal-minded person who believes in women’s equality and who knows the history of “therapeutic” abortions in this country could possibly imagine that that is a pro-choice position.

    May is importing American right-centre sentimentalities into this country. She is attempting to fuzz the principles of democracy, which include a clear separation of private “morals” or religion from public principle.

    I can see two reasons for Canadians to pretend that that doesn’t matter. They might not be reading May’s insinuations closely enough, cloaked as they are in the rhetoric of her personal sainthood. Or they might be Lib or Con Rovian operatives who think that they can exploit sentimental reactions to May for electoral advantage, the balance of which will vary from place to place in Canada.

  9. Ms. Rebick is a dinosaur, she does not speak for women in Canada any more than you or I do. Rebick’s inabilty to face opposition, her attempt to stifle debate speaks ill of her and her silly leftist beliefs. She will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

  10. This is sad. I’m disappointed to see the Greens continuing in their inexorable rightward march. This is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a whole platform. I’ll be watching closely to see what else happens before the next election.

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