Judy Rebick, the former publisher of rabble.ca, 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current Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson University, in an open letter to Elizabeth May has withdrawn all support for the Green Party of Canada.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.