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Kathy Dawson — Board Member, Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition and Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/01/14

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Off-tape, we were discussing some more nuances with regards to pro-choice in Alberta through the Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition and aspects of law that are regarding the idea of personhood, and the way this impacts abortion and pro-choice. Could you extrapolate on that or explain a little for us?

Dawson: Anti-choice have tried to introduce personhood laws in Canada to recognize the fetus as a person. This is about reducing rights for women and trans men because rights for fetuses can’t coexist with rights for the pregnant person. The impact of fetal personhood can be found in the States. Pregnant people have been jailed for seeking help with addictions while pregnant, forced to have C-sections and more because of personhood:

Section 7 of the Charter Rights and Freedoms guarantees that women, trans men, non-binary people still don’t lose their rights when they get pregnant.

1988 R v. Morgentaler

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada’s abortion law as unconstitutional. The law was found to violate Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it infringed upon a woman’s right to “life, liberty and security of person.”

Chief Justice Brian Dickson wrote: “Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus a violation of her security of the person.”

Jacobsen: Are there other documents that are like that? That younger people should know about for themselves.

Dawson: I was pointing back to the Charter Rights and Freedoms. That’s core to our rights, as people that could get pregnant.

Jacobsen: So, do these become attacks on a woman’s right to choose, become attacks on human rights in general — whether nationally based or internationally based?

Dawson: I’m not sure what you mean by that.

Jacobsen: If someone is saying that it is my right via Section 7 as a pregnant person to make an independent choice whether I have an abortion or not based on the Charter Rights and Freedom in Canada, or with regards to reproductive health rights as noted in Human Rights Watch about abortion being first and foremost a fundamental human right; if those are the stances of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as Human Rights Watch and very likely bodies or the organs of the UN as well, then it seems to me that attacks on the ability for them to make an informed safe decision about abortion or not become attacks on a pregnant woman’s human rights?

Dawson: Oh, absolutely! Any drive to grant personhood to a fetus is removing rights from women, trans men, and non-binary people.

Jacobsen: What do you foresee as the upcoming battles for the youth demographic in Alberta?

Dawson: Upcoming battles? Well, we have quite limited access in Alberta, although the recent announcements of coverage for mifegymiso may help. There’s two abortion clinics; one in Calgary, one in Edmonton, and there’s a hospital in Calgary. Abortion services are available in Grande Prairie.

It’s hard to get information on access in some communities. So, unless you live in or near one of these centers, you’re going to have to take time off work, find child care for your children, make travel arrangements including hotels. Some people are having to travel significant distances. There’s a real concern with access, for example, if you live in Fort McMurray, you can’t go to the Fort McMurray Hospital and obtain an abortion there.

From the youth perspective, the obstacles are greater. Missing school, absence from home, transportation and accommodation are increased obstacles for youth.

Youth must also be concerned because anti-choice groups are in the school actively undermining sexual health education when they are brought in to teach abstinence or sexual risk avoidance. Their presentations may be legitimized by their presence in the school. Youth need to know that these presentations are not evidence based nor supported by experts in the field of human sexuality. Information on these presentations can be found at the SIECUS Community Action Kit online. The link to their Fact Sheet:

My daughter and I sat in one of those classes and it was awful what they were doing to the kids. They told the girls to watch what they’re wearing because the boys had no control. It was so offensive to both boys and girls. They totally excluded the LGBT kids and would not answer questions relating to LGBT relationships. They presented sex and gender as the same and only spoke about binary identities. They misrepresented contraception and protection. They shamed the kids. The presenter said, “If you find yourself pregnant and you come into our pregnancy care center, we’re going to ask what happened with your abstinence program. Were you lying there, and he fell on top of you?”

We contacted the school board, started a petition, raised awareness and collaborated with local activists. The school board removed the anti-choice group and updated their sexual health education policies to prevent the group from returning. However, other school boards have not taken action to respect youth rights to comprehensive sexual health education free from agendas and misinformation despite parent advocacy.

Parents had a difficult time getting them out of one school district. It took them a couple of years to get them out and then they come back in. I understand that these groups have even included a candy game where they pass out unwrapped candies, tell the kids to keep a certain colour and pass the other colors around. At the end of the game, after candies have been passed around all around the kids, they would ask: “Now, do you want to eat these candies?” The moral of their game: people that have sex are dirty.

These groups in classrooms are a public health issue and it is difficult and risky to expose them and have them removed.

West Virginia teen, Katelyn Campbell, exposed this type of education at her school and she said the principal threatened to block her from going to Wellesley College.

My own daughter came forward. I was very uncomfortable for her that next year because she was in the same class as that teacher. We waited until grad was over to go public.

There’s been a student that videotaped an anti-choice presentation in Red Deer that had anti-Semitism. They talked about how it was a Holocaust and accused women of murder. The superintendent of school division apologized to the presenter! There has been no update on the outcome for the student.

Sexual health education is a huge concern and, to be fair to many schools, these groups claim to be medically accurate, inclusive and follow all the guidelines for sexual health education. They do not post the Core Documents of their affiliation on their website. Their Core Documents state that they will not counsel or refer for abortifacients. It took me a couple of days on social media to get one of the pro-life organizations to admit that they defined the pill, the IUD, and emergency contraception as abortifacient. Most sexually active people use contraception at some point. People would be surprised to find out that anti-choice groups define common contraceptives as abortifacient. After all, contraception prevents pregnancy and an abortion is not possible if there is no pregnancy.

Youth also need to be concerned about graphic fetal gore displays near their schools and in their mailboxes. These displays are not an accurate representation of abortion. Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada and many municipalities are working to oppose this.

Accurate abortion statistics:

Accurate abortion stock photos:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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