RIP Father Raymond Gravel, Progressive Catholic Priest

Father Raymond Gravel

Sad news via CBC News:

“Father Raymond Gravel, a well-known Catholic priest, an advocate for Quebec sovereignty and a social activist, has died.

[…]

“He served one term as the Bloc Québécois MP for Repentigny, before he was ordered by church authorities to choose between his priesthood or politics and returned to the pulpit.

“He was a progressive force in the Catholic Church and an outspoken supporter of gay and women’s rights.

“At one point Gravel called the Vatican’s opposition to same-sex marriages “discriminatory, hurtful and offensive.”

“Gravel challenged the Catholic Church to adopt a more compassionate tone and get in touch with the beliefs of its adherents.

“”The Church must evolve beyond the language of interdiction and condemnations,” he wrote in an open letter dated April 23, 1999. “Such language only proves, once again, to the entire world just how disconnected the Church is from reality.”

[…]

“Gravel personally opposed abortion except in cases of rape, but he said he also opposed rules and regulations that “infantilized” women.”

Listen to an interview with one of Father Gravel’s parishoners, Gregory Baum, a retired professor of religious studies at McGill University, after the fold: Continue reading

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Quote of the Day: Alive and Living Now

by matttbastard

But let’s get one thing clear — being “pro-life” has absolutely nothing to do with compassion or saving the lives of babies or getting people to take responsibility for their actions. Instead, being “pro-life” has everything to do with ignorance and control. Being “pro-life” has everything to do with making judgments on what they know nothing about. If being “pro-life” were actually about being pro-life, then trustworthy health care, safe procedures, and birth control would be more accessible for all women, and the murder of a doctor would never have happened.

– Theresa, Pro-Life: Not About Life At All.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

When the Deeply Personal Becomes Deeply Political.

Guest post by L. Portes*

Dr Tiller’s assassination has riled up a semi-sleeping nest of vipers in the past few days. Even though it isn’t always reported in the media, the old same rhetoric has been going on, mostly under the radar, among the Armies of “God” and the Operation Rescues of the anti-choice movement.

Old arguments and old red herrings.

In the 1990s there were a string of terrorist attacks within the US and Canada aimed at abortion clinics and physicians who provide patients with abortion services after the (mostly) acceptable 12 weeks. Doctors were shot and killed, clinics bombed, staff harassed and terrorized. Today, career protesters still stand outside clinics, screaming and shouting at women who enter; there have even been cases where members of the police have conspired and handed over personal information to the extremists from those ID’d through their license plates.

There are some who consider abortion at any stage of the game unacceptable. In fact, some would ban contraception, as it may simply interfere with the plans of their god. But, on the whole, society has “decided” that early on terminating a pregnancy is less abhorrent to them.

It has been estimated that approximately 33% of all pregnancies spontaneously miscarry within the first trimester. That is just nature’s way of not completing a faulty conception or splitting of cells. But that magic number 12 when the first trimester ends is where what is deeply personal suddenly becomes deeply political; after 12 weeks of pregnancy it has been proposed that a woman must go forward for the next 28 weeks, no matter what–full steam ahead.

The most vocal abortion opponents would like you to believe that after 12 weeks the decision to terminate a pregancy is a matter of convenience, that abortions are being performed willy nilly up to the 40th week, that it’s simply a business venture for doctors like George Tiller. “Abortionists” perform “executions” for the money. They have said that Dr. Tiller would abort a fetus just hours before it would be born! This is not true, of course, but it makes for shocking material (and massive ratings) for those with no scruples (Bill O’Reilly comes to mind.)

But for what real reasons would a woman and her family require the services provided by a specialized clinic such as Dr. Tiller’s, or, here in Canada, the one run by Dr. Garson Romalis?

A primary one would be fetal anomalies.

You may know someone that this has happened to–a friend of a friend, a family member perhaps: A woman discovers she is expecting and, partway through the pregnancy, a test shows something that makes it apparent that the fetus will not survive. Or that if there is a live birth it will be a painful, short-lived thing. Or when the fetus is born it will be a life of nothingness.

Sometimes, carrying an anencephalic fetus to term can be detrimental to the woman. It may compromise future fertility, or the woman’s life due to infection. Hard to truly comprehend unless it has happened to you.

I can comprehend.

My pregnancy was a wanted one, very much so. The first weeks were uneventful, except for the happiness and the worry which intermingled. I’d had two miscarriages in my life already; never really accepted being pregnant again as a reality until the 12th week.

Hurdle one vaulted.

Entering into the second trimester, we were finally feeling confident and making plans for the new arrival. We didn’t have much at the time, but we were gathering supplies for the coming weeks: a second hand stroller, blankets. I could feel the baby moving already, at first a small quickening; that grew into more kicks and swimming sensations. I had been seeing my doctor regularly from about 12 weeks, as I had been out of the country when I discovered the pregnancy. He ordered an ultrasound, which was performed at about the 18 week mark.

Our baby had a heartbeat, which I already knew. But something alarming turned up as well. More detailed scans were ordered and the grim details were told to us by a special team who looked at them.

Broken bones, some healed already. Bowed legs and arms, etc. Ostegenesis Imperfecta Type II, they called it: Brittle Bone.

Our baby wasn’t going to live. And whatever time he spent in the womb, or out, was just going to be painful. Pain that you or I cannot imagine.

A boy.

We were given two options: Carry on with the pregnancy, knowing what was to come, ignore his pain, and ours.

Or terminate the pregnancy.

Not much else to be said, really; we made the most kind decision, one that no parent-to-be should ever have to make.

A harrowing, sad, anguished couple of weeks followed. I mostly just remember being in the recovery room, missing him so much. Alone suddenly after weeks of activity.

Alone with our broken dreams.

I had aborted at 21 weeks. My body thought it had delivered a baby who needed sustenance, so it began to lactate. Just another painful reminder of what was lost.

We talked to the doctors to ask what the odds were of this happening again and were told that it was less than 6%, as it was not recorded on either side of our families. So a few months later we tried again. We were on pins and needles until the 18 week mark, as this condition can only be seen on an ultrasound and can only be confirmed or discounted after about 17 weeks.

When we finally held our little baby girl in our arms, whole and healthy and screaming like thunder, we did not forget about our son; the love is still there. We have moved on as much as we can, knowing we did the right thing. The pain is still very real, less sharp, sometimes bittersweet.

But I also know that because of medical professionals like Dr. Tiller and Dr. Romalis (who in the past has also faced near-deadly harassment) there would not be the peace that we now feel. Indeed, if our son had died in utero (which also happens in cases like ours) there is a good chance that we wouldn’t know the joys of our two youngest children. Most distressing of all, so much suffering would have been inflicted for no real reason on someone we didn’t really know, yet loved and wanted with all our being.

And that is what the anti-choicers do not want you to know about: situations faced by families like ours.

Our stories are not often told; to do so makes many listeners uncomfortable. Some will not even look me in the eye when I tell them in person. A lot of women like me simply don’t say anything, as there is the very real possibility that we might be labeled, with much revulsion, as monsters.

We see reports of extremists screaming at women outside clinics, hear of those same extremists targeting medical professionals. These are deeply personal, deeply painful stories that have been made deeply political by those who really do not give a damn about babies, families, or people in general.  But it is time to start speaking up.

We are not monsters. We are parents who love our children, and love the children we lost. And Dr Tiller was nothing short of a hero.

Now, after so many years of personal sacrifice and personal pain he is now a fallen hero. We cannot let him have died in vain. We cannot let parents who face these sorts of tragedies such as fetal anomalies or a life-threatening pregnancy go it alone.

These anti-choice extremists must finally be dealt with, publicly denounced and called what they are.

Pro life? No. They are nothing but low life terrorists who, through fear and intimidation, want to force everyone to bend to their will.

And, because of them, families that face the same wretched news we did need help now more than ever.

*name changed for privacy and safety reasons

Recommend this post at Progressive bloggers

Quote of the Day: Inevitable Consequences

by matttbastard

The Wichita Eagle:

Warren Hern, a Colorado physician and close friend of Tiller’s — who described himself now as “the only doctor in the world” who performs very-late-term abortions — said Tiller’s death was predictable.

“I think it’s the inevitable consequence of more than 35 years of constant anti-abortion terrorism, harassment and violence,” he said.

When Obama was elected last fall, Hern predicted that anti-abortion violence would increase, he said. Because Obama supports legalized abortion, Hern said, its foes “have lost ground…. They want the doctors dead, and they invite people to assassinate us. No wonder that this happens.

“I am next on the list.”

Related: Must-read article from the always-excellent Ann Friedman, in which she puts the assassination of Dr. George Tiller into the broader context of the concerted criminal harassment (sometimes deadly) of US abortion clinic workers:

It’s apparent that we need someone at the federal level who is paying attention. After all, Tiller’s assassin was not acting in vacuum. Even if no national anti-choice group directly ordered him to fire that gun, he is a product of a culture that thrives on systematically threatening reproductive health care providers and women who seek abortions. Militant anti-choice groups like Operation Rescue — which has endorsed intimidation tactics in the past — released statements yesterday condemning Tiller’s assassination.

But after years of sending the message to its avid base that Tiller was a sub-human monster, a press release expressing dismay at the killing does little good. On the sidebar of the Operation Rescue blog, near where the press release appeared, was a small image featuring Dr. Tiller’s face, some very sinister-looking flames, and the words “America’s Doctor of Death,” linking to a detailed dossier about all of Tiller’s offenses. Other groups keep databases of reproductive health providers’ addresses and phone numbers, all but daring their members to conduct harassment campaigns.

Elsewhere: Contra the disingenuous spin (h/t Mandos) from the forced-birth set, Jill Filipovic and former Religious Right icon Frank Schaeffer both join Friedman in placing the blame for Dr. Tiller’s murder squarely on the collective shoulders of the ‘mainstream’ anti-abortion movement. As Schaeffer (who readily acknowledges his role, along with his late father Francis and former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, in establishing the anti-abortion movement) puts it:

The same hate machine I was part of is still attacking all abortionists as “murderers.” And today once again the “pro-life” leaders are busy ducking their personal responsibility for people acting on their words. The people who stir up the fringe never take responsibility. But I’d like to say on this day after a man was murdered in cold blood for preforming abortions that I — and the people I worked with in the religious right, the Republican Party, the pro-life movement and the Roman Catholic Church, all contributed to this killing by our foolish and incendiary words.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

BREAKING: Dr. George Tiller Assassinated

by matttbastard

Oh, fuck:

George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who became a national lightning rod in the debate over abortion, was shot to death this morning as he walked into church services.

Tiller was shot just after 10 a.m. at Reformation Lutheran Church at 7601 E. 13th, where he was a member of the congregation. An anonymous police source confirmed Tiller was the victim.

NOW do all the pearl-clutching conservative bloggers get why that fauxtroversial DHS report on far-right activity was so goddamn pertinent?! As GallingGalla just said on Twitter, “forced-birthers are TERRORISTS on US soil.” This latest killing of a health care provider, martyred for daring to provide women with a vital medical service (in the same week that, here in Canada, the Ontario Provincial Police decided to let another anti-choice assassin evade accountability), only reinforces that all-too-clear fact.

Seriously, this is supposed to be an expression of ‘pro-life’ sentiment?! Look, Operation Rescue can offer hollow denunciations all they like. They are still morally complicit and should rightfully be held accountable for their inflammatory rhetoric and tactics.

Fuck them and their deadly, pro-natalist fanaticism.

h/t Atrios

Update: Via Ann Friedman, Cara writes at Feministe:

This is the first time an abortion provider has been murdered in over a decade. I have friends who work in abortion clinics. This is terrorism. And right now, I just don’t have the words.

As my co-blogger (and Wichita resident) Sassywho just said over IM,

[Tiller] was a prisoner to [Operation Rescue’s] tactics. And because “abortion is a divisive issue,” he wasn’t protected. I just fucking hope (!) that Obama gets that fucking message how framing it as such opens windows.

Sebelius better make sure he gets that fucking message.

Also, what Ann said:

I am also worried about what Tiller’s murder means for women in Kansas and elsewhere in the country who need the services that he provided. The simple fact is there are almost no doctors who provide late-term abortions, especially in rural parts of the country. I was in Nebraska several years ago to interview Dr. Leroy Carhart (whose challenges to abortion-restricting laws went all the way to the Supreme Court), and Carhart and Tiller were the only two late-term providers in their region. If one wanted to go on vacation or got sick, the other had to fill in. There was no one else. Perhaps it would be a fitting memorial to Dr. Tiller to contribute to Medical Students for Choice, and encourage more doctors with a deep commitment to reproductive rights to become abortion providers.

Signed. Off.

Update 2: Via Sylvia, KC Star columnist/blogger Mike Hendricks effing nails it:

At mid-day, police were still trying to figure out who pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller at his church on Sunday morning.

I’m betting they’ll find that person soon enough.

As for the murderer’s accomplices, we know them already.

They include every one who has ever called Tiller’s late term abortion clinic a murder mill.

Who ever called Tiller “Tiller the Killer.”

The groups who spent decades fomenting hate toward a man who simply believed that he was serving a purpose by being one of the few doctors in the country performing late-term abortions.

Hate. Not heated opposition. Not strong disagreement.

But blind hatred.

The kind of hate that would prompt some maniac to take a  gun into a church and shoot a man to death in front of friends and family.

The kind of hate that is on full display over in Freeperville (h/t AJ Strata, a right-of-centre individual who can smell the fucking coffee.)

Update 3: Police capture suspect in Tiller murder:

Police are not releasing the name of the suspect, but numerous media sources are reporting that a man named Scott Roeder has been arrested in connection with the crime

In addition to the links provided @ DKos, a quick google search brought forth this additional gem:

Roeder Cap

Lovely.

Update 4:  Must-read posts from Antonia & dbO.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Maritime Misogyny Ad Infinitum (On and On to tha Breaka Breaka Dawn!)

by matttbastard

"Join the 21st-century, New Brunswick"

Despite repeatedly getting spanked by provincial courts, apparently New Brunswick’s provincial government  STILL fears women’s reproductive freedom enough to consider taking Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s 7-year-old lawsuit over public funding of private clinic abortions in the province all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada:

The New Brunswick government is reviewing the latest Court of Appeal ruling that cleared the way for Dr. Henry Morgentaler to sue the province over its refusal to fund abortions performed at his clinic in Fredericton.

The government has argued it only has to pay for abortions approved by two physicians and performed in hospitals.

Attorney General T.J. Burke told reporters on Friday that his staff will use the next 30 days to decide whether they will seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Our office will review the procedural decision made by the Court of Appeal to determine whether there’s any palpable or overriding errors in law and determine whether or not we should appeal,” Burke said.

[…]

Morgentaler wants medicare to cover the $750 fee for abortions performed at his clinic, which currently are paid for by the patients themselves.

The province argued Morgentaler couldn’t sue on the issue because it affects women, not him. In January, after a Court of Queen’s Bench judge ruled in Morgentaler’s favour, the province appealed the decision.

On Thursday, three appeal judges also ruled in Morgentaler’s favour. The province had argued it would be better if the lawsuit was launched by a woman who had been forced to pay for a clinic abortion.

Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau said that argument doesn’t pass muster. None of the many women who have had abortions at Morgentaler’s Fredericton clinic in the past 15 years has come forward to file a lawsuit, he noted.

Gee, wonder if the consideration of yet another appeal reflects the personal anti-choice zealotry of New Brunswick’s Health Minister?

New Brunswick’s health minister says his personal view on when life begins makes him “not entirely” comfortable administering the province’s laws and policies on abortion.

Michael Murphy was among several Liberal and Progressive Conservative MLAs who attended an anti-abortion rally [!] in front of the legislative assembly on Thursday.

Murphy told the crowd of more than 300 that he believes life begins at conception.

“It is my own personal belief that the unborn, at any stage, is human life, and I believe in human life, and I support it,” Murphy said.

That personal view is at odds with provincial regulations that allow abortions in hospitals, he said.

Medicare funds abortions in hospitals if two doctors agree the procedure is medically necessary.

When asked, Murphy admitted his personal beliefs do not make him comfortable in administering some of his duties as health minister.

“Not entirely, but that’s the way it is,” he said.

Plus, y’know, Morgentaler might keel over soon — and that means EPIC WIN FOR TEH INNOCENT BABIES!

Peggy Cooke, who works at the [Morgentaler] clinic, hopes the province will stop stalling the legal process.

“So I think they’re kind of waiting for him to give up and waiting for him to be incapable of doing it anymore,” she said.

Morgentaler is 86 years old and there have been reports his health has been declining.

Morgentaler’s name is on the lawsuit. His death would force another plaintiff to restart the legal process.

Also, with regards to the province’s oft-refuted contention that a woman should have initially tendered the suit, Cooke once again layeth the smacketh down:

As Cooke points out, the reason Morgentaler is suing is because no woman has been willing to take on the provincial government.

“There’s so much stigma with abortion, and secondly the money is a huge problem. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars to do this,” Cooke said.

Yeah, because, um, if one doesn’t have a spare $750 to terminate their pregnancy it’s highly unlikely they’ll have several grand kicking around to take the freakin’ government to court over said $750.

Ahem.

Oh, and speaking of that oh-so-contentious procedural cost and the public purse, deBeauxO nails it in comments @ DAMMIT JANET (h/t):

Before the shrieeeking starts about the cost of this medical intervention, it’s important to to note that root canals can cost over $1000.

Also, the New Brunswick government is running up quite a legal tab by refusing to accept the judgement of its own courts. Taxpayers will be footing that bill.

Women’s health and bodily autonomy? The law of the land (as confirmed by TWO provincial courts)? The proper allocation and utilization of taxpayer dollars?

Pshh. Wevs. Clearly New Brunswick stubbornly and steadfastly serves a HIGHER power.

Or something.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

On Medical Procedures and Limited Choices

by matttbastard

Via Lauren @ Feministe, WaPo looks at the difficulty US med students face if they want to seek out abortion training:

She had joined Medical Students for Choice, an abortion education group with chapters on 135 U.S. campuses, as soon as she arrived at Maryland. The nation’s abortion doctors were graying, and unless a new generation took their place, the right to abortion might be rendered meaningless. Lesley imagined herself being part of that new generation. But would her support for abortion translate into action?

“I won’t know until I’m faced with doing it, but I think I would absolutely be able to provide [abortions],” she said. “It’s walk the walk, instead of talk the talk. I want my actions to be consistent with my words.”

How medical students choose to become abortion providers is in some ways no different from how they choose to become cardiac surgeons or pediatric neurologists. They explore the specialty and test themselves in it, finding some connection to a patient or a mentor that ignites their passion. Except for one difference: Medical students must explore abortion largely on their own.

Thirty-five years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, any mention of abortion is rare in the first three or four years of medical school, when students must zero in on a specialty and eventually apply for residency training. Even in Maryland, where about 61 percent of voters approved a referendum guaranteeing abortion in 1992 and which has the fourth-highest abortion rate in the country, abortion is not taught in any formal lectures at the state’s flagship medical school. The subject is viewed as too controversial, despite the fact that, according to the nonprofit National Center for Health Statistics, abortion remains among the most common surgical procedures for reproductive-age women. Nevertheless, many people, including some of Lesley’s friends, believe abortion is the murder of an unborn child and should not be legal, much less taught to future doctors.

Make sure to read the whole damn thing.  As Lauren aptly points out, “a lack of doctors willing and able to perform the procedure will render the right to abortion meaningless.” And, as previously noted, the situation isn’t much better here in the Great White North.

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