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What Vancouver women think about the US Republican Party's "war on women"

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While Clint Eastwood's strange "invisible Obama chair" endorsement of Mitt Romney at the Republican National Convention last night took over news headlines and Twitter feeds this morning, many individual Americans and groups continue to focus their efforts on the Republican Party's 'war on women', a term referring to Republican-led initiatives in federal and state legislatures that many allege restrict women's rights, particularly reproductive rights.

"Reproductive rights are merely the tip of an ominous iceberg -- one that promises to inflict so much more damage to women," wrote UniteWomen.org founder Karen Teegarden in an editorial for The Huffington Post. She cited over 400 bills introduced in the U.S. Congress since January 2010 related to bills revoking or hemming reproductive rights, and Republican presidential candidates signing"Personhood" pledges and vowing to eliminate Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides preventative and primary care, as well as advocating for what it calls "policies that enable Americans to access comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care, education, and information." Planned Parenthood has 77 local affiliates in the U.S. and operates nearly 800 health centers, including branches in Canada.

The Vancouver Observer asked Vancouver-based women their opinions on the 'war on women' and whether it could affect Canada. Here are their responses, via Facebook and email:
 
"I think Canadian social conservatives have always drawn inspiration from similar movements and initiatives in the States. This hasn't really changed except that the more extreme anti-abortion and anti-birth control/sex ed laws we see passed in the States, the more we can expect Canadian conservative activists to be emboldened.

The most recent example of this is Stephen Woodworth's Motion 312 that attempts to re-open the abortion debate and re-define the definition of when life begins. We're also seeing more groups take a page from the Tea Party's handbook in pushing for de-funding of abortion services.
 
The Campaign Life Coalition in Ontario, for example, has been pushing hard on this issue, hoping that they can limit abortions through the back door by cutting funding. In reality, all this type of policy does is hurt low-income women and increase unsafe abortions.
 
It's an attack on women's rights inspired by the move to defund Planned Parenthood in the States and echoed in Canadian federal government policies denying foreign aid funding to agencies that promote abortion and reproductive rights overseas." -- Jarrah Hodge, Canadian feminist blogger at Gender Focus
 
"I think not, since the benefit of Canada's universal health care system is that women have access to safe, legal, fully-funded abortions as well as comprehensive reproductive and sexual health services from physicians.While it's not perfect by any means, it's inherently better for women than a system that denies access to health care for women who can't afford to pay.
Canada has wingnuts like Woodworth as Jarrah mentioned, but access to sexual and reproductive health (including abortion) is enshrined in the Canadian Medical Act, and I think it would take a radical change in national values to backslide. So: no. Poor American women, though." -- Michelle Siobhan Reid, web editor at Sad Mag.

"It's profoundly disturbing that any lawmaker, let alone one responsible for lawmaking in one of the most powerful countries in the world, would have so little regard for science and so little respect for women. I've been shocked not only by the giant gaps in basic biological knowledge and the various discussions of rape which seem to have no regard for the inherent trauma, but by the number of media outlets who write about these Republican gaffes without including any women's voices in their coverage." -- Maggie Knight, Project Coordinator at LeadNow, an independent advocacy organization for progressive politics and democracy in Canada 
 
"I have been following political affairs in the United States closely in the lead up to the election this November, with a specific focus on how the Republican party has already, and will continue, to systematically diminish women's rights in that country. The fervor with which elected officials (most of them men) have lobbied to limit women's access to basic health-care services is disgusting, and the extent to which elected officials have been successful in implementing stricter and stricter regulations on abortion - essentially making access to the service impossible in some states - is horrifying. 

We do not have to wait to see if Mitt Romney is elected President to see if a misogynist movement will develop in Canada. It's here. Conservative MP Stephen Woodsworth has put forth a private member's bill (M-312) that proposes holding a parliamentary debate about the definition of personhood and when life begins, a conversation which would ostensibly re-open debate over the legality of abortion in Canada. This motion is set to be heard on the floor of parliament September 21. 

Even if the motion is shot down by a large margin (let's hope), the very fact that it was introduced at all should alarm us, and says something about how increasingly radical right-wing ideologies are creeping, slowly but surely, into the mainstream - not just in the U.S., but in Canada too." -- Natalie Hill, member of Women, Action, Media (WAM) Vancouver, a community connecting and supporting media makers, activists, academics and funders working to advance women's media participation, ownership and representation.

What are your thoughts on the 'war on women' in the U.S.? Comment below or send us your thoughts on Twitter @VanObserver.

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