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One Kind Word: Women Share Their Abortion Stories

We’d like to take a moment to recap the book launch for One Kind Word: Women Share Their Abortion Stories that took place a few weeks ago at Toronto’s Another Story Bookshop. The editors behind the collection, Kathryn Palmateer and Martha Solomon, discussed their inspiration for the project and it’s evolution since they started working together 7 years ago. The show of community support was incredibly heart warming, and we were happy to see so many women get up to share their own personal experiences in support of this collection’s mission to help end abortion stigma.

“You can’t talk about the history of abortion rights in Toronto without talking about all the hard work done by Judy Rebick.”

Writer, activist, and co-founder of, Judy Rebick, was in attendance to discuss how important One Kind Word work is for reproductive justice. Rebick talked about her history with the women’s rights movement and her friendship with Dr. Morgentaler.

Dr. Morgentaler’s Clinic in New Brunswick, the only private abortion clinic in the Maritimes, is being forced to close its doors this Friday July 18th due to lack of governmental funding. A committee called Reproductive Justice New Brunswick is trying to purchase the clinic by raising money through FundRazr to ensure women in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are not left without choice. If the clinic closes, it means abortion access in New Brunswick will be restricted by 60%.

One Kind Word includes women from the Maritimes who share first hand accounts of their experiences with abortion in the restricted region. You can help push for equal access to reproductive health care in Canada by supporting the campaign and if you live in New Brunswick, you can also attend the Save the Clinic Rally taking place on July 18th.

Jillian Bardsley of Medical Students for Choice also spoke at the launch about the organization’s efforts to make reproductive health care, including abortion, a standard part of medical education. In her forward to One Kind Word, Bardsley writes:

“As a future physician I place particular value on science and facts. It concerns me that first trimester surgical abortion techniques are discussed in only half of Canada’s medical schools. This is a serious issue, as the main barrier to choice in Canada is the absence of trained providers and fifty percent of Canadian abortion providers are over the age of fifty. We must make an effort to train new providers and expand the practice of nurse practitioners and midwives. Unfortunately there are many bogus ‘health information sites’ and so-called ‘pregnancy crisis centres’ that intentionally misinform women as to the complications of abortion. If medical trainees aren’t taught that abortion does not cause breast cancer, infertility, or depression and that the procedure is quick and relatively painless, women will be forced to make decisions without being fully and truthfully informed.”

Unfortunately not many schools have access to abortion information which is why this work is so important. MSFC has fought to include lectures on pregnancy termination with the help of student activists and leaders on medical campuses, and continues to educate students on abortion care and family planning through conferences and events.

The release of One Kind Word comes at a time when the fight for access to safe and legal abortion care is more important than ever. So far 2014 has seen the bodily autonomy of women jeopardized by political interference. The Hobby Lobby case is a glaring example of the disturbing developments in the U.S. as the ruling allows for-profit corporations to bypass the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers cover contraception in employee health insurance plans. Corporations argued that paying for contraceptives such as an IUD — a safe, highly effective form of birth control that is the number one choice for women in Europe —infringes on their right to religious freedom.

The anti-contraception movement relates directly to the anti-abortion movement as both compromise women’s rights to have a say over their own bodies. Contraception is part of reproductive health care and is essential to the well-being and health of women. An employer’s extremist opinion (9 out of 10 Americans believe birth control is acceptable) should not impact women’s access to life-saving services.

“It is brave. The more we talk about it, the less brave women have to be.” – Judy Rebick.

The need for women to come forward and talk about their abortion experiences with one another is more important than ever. Recently, the Democratic nominee for Nevada lieutenant governor, Lucy Flores, spoke publicly about having an abortion during a floor speech while serving as a state legislator. Flores said she had an abortion because she wasn’t ready, and doesn’t regret it. Flores’ story is a departure from the way the majority of abortion stories are framed — as last option procedures steeped in stigma and fear. As Jezebel notes, most abortions do not occur late in pregnancy and are not the result of tragedy or medical issues.

Like the women in One Kind Word, Flores’ bravery in sharing her story will help end the distressing cycle of silence and uncertainty around a medical procedure that women deserve safe and reliable access to regardless of where they live. Women’s choices must be honoured. No one’s beliefs, especially not those of a corporation, should ever trump another persons’ right to bodily autonomy.


The artwork featured is from 4000 Years for Choice.

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Reproductive Justice New Brunswick’s efforts to lease the existing Morgentaler clinic in Fredericton continue as the organization is in negotiations with the owner of the former clinic to secure an agreement. Now RJNB is asking for your generous support to buy the equipment located at the clinic that is necessary to provide a full range of reproductive health services for phase two of it’s goals. This Fundrazr campaign is a public initiative in response to the current provincial government’s refusal to take action on the barriers to abortion access in New Brunswick. There are only three days left to help RJNB reach their 200k goal. Please donate what you can here.

Women’s rights advocate Wendy Robbins spoke about the importance of the Morgentaler clinic as an alternative option in a heavily restricted health care system:

“We have all this red tape and bureaucracy and require it to be done in a hospital by a specialist, and so we’re paying between $1700-$2000 for every abortion in a hospital. In a clinic, it’s less than half that.”

The New Brunswick Medical Society has also addressed issues they have with regulation 84-20 that prevents women from accessing safe, legal abortions unless two doctors declare in writing that the abortion is medically necessary. 84-20 is part of New Brunswick’s Medical Services Payment act which includes the following under procedures which “are not deemed to be entitled services:”

(a.1) abortion, unless the abortion is performed by a specialist in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology in a hospital facility approved by the jurisdiction in which the hospital facility is located and two medical practitioners certify in writing that the abortion was medically required .

Many have commented that the wording in the regulation is much too vague. For instance, how can we define what is “medically necessary?” If a woman’s physical health is not in danger, does that mean an abortion isn’t necessary? Terms like this oversimplify women’s lives and ignore the complex emotional, social, and financial factors that can affect a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy.

The Morgentaler clinic was the only facility in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island where women could access abortions based on self-referral. The clinic performed about 60 percent of abortions in the province every year.

Kathleen Pye of RJNB is concerned about how hospitals – there are only two in New Brunswick that will do the procedure – will accommodate the women who have gone to the Morgentaler clinic. Currently, 60,000 New Brunswickers do not have family doctors and women may have to make the rounds to several walk-in-clinics to try and find a doctor that can help them.

In this climate, women’s voices are incredibly important. Prior to the #SavetheClinic rally, The New Brunswick Media Co-op published a woman’s abortion experience. Below we’ve included an excerpt from her story:

“It was really a nightmare, waiting for almost nine weeks for a procedure at the hospital, and having a fetus growing inside of me that I did not want. Looking back now, I would have went to the Morgentaler Clinic if I had the funds. I really felt like I was failed by our ‘healthcare’ system.”

The woman who chose to remain anonymous details the mistrust and judgement she faced at every stage in her abortion experience. We need to do everything we can to allow women to exercise reproductive freedom. Which is why this woman’s story, and those documented in One Kind Word, are so crucial in the fight for accessible and affordable reproductive health care. One Kind Word engages directly with women across Canada through portraits and personal stories to remind us that speaking up is essential in effecting change for women across the world.

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One Kind Word heads to PEI for Abortion: The Unfinished Revolution

Held in the city Charlottetown from August 7th-8th, the first International academic conference on abortion in Canada, Abortion: The Unfinished Revolution, is set to start tomorrow at the University of Prince Edward Island. Over the span of two days, more than 70 papers will be heard with presenters arriving from across North America, the UK, Europe, Australia, India, and Africa.

The decision to hold the conference in PEI was very much a symbolic response to the province’s elimination of access to safe surgical abortion in 1986. PEI will be the hub for discussions and reflections on the status of disparities in access to abortion across Canada and internationally.

One of the key organizers of the conference, Dr. Colleen MacQuarrie, studies activism around abortion in PEI and her research on the effects that this lack of access has on women in PEI is highlighted in a blog series Active History is hosting on their website:

“PEI stands alone in refusing women any provincial access to this service, but that doesn’t mean that abortions don’t take place here. An examination of the provincial billing records over the past 18 years tells the real story. Those records show that without legal abortions in PEI, unsafe abortion practices resulted in up to two illegal and/or failed abortion attempts each year.”

Martha Solomon, one of the editors behind One Kind Word: Women Share Their Abortion Stories will also be attending the conference and exhibiting women’s portraits and stories from the collection. One Kind Word features the personal experiences of women from the East Coast and across Canada who have had abortions. By fostering open dialogue with other women, these stories help put a face to reproductive health and are an important step in stopping the anti-choice movement from framing the language around abortion experiences and dictating how women should feel. One Kind Word, and the countless other experiences that are bound to be shared at this conference show that the personal is political and prove just how empowering women’s voices can be.

Another area of interest that will be touched on in the conference — and in One Kind Word by Jillian Bardsley of Medical Students for Choice — is the role of physicians in the history of abortion.

Katrina Ackerman, one of the graduate students in attendance whose conference paper is excerpted here, looks at the scientific, ethical, legal, and moral beliefs that influenced Canadian and international medical societies’ views on abortion. Ackerman’s work aims to help shed insight into the development of anti-abortion politics.

Excerpts from Jessica Shaw’s paper are also available online. Shaw focuses on the role of physicians in abortion access as well, but instead highlights the doctors who support women’s rights to abortion access and the stories of their commitment. Shaw is a strong advocate for the power of stories in the fight to decriminalize abortion:

“It was stories of illegal abortion that compelled Canadians to demand that our country’s abortion laws be abolished. It is stories of women in areas where abortion remains inaccessible that remind us why our fight for abortion is not over.”

Shannon Stettner, a historian of women’s health, women’s rights, and media activism in Canada, is one of the organizers of the conference and her panel, Language choices: naming a movement, is another important area of focus. The New York Times recently published a piece about the evolution in terminology used by the women’s rights movement and the progression from using the word “choice” — widely used by activists in the 1960s and 1970s — to the umbrella term “women’s health.”

One of the keynote speakers at the conference, Ricky Solinger, will examine the consequences of associating women’s reproductive rights with the consumerist term “choice” and how the term has structured policies about which women are legitimate mothers and which are excluded or defined as “illegitimate” mothers.

You can view the entire program for the conference online. The papers cover a wide variety of issues that reveal the complexity of women’s experiences through the intersections of race and global policy. The language used in the women’s movement, and the depiction of abortion in literature and popular culture are just some of the other interesting panels taking place.

Following the conference, Active History plans to make the keynote addresses available to readers. The outcomes of the built in discussion periods will also be worked into future posts on the website. Additionally, you can follow the conference twitter handle #abortionpei to stay up to date on developments.

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Review Roundup: One Kind Word: Women Share Their Abortion Stories

“A beautiful collection…bold, brave, unapologetic…” – Abortion Gang

The closing of the Morgentaler clinic in New Brunswick, coupled with the undue burden many women still face accessing abortions makes it especially important for women to share their personal experiences. With One Kind Word: Women Share Their Abortion Stories, editors Kathryn Palmateer and Martha Solomon help shift the dialogue around reproductive rights from the sphere of politics to women’s health and safety in their reproductive lives.
We were very lucky to have Kerry Clare of The 49th Shelf and editor of a new anthology on motherhood, The M Word, write the very first review for One Kind Word. Clare places the importance of this collection in it’s pursuit of conversations between women:

“…It creates a space where women who’ve had abortions can see themselves reflected, and the book provides an occasion for women to speak up and say, “This is my story too.”

Speaking with The Chronicle Herald about One Kind Word, Solomon and Palmateer stated, “We wanted to include these stories in any conversation or debate, whether it’s casual or in the House of Parliament…We want to make it about women and women’s lives.”

Deb Singh’s review for Shameless Magazine brings out the key threads of One Kind Word, including the topic of access:

One Kind Word is a remarkable collection of women’s experiences around accessing abortion in Canada and how we got there; both by our own personal circumstances and by the law/medical community allowing us to have self-determination over our reproductive rights as women.”

Abortion Gang’s review delves into why the focus on abortion in Canada is so important in the present day, aiding in on-going efforts to end the stigma and shame that continues to be associated with this healthcare choice:

“…Healthcare is provincially mandated, so services are determined more by the political bent of the provincial government than by the lack of federal law. Added to the economic disparity of the provinces are additional barriers that limit access: regional disparity in services, long wait times, long travel times, and systemic inequality and indifference to issues of reproductive health. Canadians are subject to the same stigma and alienation around abortion as are Americans and others around the world; the work of making abortion accessible – and contextualizing it as healthcare – is still important here.”

The diversity of women represented in these testimonies speaks to the reach of reproductive rights—1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime. These women come from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages. Rabble’s piece on One Kind Word touches on the unique format of the collection and how it reflects all women:

“Regardless of their personal reactions to abortion—from grieving to ambivalence to empowerment—the women have a shared experience of facing barriers to choice and feeling the need to speak out. The format of written stories (30 in English, one in Spanish and one in French) combined with photos makes an instant human connection to the women and the importance of reproductive choice.”

Abortion Gang also highlighted the artistic approach Palmateer and Solomon decided on when starting the arts4choice project:

“Palmateer’s photography is gorgeous, challenging…and what sets it apart from other compilations of this nature. I believe this project would be a compelling visual art exhibit as well, which would perhaps make it accessible to a different demographic. In the right context, abortion story-telling can be a powerful tool for activism. This book provides a space for that in a beautiful and stylish way that I greatly appreciated – and will be a great conversation starter on your coffee table!”

One Kind Word: Women Share Their Abortion Stories is available now.


Highlights from Abortion: The Unfinished Revolution

In the aftermath of the historic conference, Abortion: The Unfinished Revolution, in Charlottetown, P.E.I., organizers have shared a video recap of Rickie Solinger’s keynote address What Makes ‘Reproductive Justice’ Different From ‘Reproductive Rights’? Solinger is a historian and author of several books on reproductive justice in the U.S. In her keynote address, she reflects on how women of colour were denied reproductive rights because of American population control and anti-integration policies.

Stay tuned for more from the conference.

“Where are Canada’s prominent young feminists?” They’re everywhere

“Where are Canada’s prominent young feminists?” They’re everywhere

In a Toronto Star article last week, columnist Heather Mallick discussed British comedic feminist Caitlin Moran’s recent visit to Toronto and asked why Canadian feminism doesn’t have any figures who express similar sentiments culturally or politically.

“Where are Canada’s prominent young feminists?”, asks Mallick. They’re everywhere. If you don’t see them, the vast majority of whom are not glamorous white celebrities, there’s probably something else getting in the way. Canadian feminists work directly with local communities and rally for real change every single day and they don’t get nearly enough attention. There are a lot of amazing women in Canada who deserve to be spotlighted just as much as women like Moran. The online response to this piece reinforced this disparity. You can see some of the great dialogue stirred up by Mallick’s opinion piece on Twitter under the hashtag #canfem.

One collection that celebrates the stories of hardworking, inspiring feminists — many of whom are Canadian and women of colour — is Letters Lived: Radical reflections, revolutionary paths. Sheila Sampath, Editor at Shameless Magazine and Principle & Creative Director at The Public, took on the role of editor to a diverse group of international and cross-generational social justice activists who were asked to write a letter to their teen selves and reflect on the incredible journeys they have taken since.

We featured biographies on all 15 of these amazing feminists on our blog. You can read each contributor’s bio and short excerpts from their letters below.

Letters Lived contributor bios:

Grace Lee Boggs, Sheila Sampath, Victoria B. Robinson, Shea Howell, Juliet Jacques, Selma James, Elisha Lim, Rozena Maart, Lee Maracle, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Nina Power, Coco Riot, Cristy C. Road, Rae Spoon, and Kit Wilson-Yang.

Three O’Clock Press proudly represents over 30 years of published work by, for, and about women. We can attest to the strong tradition of Canadian feminism that has been making an impact for decades and doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.

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Letters Lived Update! 

We’ve previously written about the revolutionary writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs, who graciously wrote the powerful foreword to Letters Lived: Radical reflections, revolutionary paths, a collection that features letters written by a diverse group of cross-generational social justice activists to their teen selves. At present time, health issues have prevented Grace from participating in public events or extensive interviews. Grace’s legacy of “rebuilding, respiriting and redefining” cities from the ground up has been at the core of the organizations and processes she has been a part of for over 70 years. Today we show tribute to Grace by sharing the ongoing work of the contributors to Letters Lived, who continue to make an impact and fight for the inclusive, community-driven society Grace has always envisioned. Next week we’ll be sharing updates from more contributors so stay tuned!

Rae Spoon

Canadian writer and indie musician Rae Spoon is currently on a national tour with west coast singer/accordion player, Geoff Berner. You can find event and ticket info here. Spoon recently published Gender Failure in collaboration with Ivan E. Coyote, a book based on their live multimedia show of autobiographical essays and lyrics. The Advocate recently named Gender Failure one of The Year’s 10 Best Transgender Non-Fiction Books.

Juliet Jacques

Juliet Jacques regularly writes about gender identity and counter culture for UK publications. Jacques also dabbles in fiction and recently published a short story titled “Surveillance City” in the art magazine Queen Mob’s Tea House about the “transgressive, performative or erotic possibilities of surveillance.” Jacques also contributed to New Yorker Sheila Heti’s book Women in Clothes. A review of Women in Clothes by the New Statesman discusses Jacques important contribution:

“One of the most revealing interviews is Heti’s discussion with the NS writer Juliet Jacques, who is transsexual. To be accepted as a woman, Jacques not only had to learn a new way of dressing but new mannerisms, a new voice – even a new way of sneezing. “Women are socially policed to behave with more restraint,” she tells Heti.”

The Independent recently recognized Jacques in their annual Rainbow List of the lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who are making a real difference in the UK. Be sure to keep an eye out for her upcoming book, Trans: A Memoir, to be published by Verso in 2015.

Selma James

Women’s rights pioneer and author Selma James remains active as the founder of the Wages for Housework campaign, a grassroots collective that fights for the rights of women and caregivers who make up the majority of unwaged, domestic labour. The Occupied Times recently published a great in-depth interview with the prolific writer that you should definitely check out to get a better sense of James’ thoughts on everything from technology to Marx and social movement theory.

Elisha Lim

Toronto-based artist and activist Elisha Lim has remained loyal to their goal of self-publishing a calendar, comic or zine every year. 100 Crushes is Lim’s latest release, with artwork that radically challenges mainstream representations of race and gender. Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, who runs a blog dedicated to books of interest for queer Canadian women, selected 100 Crushes as one of her most anticipated books of 2014:

100 Crushes is a compilation of five years’ worth of comics and some new material about queer dating, travel, gender non-conformity, and other such fun stuff.  I hope this book garners the praise Lim’s work deserves!”

Koyama Press published Lim’s debut graphic novel in June 2014.

Shea Howell

A Detroit-based activist and professor of communications at Oakland University, Shea Howell has been writing and organizing on issues of social difference and anti-oppression for four decades. Howell currently lectures at Oakland University and writes a weekly column for the Michigan Citizen called “Thinking for Ourselves,” in which she is critical of policies that undermine democracy and ecological sustainability. You can read her column here.

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Letters Lived Update: Part 2

As part of our tribute to revolutionary human rights activist and writer Grace Lee Boggs, we are sharing the ongoing work of the contributors to Letters Lived: Radical reflections, revolutionary paths. These diverse activists continue to channel Grace’s legacy of “rebuilding, respiriting and redefining” cities from the ground up. Check out our first entry in the series here and stay tuned for more updates in the coming days!

Sheila Sampath

The editor behind Letters Lived, Sheila Sampath, is always busy organizing, hosting, and contributing to events, and this month is no exception. Sampath was in Vancouver on November 21st to deliver the keynote speech at Practivism 7, an event organized by the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada. Her talk focused on the links between radical design and community activism and engagement. She was also on Redeye Vancouver Coop Radio on November 22nd to discuss her work with Shameless Magazine, an independent Canadian publication for young women and trans youth. The Public, an activist design studio for which Sampath is the Principal & Creative Director, was recently awarded an RGD So(coal) Good Award for its design collaboration with The Council of Elders and Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto.

Lee Maracle

From the Stó:lō Nation of British Columbia, Lee Maracle is a prolific novelist, poet, and activist known for infusing First Nations’ culture and history into inventive narratives. Maracle’s latest book is titled Celia’s Song:

“[It] returns to many of the characters that appeared in her 1993 novel Ravensong. The story follows multiple generations of a Stö:lo family from the Pacific Northwest through various tragedies and hardships, as witnessed by a shape-shifter named Mink.” – Quill & Quire

Featured on this month’s cover of Quill & Quire, Maracle discusses her new novel and her process of reworking traditional stories. Maracle is currently the Traditional Teacher for First Nations House, an instructor at the University of Toronto, and Cultural Director for Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Theatre.

Cristy C. Road

Cristy C. Road is a Cuban-American illustrator, writer, and member of The Homewreckers, a queer-core punk rock band.  Road’s most recent work, Spit and Passion, is a queer-coming out memoir about her formative teen years. Road was recently enlisted for the revitalization project of Third Woman Press – a publisher of some of the most important feminist texts, including The Bridge Called My Back and Chicana Lesbians. Road helped the press raise money by contributing her talent towards an Audre Lorde-inspired poster. You can read an interview with Road conducted by the team at Third Woman Press here. Road is currently working on a Tarot Card deck with author Michelle Tea. On November 18th, Road was in attendance at Ms. Heather’s Drama Club in New York where she shared new work alongside other artists and activists.

Nina Power

Nina Power teaches philosophy at London’s Roehampton University and Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art. She regularly writes articles on European philosophy, atomism, pedagogy, art, and politics for several outlets including The Guardian and New Statesmen. Power’s latest work includes “Rainy Fascism Island” on the publishing platform e-flux, in which Power criticizes the British state’s elitist, anti-immigration rhetoric that uses the immigrant community as a scapegoat in the post-crash era. Power also published a heart-breaking piece on state violence for openDemocracy’s politics of mental health series titled “Time does not always heal: state violence and psychic damage.” In this very personal piece, Power details the prolonged and painful legal process her partner Alfie Meadows went through after he was nearly killed by an officer at an anti-tuition fees demonstration.

Coco Riot

A queer Spanish artist residing in Montreal, Coco Guzman, also known as Coco Riot, is an avid visual artist/zine-maker who explores the storytelling possibilities of installations, animation film, comics, and print media. Their latest installation, The Demonstration, explores “the interpersonal/group dynamics and intense emotional narratives that are generated when a large group of people come together.” The papier-mâché installation features 13 brightly coloured sculptures representing imaginary and mythical characters emerging from the floor. The female Minotaur, the leading figure of the exhibition, was a collaborative effort between Guzman and artist Carla Molina. On-site installations of the Minotaur were presented at the Mayworks Festival and the Whippersnapper Gallery in Toronto. Filmmaker and journalist Serene Husni filmed and edited the making of The Demonstration through the phases of building, sculpting, and painting. Stay tuned for updates around the release date of this documentary.

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Support Grace Lee Boggs

Revolutionary writer and activist, Grace Lee Boggs, graciously wrote the powerful foreword to Letters Lived: Radical reflections, revolutionary paths, a collection that features letters written by a diverse group of cross-generational social justice activists to their teen selves. Grace’s legacy of “rebuilding, respiriting and redefining” cities from the ground up has been at the core of the political organizations and processes she has been a part of for over 70 years. Grace is now 99, and health issues have prevented her from participating in public events or extensive interviews. In September of this year Grace went into hospice care, and we are happy to hear that over the last month she has become stronger. To ensure Grace continues to recieve quality care, a public trust has been started to help cover the costs associated with hospice care. If you are able to contribute, please do so through the Action Network, where the funds will go directly towards supporting Grace. You can follow the results of these efforts on the Boggs Center website.

As part of our ongoing tribute to Grace, we are sharing the work of the contributors to Letters Lived, who continue to fight for the inclusive, community-driven society Grace has always envisioned. Make sure you check out part 1 and 2 of our series as well.

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer femme mixed Sri Lankan (Burgher/Tamil)-Ukranian/Irish writer, poet, educator healer, and cultural worker. Autostraddle recently profiled Leah to discuss her 20 plus years of tarot card reading – combining intersectional politics, community organizing, and radical healing to empower marginalized communities. Author of the Lambda award-winning Love Cake and Consensual Genocide, Leah recently published Bodymap, her third collection of poetry, containing new work on love, sex, and disability. This December, she will be hosting a five-week writing and performance class that will all take place online “by and for sick and disabled queer, trans and Two Spirit Indigenous, Black and People of Colour.” Leah continues to perform with Sins Invalid, a disability justice performance project, and co-runs Mangos With Chili, a queer and trans people of colour performance art group. Leah’s writer’s manual, Writing the World, and her memoir, Dirty River, are forthcoming in 2015. You can find out more about Leah and her work on her website and on her tarot website Brownstargirl Tarot.

Victoria B. Robinson 

Victoria B. Robinson is an Afro-German activist, author, and mentor. Her work has been performed on stage and published in numerous books, anthologies, and magazines, including Voices of Black European Women and Noah Saw: Germany black and white. Robinson is a founding member of the Black European Women’s Council (BEWC) and an active member of the ISD — The Initiative of Black People in Germany. Robinson’s published work includes Hill Slam, and most recently, 111 Reasons to have a Best Friend. You can follow Robinson on her official website and Twitter page.

Kit Wilson-Yang

Kit Wilson-Yang is a Toronto-based musician, writer, and artist who creates work about colonization, heartbreak, friendship, and trans identity. Featured in Elisha Lim’s latest collection, 100 Crushes, Wilson-Yang and Lim share the transitions they both experienced, and what it means to find significant pronouns for oneself. Her most recent zine, Ancient Land, New Water, is a collection of stories and poems about her personal experiences of transition.

Rozena Maart

Professsor Rozena Maart is the Director of the Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (CCRRI) at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal in Durban. Dr. Maart’s work in the theatre, as well as her creative, journalistic, and academic writing, has continued to focus on race, gender, and creativity. Her book of short stories, Rosa’s District Six, and novel, The Writing Circle, were both published to great acclaim. Maart recently published “Race and Pedagogical Practices: When Race Takes Center Stage in Philosophy” in Hypatia, a journal of feminist philosophy, and was interviewed in Agenda: Empowering women for gender equity on the topic of black feminism in the 1980s. There are tons of great links on her website, including more about her family history and a list of her writings.

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It has been 25 years since the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion law in 1988, but medical schools in this country are still wary about giving the subject sufficient weight in the classroom according to a feature article by Danielle Groen in the latest issue of Chatelaine.

The medical students interviewed who are interested in abortion care admit they’re nervous about bringing it up with faculty members because they don’t know where they stand on the issue. The statistics on schools that actually include abortion in their medical curriculum are very telling of how many schools avoid the subject altogether:

“Because there is no standardized curriculum for any medical discipline, by the mid-2000s, only half of Canada’s 17 medical schools offered some discussion about first-trimester surgical-abortion techniques. A recent study published in the journal Contraception found that in a third of schools, abortion isn’t raised in mandatory lectures at all.”

These statistics are quite troubling considering that 31% of Canadian women under the age of 45 have terminated a pregnancy, which means every physician will encounter a patient who is seeking an abortion or has had one.

The need for abortion providers is great, and all physicians should have a basic understanding of the procedure. Women living outside of urban centres are at a great disservice because of the uneven distrubution of trained providers: “While Quebec has 46 abortion facilities, the Prairies combined have eight. Prince Edward Island has no provider at all.”

Unfortunately, medical schools are doing little to normalize this safe and legal medical procedure:

“Medical schools as institutions are not typically brave. And it shouldn’t require any bravery, because abortion is a legal medical procedure that is clearly within their purview” says Dr. Mei-Ling Wiedmeyer, a Vancouver-based family physician.

Groups of motivated students have taken it upon themselves to fix these misguided educational priorities. Medical Students for Choice, founded in the U.S. in 1993, and holding chapters in 10 of Canada’s 17 schools, has been at the frontlines of a push for curriculum reform.

Groen also talks to Jillian Bardsley, a medical student who served as Co-President on the Toronto Chapter of Medical Students for Choice, and contributed to the new collection, One Kind Word: Women Share Their Abortion Stories. Bardsley and fellow co-president Anjali Kulkarni organized meetings with school faculty and referred to more substantial lectures at other medical schools including Wester University, which offers a two-hour pre-clerkship lecture on the medical and surgical aspects of abortion. In 2013, the school introduced a 1 hour lecture on the basics of aboriton counselling in its second-year obstetrics and gynaecology unit.

In One Kind Word, Bardsley discusses the links between barriers to abortion access and trained providers:

“It concerns me that first trimester surgical abortion techniques are discussed in only half of Canada’s medical schools. We must make an effort to train new providers and expand the practice of nurse practitioners and midwives. Unfortunately there are many bogus ‘health information sites’ and so-called ‘pregnancy crisis centres’ that intentionally misinform women as to the complications of abortion. If medical trainees aren’t taught that abortion does not cause breast cancer, infertility, or depression and that the procedure is quick and relatively painless, women will be forced to make decisions without being fully and truthfully informed.”

With the pending approval of mifepristone by Health Canada — an abortion pill called “essential medicine” by the World Health Organization and widely used in Europe — family doctors will be at the centre of abortion care in Canada. The approval of mifepristone would remove barriers for women in remote areas who cannot access abortion clinics. Medical schools need to be at the front lines of this trend towards medication abortion and help guide future physicians and the national conversation around this essential area of healthcare.



A recently published article in Essence magazine by Zerlina Maxwell outlines the insidious strategies the Republican House is using to prevent women from accessing safe and legal abortion.

It has been four decades since the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, but abortion rights are still not guaranteed for women in the U.S. Since the 2014 elections gave Republicans control of two-thirds of state legislative chambers, opponents of safe and legal abortion procedures are targeting providers in a new and aggressive way. The New Right’s anti-choice strategy has slowly evolved from trying to dissuade women from seeking abortions to attacking providers directly. By pushing unnecessarily restrictive legislation under the guise of “protection,” anti-abortion groups are making it economically impossible for independent abortion clinics to remain open.

As 2015 begins, congressional Republicans have already tried to introduce a sweeping ban on abortions after 20 weeks of gestation (H.R. 36). It was only when President Obama threatened to veto  the bill that it was shelved. The House is also trying to pass bills that would ban the use of tax dollars for abortion, target funding for groups like Planned Parenthood, and require abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

Anti-choicers claim increased wait times and measures that require providers to be licensed as freestanding surgical outpatient facilities will better protect women, but these standards are the most threatening to abortion clinics which cannot afford renovations that would cost some clinics more than $1 million.

Federal statistics shows that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the U.S. David Grimes, former chief of abortion surveillance at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and a leading research and abortion provider says “Anyone who talks about the dangers of abortion is just blowing smoke…These kinds of regulations do nothing to advance women’s health. All they do is drive up the cost of care and cause women to delay, which drives up the risks.”

The women who are put at most risk by these laws are economically disadvantaged women and women of colour. According to the Guttmacher Instittue, “Black women have consistently had the highest rate of abortion compared to other women. Thirty-seven percent of abortions are obtained by Black women, compared to 33 percent by White women and 22 percent by Latina women.” Many women cannot afford to put their jobs on hold and travel far distances, endure waiting periods, and pay for an abortion out of pocket. This is why challenges to abortion access resonate so clearly with communities of colour. A recent report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health shows that states with the most abortion restrictions also have some of the worst indicators for women’s health.

Reproductive health is an integral component of comprehensive health care, which is a basic right for every individual. Roe will be meaningless if Republicans continue to hack away at it and make the well-being of women dependent on their zip code.


Cynthia Spring’s in-depth piece for GUTS Magazine discusses the uneven state of abortion access in Canada from the 1970s to the present day. Spring lays out how the national conversation around abortion access changed when news of the Fredericton Morgentaler clinic’s forced closure broke on July 31, 2014. For more than twenty years, the New Brunswick government refused to provide provincial funding while the clinic was performing over 60 percent of the province’s abortions.

In Spring’s piece, Moncton activist Beth Lyons explains how the clinic’s closure presented an opportunity for change:

“With the clinic closing there was no longer this band-aid solution, and it was no longer possible to say: ‘It’s too bad that folks can’t get publicly funded abortions with self-referral, but at least we have the Morgentaler clinic.”

A change in provincial power came during last fall’s elections when the Liberal party led by Brian Gallant, who openly expressed his pro-choice leanings, beat the Progressive Conservatives. Four months after the Morgenatlier clinic closure, Gallant announced that his Liberal government would amend Regulation 84-20 that required a patient to get two referrals from physicians in order to receive a fully covered abortion in one of the province’s two hospitals authorized to perform the procedure. The two-referral requirement has been removed from the Medical Services Payment Act, but private clinics are not funded, nor are hospitals required to provide abortions. Gallant’s failure to expand women’s access to healthcare means this amendment really just offers the bare minimum in reproductive health care.

Activists in New Brunswick have a different vision of adequate support and timely care for women that the current health system is lacking. On January 16, 2015, it was announced that a new health centre would be opening in the former Fredericton Morgentaler clinic, made possible from the funds raised by Reproductive Justice New Brunswick and Fredericton Youth Feminists’ incredibly successful kickstarter campaign.

Clinic 554 will offer publicly funded health services such as contraception and pregnancy options such as emergency IUDs, prenatal care, and abortions not covered by medicare. The clinic will also treat people who do not have a family doctor and provide services for the LGBTQ community. Without provincial funding, visitors at Clinic 554 will have to pay up to $800 for abortion services. Hospitals in Bathurst and Moncton are currently the only facilities that perform abortions, which means some women will still have to drive three to four hours depending on where they live in the province.

Wendy Robbins, a long-time advocate for improving access to abortion in New Brunswick, describes the new rules a “partial victory.”

“It’s an achievement to get back to Square 1. It is an achievement to catch up to the 1980s. It is a very muted Hallelujah,” said Robbins.

The fight for access in New Brunswick has shifted towards having medicare fund abortions in other settings outside of hospitals such as private clinics and doctors’ offices. The province’s restrictions go against trends in medicine, such as expansion in the use of telemedicine (i.e. virtual consultation with a physician by video), that help women in rural areas gain access to early abortion care.

Review Roundup: Denise Benson’s Then & Now: Toronto Nightlife History

Review Roundup: Denise Benson’s Then & Now: Toronto Nightlife History

On the heels of the very exciting launch of Denise Benson’s historic Then & Now: Toronto Nightlife History, we’ve gathered together reactions from local and national media outlets for your reading pleasure. Benson’s feat of meticulously chronicling an otherwise undocumented, radical social history is well recognized in the following reviews and interviews. Toronto’s cultural and creative atmosphere, including it’s status as a music festival hub, can be traced back to the spaces, scenes, and developmental trends Benson dissects in this collection. Take a look and listen below and stay tuned for more updates about Then & Now!

  1. Metro Morning with Matt Galloway CBC Radio Interview
  2. Toronto Star – Dance music vet Denise Benson on Toronto’s late, lamented dance clubs
  3. Red Bull Music Academy – Denise Benson on Toronto Nightlife
  4. Completely Ignored by Cam Gordon – Party then, read now
  5. Exclaim! Book Review
  6. Chart Attack – What can Toronto learn from its nightlife history?
  7. NOW Magazine – Then and Now: Toronto’s hidden club history uncovered in new book by Denise Benson
  8. Daily Xtra – Toronto Nightlife: Then & Now
  9. Sirius XM Canada – That Eric Alper Show interview