The Fu­ture of Abor­tion Rights

An In­ter­view on Sex­ual Health with San­deep Prasad

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Meyra Çoban The Mcgill Daily

San­deep Prasad is the Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Ac­tion Canada for Sex­ual Health and Rights (Ac­tion Canada). Af­ter speak­ing at the Oc­to­ber 11-12 Abor­tion Be­yond Bounds Con­fer­ence, hosted by the Mcgill In­sti­tute for Gen­der, Sex­u­al­ity and Fem­i­nist Stud­ies (IGSFS) and the Cen­tre for Re­search on Gen­der, Health, and Medicine (CRGHM), Prasad sat down with the Daily to talk about the state of abor­tion care in Canada, and his work in the sex­ual health and rights field.

The Daily: Now that 30 years have passed since the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of abor­tion in Canada, how easy or dif­fi­cult is it to­day to ac­cess abor­tion care in Canada?

San­deep Prasad: Prac­ti­cal ac­cess to abor­tion care in Canada, de­spite thirty years of de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion, is still dif­fi­cult. There are nu­mer­ous bar­ri­ers that still [...] ham­per the abil­i­ties of those seek­ing abor­tion ser­vices to ac­tu­ally ac­cess them. Things like un­even dis­tri­bu­tion of ser­vices, the con­cen­tra­tion of ser­vices in ur­ban cen­tres, cre­ates large dis­tances that peo­ple still have to travel to ac­cess these ser­vices; these are of course com­pounded by other fac­tors of op­pres­sion such as poverty or young age, mak­ing it even more dif­fi­cult to ac­cess care. For­tu­nately, there have been steps in the right di­rec­tion of ex­pand­ing abor­tion ac­cess pri­mar­ily through the role of mif­e­gymiso [the Cana­dian trade name for the abor­tion pill mifepri­s­tone] within Canada, which is the [World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion] gold stan­dard of med­i­cal abor­tion. But at this point, there is a lot more work to do in terms of achiev­ing an ef­fec­tive roll­out of mif­e­gymiso that would trans­form ac­cess to this drug. So there is prom­ise in that, but at the same time, we also have to con­front the re­al­i­ties of anti- choice ac­tors who cre­ate bar­ri­ers to ac­cess through mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion, bi­ased coun­selling prac­tices, and through ac­tiv­i­ties that stig­ma­tize abor­tion. These make it far more dif­fi­cult for those seek­ing abor­tion care to ac­tu­ally find the in­for­ma­tion they need to ter­mi­nate an un­wanted preg­nancy.

MD: What is the role of Ac­tion Canada in this sit­u­a­tion?

SP: Ac­tion Canada is Canada’s na­tional sex­ual and reproductive health rights or­ga­ni­za­tion. As such, we have a num­ber of is­sues that we fo­cus on in the sex­ual and reproductive health and rights field, and abor­tion care is one of the key ar­eas of this fo­cus. Abor­tion work re­lates to both help­ing to en­sure that ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion re­lated to abor­tion is out there for the pub­lic, and that through our ac­cess line, mem­bers of the pub­lic seek­ing to ter­mi­nate preg­nancy are sup­ported with ac­cu­rate, un­bi­ased in­for­ma­tion about abor­tion pro­ce­dures as well as re­fer­rals to the ap­pro­pri­ate care near­est to them. We’re help­ing to con­nect peo­ple seek­ing to ter­mi­nate preg­nancy to ser­vices that they want. Fur­ther­more, our or­ga­ni­za­tion is also en­gaged in pol­icy work on abor­tion. We see that ad­vo­cacy is crit­i­cal to chang­ing the land­scape of abor­tion and have been pri­or­i­tiz­ing within that ad­vo­cacy the uni­ver­sal cost cover­age of mif­e­gymiso, [and] en­sur­ing that re­stric­tions re­lat­ing to mif­e­gymiso are re­moved.

MD: Ac­tion Canada in its cur­rent form has evolved out of prior or­ga­ni­za­tions like the “Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of So­ci­eties for Fed­er­a­tion Plan­ning” or “Planned Par­ent­hood Fed­er­a­tion of Canada” that car­ried a dif­fer­ent lan­guage in their names. Why should we be talk­ing about sex­ual health and rights rather than reproductive health and rights?

SP: When we come down to it, it’s all the same is­sue. Whether we’re talk­ing about abor­tion, or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, same-sex sex­u­al­ity, trans rights, is­sues around con­tra­cep­tion, we’re all talk­ing about, on the one level, the right to bod­ily au­ton­omy; the right of each per­son to do with their body as they want and to have the in­for­ma­tion and ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices to sup­port their de­ci­sion­mak­ing around their body. [...] In a very prac­ti­cal way, abor­tion rights are sex­ual rights. Abor­tion stigma is also stigma re­lated to sex­u­al­ity. So all of these is­sues are fun­da­men­tally con­nected and we use “sex­ual rights” as a short­hand to de­scribe all of these is­sues be­cause we see that, tra­di­tion­ally, when we look at def­i­ni­tions of reproductive health and reproductive rights, the sex­ual is de­fined through the reproductive. We in­ten­tion­ally want to change that par­a­digm. Re­pro­duc­tion is an as­pect of sex­u­al­ity. There are nu­mer­ous as­pects of sex­u­al­ity, but our broader frame is sex­ual rights which is in­clu­sive of reproductive rights.

MD: The Abor­tion Be­yond Bounds con­fer­ence fo­cused on self-man­aged abor­tion. How is self-man­aged abor­tion widen­ing ac­cess to abor­tion care and which bar­ri­ers re­main?

SP: It is im­por­tant that we work to­wards ex­pand­ing op­tions for how in­di­vid­u­als in­ter­act with their body, how they man­age the care of their body, whether that’s about meth­ods of con­tra­cep­tion, meth­ods of ter­mi­nat­ing preg­nancy, we want to ex­pand the fron­tiers of pos­si­bil­i­ties for them to do that and to sup­port them in do­ing that, and to have the con­trol over the level of sup­port they want in do­ing that. The au­ton­omy needs to rest with that in­di­vid­ual who is mak­ing the de­ci­sion on their own in re­la­tion to their bod­ies. In terms of self-man­age­ment of abor­tion care, we need to be look­ing into op­tions that re­move abor­tion care from the med­i­cal sys­tem. There is am­ple ev­i­dence that self-man­aged abor­tion is safe and ef­fec­tive. And there are a lot of ex­am­ples in many other coun­tries that we can point to that have been us­ing med­i­ca­tions through com­mu­nity ac­cess for abor­tion, which we need to look at in Canada.

MD: In health care sys­tems that are not ac­ces­si­ble to all, how does self-man­aged abor­tion widen ac­cess to un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties?

SP: The ge­o­graphic cir­cum­stances of the coun­try are such that it is very dif­fi­cult for in­di­vid­u­als who live in ru­ral or ge­o­graph­i­cally re­mote ar­eas to ac­cess care. [...] Ex­pand­ing the scope of prac­tice for dif­fer­ent types of providers is one im­por­tant step [...] but what is also im­por­tant is more self-man­aged mod­els of abor­tion care as well. So we need some­thing that is in­clu­sive of these parts, be­cause we need to get to a place where ac­cess to abor­tion is com­mu­nity-based and is ac­ces­si­ble to com­mu­ni­ties which are re­mote.

MD: You were in­stru­men­tal in start­ing the Sex­ual Rights Ini­tia­tive, an in­ter­sec­tional Global South-north coali­tion of or­ga­ni­za­tions that work to­wards ad­vanc­ing sex­ual rights in the United Na­tions. What is the place of a Global North or­ga­ni­za­tion in global sex­ual health ac­tivism?

SP: That is a great ques­tion, thank you for ask­ing that. There are a few places for a Global North or­ga­ni­za­tion. First of all, as a merged or­ga­ni­za­tion, we also have in our or­ga­ni­za­tional his­tory the work of Ac­tion Canada for Pop­u­la­tion and De­vel­op­ment (ACPD), which did a lot of for­ma­tive work ini­tially within the in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal hu­man rights sys­tem on sex­ual and reproductive rights. Quickly, we saw the need for a Global South-global North coali­tion and for that coali­tion to ac­tu­ally be of na­tional and re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions do­ing work on these is­sues. Where ACDP was dif­fer­ent though, was that it didn’t ac­tu­ally do do­mes­tic ad­vo­cacy. So one of the ap­peals for ACPD for en­ter­ing into this merger is that we need to be more like our part­ners in the Global South that are do­ing ef­fec­tive na­tional work and that come to­gether with us to do that kind of work as well. We wanted to model that. So our en­gage­ment with part­ners in the Global South fun­da­men­tally changed the struc­ture of our or­ga­ni­za­tion. As Ac­tion Canada, we have lent our abil­ity to act as co­or­di­na­tors. Our job has been to en­sure that re­sources are pooled to­gether for this work, but also to en­sure that each part­ner is bring­ing its anal­y­sis from its na­tional and re­gional con­text to that work at the global level, so now we are able to par­tic­i­pate on that more fully, do­ing na­tional work like our other part­ners within the coali­tion.

MD: Where do you see your place in a sex­ual health or­ga­ni­za­tion?

SP: I’m very for­tu­nate be­cause I went to law school to do hu­man rights work glob­ally with my law de­gree. And while there were a lot of in­di­vid­u­als like me in my law school, there aren’t that many jobs within the hu­man rights field [af­ter grad­u­ate school]. I’m one of the lucky ones who ac­tu­ally gets to do hu­man rights work in Canada and glob­ally as a pro­fes­sional. My own in­ter­est in want­ing to go to law school to do that [comes from when] as a young queer guy I did a lot of or­ga­niz­ing on cam­pus at Queen’s Univer­sity, which is quite con­ser­va­tive and quite white as well, that was par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on LGBTQ is­sues. When you start look­ing at some is­sues, of­ten times you can see the re­la­tion­ship to other is­sues of so­cial jus­tice. That com­pelled me to have a broader per­spec­tive on how sex­u­al­ity and gen­der are fun­da­men­tally in­ter­re­lated, but also to go to law school to work on these broader is­sues pro­fes­sion­ally.

This in­ter­view has been edited for clar­ity and ac­cu­racy.

We have to con­front the re­al­i­ties of anti-choice ac­tors who cre­ate bar­ri­ers to ac­cess through mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion, bi­ased coun­selling prac­tices, and through ac­tiv­i­ties that stig­ma­tize abor­tion. — San­deep Prasad

Logo from ABB2018 Con­fer­ence

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.