I haven’t been updating this blog as often as previously, and also made a difficult decision to stop participating in pickets for a while, way back following Day 171. It seems that the change in the weather, the change in my circumstances, and a palpable change in my sense of security and safety, have all intersected at once at the expense of my available energy and sleep hygiene. It is both frustrating and depressing, because this very same thing happened this time last year. I feel like my spirit has taken a lot of harsh blows lately, and though setting an alarm and sleeping again after a picket is always an option on days when insomnia has taken its toll on my productivity, my capacity to remain a productive presence there is a whole other matter. I got very angry last time, and caught myself in the middle of threatening to make that space unsafe for fellow demonstrators by being the first to raise my voice in anger.
A valid question at this point might be where all this anger is coming from, and I think it should be plainly obvious to anyone reading this blog on a regular basis that the source is grief. I have suffered horrible injustices all my life, and rarely have enough time between these events to fully grieve my losses. Thus, when news of Savita Halappanavar’s death went international, I tried to avoid reading it. When I could no longer avoid the tragic story of this woman’s final days among the living, I was quite literally overwhelmed with sadness. She reminds me of every one of the women whose suffering was silently aired in the chart notes of the family physician I worked for.
The woman who was with her daughter in their flat just a couple blocks away from the office, who came in without an appointment after a man burst into their flat and terrorized them at gunpoint. The woman who was repeatedly battered and raped until she finally went missing; noted in the chart both by her sudden absence and by RCMP requesting information about her chart more than three years after the fact. The woman who suffered a missed abortion for the second time, but wouldn’t believe the fetus she was carrying, which had no heart beat, was no longer alive.
The woman who phoned her husband for a ride, then jumped down onto the train tracks, stood up in full view of security video cameras, and opened her arms a second before the oncoming train hit her. The woman who had refused diagnostic testing the year before I started working there, and was diagnosed at 28 years old with colon cancer when I had been there for just a couple months. The woman who arrived at the office early for her appointment, and within minutes was completely overwhelmed with grief as she told me about her daughter (in her early 20s) being deprived of adequate medical attention after her drug-related arrest and dying three days later in Chilliwack RCMP custody over the weekend just passed.
The woman who died peacefully but alone in her single-room apartment, found more than 48 hours later when someone finally went to check on her. The woman who, already juggling bipolar disorder with being a single mother, gave birth to a second child, care of a man who started stalking and harassing her before reporting false information about a missing person to extort money from the grieving family. The two young women that year, both under 16, who had gotten pregnant and tried to hide it from their respective mothers until they couldn’t hide it any longer — at which point both sought abortions because it was clear that even though their bodies made them look like women on the outside, they were still children on the inside.
All of these women are with me, every day; each one representing a different part of me. A different experience, memory, or aspect of my blood relations and the history I inherited from them. These are the women whose rights are at risk all the time, among so many, many other women. They are who the “pro-life” popularity contest, and their Canadian partner in multi-faceted misogyny, REAL Women of Canada, actively wage war against (in addition to trans* people and anyone who isn’t strictly heterosexual, monogamous, sober, and a virgin until marriage). If organizations like RWoC and their many bigoted Catholic pro-life allies were fighting for women as they say they are, rather than against them as their actions say they are, they wouldn’t be so focused on policing women’s sexualities and fertility, but would instead call attention to the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in this country. Or women like Savita Halappanavar and CeCe McDonald, to name just two I am legally free to write about by name.
I feel compelled to fight to protect the rights and dignity of all these women (especially those who are no longer with us, and those who are at high risk for the same fate). But I need to be able to fight in a way that respects their lives, their memories, and their legacies. I need to be able to fight in a way that, if they saw me there, they would respect me for doing it. I can’t do that when I’m raising my voice in anger. So until the beginning of the new year, I am taking time to crumble under my grief; and to pick myself back up again, find the centre of my Self, and walk again like the warrior I know I can be.