CBC cooks up anti-choice news story

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CBC cooks up anti-choice news story

Even though our federal government doesn't dare openly take on the issue of access to abortion, for some reason the media - first the CMA Journal, and now the CBC - seems to want to do so, in the form of restricting access to ultrasounds. 

Or as the CBC I-Team, which is responsible for the piece, calls it, "entertainment"


Yes, the lede has obstetricians making the actual call, but near as I can tell the whole germ of this piece is a CBC hidden camera operation. 

After that they went around to the medical associations and the politicians, but for some reason (at least in this web story) left out civil liberty and women's groups - and of course, any mention of the Supreme Court's ruling on the matter.

I wonder if any of the party representatives interviewed actually said anything about the principle of a woman's right to choose, or if they just left it out. 

A stunning, and maddening piece of propaganda.


autoworker autoworker's picture

I see controversy, but not propaganda. If sex selection is to be included under the rubic of choice, then it reopens the debate. I can understand how feminists are anxious to preclude that. The CBC should follow through with an investigation of whether men are indeed pressuring their wives to abort female fetuses. Education is key, of course, and present bans on revealing the sex of the fetus, from medical exams, flies in the face of a woman's right to know what's happening in her own body. This issue, however, will not be resolved by shooting the messenger.

Maysie Maysie's picture

We talked about this a few months ago.

Two things are going on in the Star's article, neither of them good.


Notions of "cultural differences" are being used in racist ways against certain communities (in this case, South Asian and Chinese communities) to single out how particularly more sexist they are. This of course deflects from how mainstream Canadian society is quite sexist, and that some white Canadians also sex-select their babies, but there's no outcry that it's because of specifically anti-female values that are embedded in Canadian society. Which is true, by the way.

It's racist. Just stop it.


Access to safe abortion services. Women are currently, for many reasons, being pressured by their partners and families to have an abortion, to not have an abortion, to get pregnant, to not get pregnant. Why does this happen? It's called sexism. It is odious in whatever form, including being forced, compelled, manipulated, guilted into having an abortion.

But being pro-choice means exactly that. Pro. Choice. It means safe access to abortions. Don't want one? Don't have one. Can never get pregnant? Shut the fuck up.

Until sexism is eradicated (still waiting....) then sexism will happen. Why the Star whips up it's nice liberal readers over this and not over, let's say, systemic underpaying of women workers, poverty affecting female-headed households more severely, etc, is what's noteworthy here.

Women may want early ultrasounds for a variety of reasons. It's none of my, yours, or anyone's damn fucking business why women request this. Stopping women from having access to this service will not stop sexism. I shockingly agree with the jist of most of the politicians quoted at the end of the article. And for that, I need to go lie down.


@ autoworker

Why I call it propaganda?

It is a manufactured story, which is one thing if you're doing a shoppers' advocacy piece on the price of beans, but quite another when it concerns the one issue that stops even Stephen Harper in his tracks, and over which people have been terrorized and murdered.

It is entirely one-sided. Doesn't even ask anyone about whether it is a good thing for doctors to be making public medical policy rather than the government, doesn't mention the recently-proposed private members' bill in the commons, and it certainly doesn't touch on the central point of women's choice and limiting access.

It doesn't even mention the real issue here - which Maysie explained quite clearly.

Like I said, this story is so fucked up I wonder if the party representatives they interviewed said anything on the real issue of choice and access and the producers just decided to leave it out because it didn't fit in the toilet-paper tube view they wanted to present.

Cooking up a slanted editorial masquerading as news is propaganda.

And on the accusations of racism... just read some of the comments. That's certainly the reaction it got. 



Another "fact", which is not true, they kept repeating on The Current yesterday (they ran the same documentary) is that women cannot get abortions after 20 weeks. They set up this entire thing on a false premise. Yes, they may have an extremely difficult time finding a doctor to perform one, but they have the legal right to one. I believe Quebec is leading the nation in providing these (or sending women to the States if no doc in Quebec will do it), but cannot find a link right now.

Anyways, a women's group or pro-choice group, etc. should have been interviewed. I was surprised that Anna-Maria Tremonti did not at least point out the false premise that the entire "investigation" started with.

autoworker autoworker's picture

@6079_Smith_W: I still don't know what is being propagated, or who is being racist. I still view it as a CBC story about the reaction by the medical establishment to a CBC investigation of the use of non-medical ultrasounds for the purpose of sex selection. The investigators asked each of Canada's political parties for their respective policy perspectives. How is that "manufactured"? Who's agenda is being furthers by this report? Please be specific.


autoworker, abortion is legal regardless or reason and regardless of age of fetus. 

There is no 20 week limit in Canada. And there are no restrictions based on reason. Any restrictions are an access issue, but are not based on any sort of legal restriction. 

The CBC is starting from a false premise and leading viewers to believe that such restrictions do exist. 

A woman's body is a woman's body. Where is the legal justification to restrict what tests she is allowed to have done on her own body?

What would the Supreme Court say about that?  

The minute a restriction on "valid reasons" are allowed, ie one gender is wanted instead of the other - other restrictions will slowly be allowed in. 


I was quite specific, autoworker - in the thread topic. It is an anti-choice piece.

The only person they interviewed who actually works with the communities who are being accused here says that the proposal to ban would do no good, and she is right. The story doesn't even provide a source, or get into any of the specifics of the accusation. 

You don't have to be a doctor to use an ultrasound unit, and anyone can buy one, so unless the government wants to go to the lengths of building up a whole bunch of criminal laws around that this isn't going to have the desired effect; it is just going to drive it underground and away from any chance of the "education" some people claim to prefer.

This piece of writing isn't about people wanting to know the gender of their children so they can pick out names; it is about abortion.

So why did the writer ignore the recent crystal clear statement by Gordon O'Connor on the issue? Instead they run a quote from Rona Ambrose who " (doesn't) tolerate discrimination against women" so much that she thinks they shouldn't have information about their own bodies that will allow them to make their own decisions.

But in fact, she is talking about something that according to the law and her own government policy is not a woman, or a person at all. And she is oblivious to the fact she is promoting very real discrimination against women of certain cultures by implying that they aren't mature enough to handle certain information and think for themselves.

How is that education, any kind of respect, or any kind of solution? 

If you disagree, or see it differently, fine. I'd recommend reading some of the comments to that piece, 


I have been ranting about this story for days, which is how long they've been going on and on about it on Metro Morning here in Toronto.  It's infuriating, and a completely manufactured story, I agree.

I have a lot of respect for the Indo-Canadian feminists I've been hearing them interview, who have been trying (somewhat vainly, I think) to make it clear that the solution to sex selection, as with any other gender issue, is not to restrict the rights of women, but education in order to make the entire society (and not just in Indian-Canadian or Chinese-Canadian communities) value women as they should.

In case it's not crystal clear where I stand on sex-selective abortions, or the push to withhold information from women about their own bodies, I ranted on about it at length in this thread:

CMAJ suggests withholding disclosure of fetus' sex to after 30 weeks to avoid sex-selective abortions

I would also like to congratulate those ultrasound clinics who aren't bowing to pressure from bullshit "investigative reports" like the ones the CBC cooked up where they try to shame clinics who agree to give women information about the sex of the fetus inside them.  It's my body, and if I want to know anything about what's inside it, they should damn well tell me if they can.  It's none of their damn business what I do with that information once I have it.


By the way, I'm just waiting for the CBC to do a story about how all women are pressured into getting blood tests during their first trimester to see how likely it is that they're carrying a fetus with Down's Syndrome or other genetic conditions.  Why do you think we are pressured to do that in our first trimester?  Hmm, let me think.

So it's okay for women to have ability-selective abortions, but not sex-selective abortions, right?  Maybe we should start pressuring doctors not to do screening for those conditions until after 20 or 30 weeks too, just in case women are tempted to have an abortion if they find out they're carrying a fetus with a disabling condition.  Not the same thing?  Disability, like sex, is also a protected grounds for discrimination.

Personally, I'd like them to start mandatory screening for the patronizing chauvanist idiot gene, at 4 weeks.


Another important point is that you can get tests online that claim to give the sex of the fetus - so people will just go online if ultrasound clinics are banned from giving out the information. 

Here on PEI, we just got the right to find out the sex at ultrasounds covered under healthcare. Prior to this, they would not tell you at any time of pregnancy. You could pay the 150-200 bucks to go to the private clinic. 

Now, women can find out at their regular ultrasound. (Hubby thought he saw "boy parts" at our ultrasound and had convinced me, so we were quite surprised to hear girl on the big day, lol)

And I think even if education completely eradicated the idea that male children should be more valueable than female children, there would still be sex selection. They don't mention in the documentary (as they are too focussed on certain communities) that a lot of white families want one boy and one girl. The "perfect" family. So, they are finding out and aborting if it looks like a 2nd girl or a 2nd boy and trying again. These are women who want "one of each" and don't want to go through child birth and delivery more than twice, don't want more than 2 mat leaves, etc. What legislation would you enact from stopping this that would not infringe on women's rights? What makes this reason less valid than "not financially ready" or simply "don't want to be pregnant". And if sex selective abortion was outlawed, I am pretty sure women who want a sex-selective abortion could buy an online test and then give a different reason when going for an abortion. And the slippery slope would lead to where? No more genetic testing? Forcing women to carry fetuses with Down Syndrome when they don't want a child with a disability? Who would be in charge of deciding which reasons for abortion were "valid"?

Democrats in the States recently voted down a law that would ban sex-selective abortion, although there are 4 states that have such bans in place at the state level. 



If this story was really about an honest look at sex selection then why didn't the writer bother to look into that issue, the causes, the pressures, the options?

Because it's all there in the lede; this isn't about that issue, because apparently it has all been settled and they have their solution without any discussion. It is all about the tactic to limit choice that some people are pushing for in reaction to it (and likely for other reasons as well).

The highly belittling and loaded term "entertainment" shows that this piece is tainted from the start.

And yes, when the doctors want you to do something they pull out all the scare tactics and shame to pressure you into accepting that they know best. But if you have any other way of thinking with respect to your health and your body it is just frivilous entertainment.


Ghislaine wrote:

Forcing women to carry fetuses with Down Syndrome when they don't want a child with a disability? Who would be in charge of deciding which reasons for abortion were "valid"?

Adding an identifiable group was not necessary to make your point.  I find it very disturbing.  People with trisomy 21 deserve respect as well as everyone else on this board. Please refrain from using definable disadvantaged groups to make your points. While I am sure you meant no disrespect it dehumanizes them and most people with the condition suffer from that societal attitude on a daily basis.  For all either of us know there might very well be some people with the condition who read babble.


I wasn't talking about people, I was talking about fetuses, Kropotkin. I was pointing out where abortion restrictions can lead, ie women could be barred from testing for trisomy 21 and having that information. 


Sorry obviously you have the right to use peoples characteristics in a derogatory fashion as long as you only refer to the fetal stage of growth. I was asking for you to please show some respect for a specific group.   I am not sure that any people living with Downs when they read your statement would share your narrow view of their right to be respected. Believe it or not some Downs fetuses are born and they are people and deserve respect. 

A woman's control over her body has to be absolute but that still doesn't mean that in a discussion about those rights that certain groups need to be continually used as the "poster fetuses" to make debating points.


That is absolutely true, kropotkin, and that was my point in bringing it up (I was the one who raised the issue first, not Ghislaine). Women are expected to WANT to know whether they're carrying a fetus that could be born with Down's in enough time to have an abortion.  I don't hear the CBC freaking out about that, or doctors recommending that women not find out until 30 weeks along.  Because they're just fine with selective abortion based on ability.

The reason I raised it is because I remember when I was pregnant, that was, in fact, the test that doctors ROUTINELY did on pregnant women, and still do - the test for Down's Syndrome and other chromosomal conditions.  I wasn't even asked whether I wanted the test done - I was just told it was a test that they do as a matter of course, and it was presented as something you just do as routine. 

My experience with finding out my son's sex during my pregnancy was, in fact, directly linked to that 16-week blood screening for Down's Syndrome, neural-tube defects and other chromosomal "abnormalities".  This is how it happened:

When you get pregnant, your doctor dates your pregnancy from the time of your last period.  Doesn't matter if your periods are irregular or you have really long cycles - that's how they do it, so it's common for it to be inaccurate.  In my case, I had long AND abnormal cycles (TMI?), and I knew from the start that the fetus was much "younger" than the doctor's estimate.

So, when I had my 16-week blood screening for Down's and other stuff, I was actually only about 12 or 13 weeks along.  I knew this, because I had been trying to get pregnant and was doing pregnancy tests every week, and at the first tiniest sign, I went immediately to the doctor, who told me that the HCG just barely registered, but that yes, I was pregnant.  Then he dated it to the last period which was two months before.

Anyhow...so I had this blood screening done, and got a call on a Friday afternoon, asking me to come to see the doctor on Monday morning to discuss the results.  You can imagine what kind of weekend I had, since they would have just told me it turned out fine if it had.  I worried all weekend.  Then on Monday, I went to the doctor and was told that he was concerned because the levels weren't quite right for my age group and how far along I was, and there was a higher risk of an "abnormality".  Instead of the chances being something like 1 in 10,000 which was normal for my age group, it was more like 1 in 300 or something like that.  Which is still negligible, but enough of a difference for concern.  (I was so peeved about having been made to worry all weekend over a third of a percent of a chance of something being wrong!)

So, I was sent immediately to the ultrasound clinic down the street.  I asked the doctor if, while I was there, I could find out the sex of the baby, because I was so excited and impatient to find out.  He said sure, that's fine, sometimes they don't like to do it, but just tell them I said they should - I send enough patients their way that they won't refuse.

So while I was having the ultrasound done to a) find out the actual age of the fetus and b) find out whether there were any conditions or syndromes that might either cause a disibility or cause the baby not to form properly (open neural tube defects generally mean the baby doesn't survive to birth), I also found out the sex of the fetus.  He didn't hesitate to tell me - all he did was warn me that sometimes they are wrong, and that they couldn't be 100% sure. 

The same kind and friendly ultrasound technician who told me I was carrying a boy would have been demonized had he been trapped by that CBC "undercover investigative reporter".

I think it's pretty damned ironic that the same doctors who are preaching so self-righteously that ultrasound technicians should withhold information about the sex of a fetus from the woman in case she chooses to abort it, will send women to those same ultrasound technicians, or for amniocentesis, in order to find out whether the fetus has Down's Syndrome or any physical abnormalities like missing limbs, spinal issues, etc. so that she CAN abort it if she wants to.

Both disability and sex are protected grounds of discrimination.  And yet, no one in the medical community seems to have a problem with the practice of aborting a baby because of a disability. But they feel qualified to decide for women whether they should or shouldn't abort on other protected grounds.

A footnote: During that weekend of worry and wrestling with the possibility of something being wrong with the fetus, I had decided that unless the fetus was not viable and would die before birth or right after birth, I was going to go through with it, disability or not.  And I swore that I would never go through with one of those blood screening tests again if I ever got pregnant again.

Another footnote: Transgender issues weren't even on my radar 14 years ago when I was pregnant.  It didn't occur to me that, even if I knew the sex of the fetus, that wouldn't mean that I would know the gender of the baby, child, and adult it would grow to be.  It occurs to me now.  And yet, even now, I would still want to know the sex of the fetus if I were pregnant.  I can't explain why.  I just wanted to know everything about this little being that I could possibly know.  I don't know, it was a bonding thing for me.  But now I would process that information with the knowledge that sex does not always determine gender.


kropotkin1951 wrote:

Ghislaine wrote:

Forcing women to carry fetuses with Down Syndrome when they don't want a child with a disability? Who would be in charge of deciding which reasons for abortion were "valid"?

Adding an identifiable group was not necessary to make your point.  I find it very disturbing.  People with trisomy 21 deserve respect as well as everyone else on this board. Please refrain from using definable disadvantaged groups to make your points. While I am sure you meant no disrespect it dehumanizes them and most people with the condition suffer from that societal attitude on a daily basis.  For all either of us know there might very well be some people with the condition who read babble.

Kropotkin, I did not mean to offend and I agree with everything you say about individuals with Down Syndrome. I personally decided that I would refuse all of the testing that they do because I was keeping my baby either way. Anti-choice groups are all over the sex-selection issue and they also frequently mention the "90% of down syndrome children are aborted" trope (which isn't true - it is more like 50% in the US and no such records are kept in Canada).

That is what women's rights are up against, so how can we not mention it? My point was that this sex-selection issue will be used as a stepping stone to other identifiable groups to try and chip away at abortion rights. That is where they are going to start. I personally don't agree with anyone aborting based on disability and as Michelle points out they do push the tests (and strongly suggest termination should they find trisomy-21). I think all women should have the right to those tests, and to use the information however they choose. 

Please don't take what I wrote to be anything against people with Down Syndrome. I have a friend who had the tests done and it came back with a "strong probability" of Down Syndrome. The doctor immediately started talking about termination, which she was adamantly against. She basically told him off. I think it would be better if doctors discussed all options, such as perhaps referring to groups of families that have children with intellectual disability so they can say how much love and joy they would be missing out on. The people with Down's that I have met are some of the most loving and compassionate individuals around. 

I was just touchy about using the term "person" about fetuses....as most feminists are. The only person involved during pregnancy is the woman. Unfortunately some women are going to abort simply due to disability or sex and that is their right. My ultimate point is that to try and reduce this, we need to change people views of women, people with disabilities, etc. 


Thx Ghislane for that clarification.  The right to chose only resides in the individual.  I understand that inadvertently using the term fetus is a trigger and rightly so.  I was merely trying to point out that using the example of Downs fetuses is a trigger for me since in my years of advocacy on behalf of people with developmental disabilities I know the way that they are made the "other by most people. It felt like the same kind of discrimination that leads the doctors to insist that all women need the test because unlike most fetuses they are going to grow into a monster not a real human being. It about choices in language and trying to be inclusive.  I think that it will enhance a debate on women's rights not decrease it.


Glad I cleared that up, Kropotkin. Good for you for doing advocacy. 

I used to work as an advocate for people with disabilities when I as a social work student in BC - helping them and their families apply for and navigate the disability benefits system in that province.  (which at the time was extremely onorous and paperwork-heavy). 

I think if we had the proper supports for families with children with disabilities, that would go a long way. A few hours a week of respite care can be huge - and if the question "what happens when I am gone" can be answered with confidence that calms a lot of concerns. Similarily, if there was more of an effort to educate people and eradicate sexism. 


autoworker autoworker's picture

I still don't get what's anti-choice about this story. If a woman doesn't want a chIld, she can choose to have an abortion. It's a matter between her and her physician. Medical diagnostic technicians are prohibited from interpreting results, of any kind, with patients. Ultrasound clinics, such as those referred to in the story, that operate outside the health care system service the curiosity of clients, and not the medical needs of patients.


The anti-choice aspect, at least as I see it, is that the story (which I haven't seen) posits that there are good reasons for having an abortion, and there are bad reasons for having an abortion.  These judgements tend to undermine a woman's autonomy of choice.


THanks Caissa,

Although part of my problem with the piece is that there is nothing pointing out the right to access to abortion (and really, that includes the information a woman might need to make that choice). So no, there is no talk of abortion as a good thing.

This isn't about frivilous use of medical funds, and it is not about preventing people from naming their kids (the disingenuous use of the word "entertainment" notwithstanding). 

THis is about trying to prevent people from aborting female fetuses and nothing else. While I do recognize that as a problem, I see the presumed solution that this piece leaps to as a far bigger problem.

I can't think of any other situation in which people might be denied information about their own bodies. And I can't think of any grounds at all that might justify that act.