(Black Press Media file photo)

Rickter Scale: The decision that divides

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

At least it wasn’t in a back alley.

They met in the washroom of a department store in downtown Montreal, the procedure unfolding in a bathroom stall after a significant amount of cash changed hands. Kathy, 18 and in the midst of fleeing an abusive relationship, couldn’t afford the hefty additional charge for care the nurse with no name could provide through the night in hell that lay ahead. She reached out to my girlfriend at the time, Sandy, in desperation, and spent the night at the upper duplex we shared with a friend. Completely unprepared but loyal to a fault, Sandy dealt with the aftermath of the earlier meeting while my friend and I cowered in the living room, as far away as we could be from the sounds screaming down the hall from the back bedroom.

Kathy, pale and drawn and still covered in sweat, left the next morning changed forever, much like Sandy, Brian and me, to a lesser degree.

READ MORE: Rickter Scale

A year later in 1970, I marched shoulder to shoulder with women outraged by the raid by Montreal Police on Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s abortion clinic because I didn’t believe any woman should have to endure what Kathy went through. Although that’s as close as I’ve ever been to having to make that tortured decision since, my feelings haven’t changed.

In 2001 I worked with a bright, gifted journalism student during my first year at the Gazette, a devout, born again Christian from Alberta. The subject of abortion came up and after some passionate back and forth, I asked her point blank if she would have an abortion if she was impregnated by a psychopathic rapist who was diagnosed with AIDS. She responded without hesitation that she would have the child because “It was God’s will.” I respect that, but respectfully disagree with her belief that all abortions should be illegal, like they were back in Morgentaler’s day before the court ruled in his favour in 1976.

A monumental effort is gaining momentum in the United States to overturn a woman’s right to make that decision under any circumstances. Several states have recently banned abortions outright, including for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape. It’s part of a concerted push to overturn the Roe vs. Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973 that established abortion rights. The efforts are gaining momentum because Trump appointed two conservative judges that have swayed the bench to the far right. A Catholic senator from the south put it as succinctly as I could ever hope to when she said although she would never have an abortion, she would never question another woman’s right to do so.

Few issues foster such a divide through opposing sides of an argument. Even fewer issues pit women against women, religious beliefs against the law. Regardless of your personal beliefs, what’s going on with our neighbours to the south is closer to home than you think. Where will you stand when our country begins to deal with an influx of desperate women seeking solace in our medical system? And does my opinion or yours really matter at all to any woman who finds herself forced to wrestle with that decision?

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.

Rickter Scale

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unemployment surpasses historic high in Greater Victoria, tourism hit hard

Hospitality and tourism sectors hurting as pandemic continues

Victoria tattoo shops respond to sex assault allegations against male artists

Carne Tattoo and Painted Lotus Studios respond to allegations

Victoria seeks court order to enforce sheltering rules in Beacon Hill Park

People being asked to move out of environmentally sensitive areas of park

Mayor not in favour of low barrier housing at Oak Bay Lodge

Process is already in place to determine future of Oak Bay Lodge

Police watchdog reviewing Victoria police-involved crash

VicPD officer collided with another car in downtown intersection

VIDEO: Langford cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Most Read