The issue of healthcare is always a hot subject of debate, particularly during an election. As our neighbours to the south get ready to head to the polls next year, we Canadians will be watching in interest as to which topics land on the political agenda. In particular, the possibility of a woman winning the democratic nomination may mean a shift in the area of reproductive health policy which North America so desperately needs. For the past eight years the Bush Administration has allowed for the proliferation of anti-choice groups and religious rhetoric to become almost mainstream instead of the radical extremists that they are. But how does healthcare fit into this debate? Well, with physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other health care practitioners increasingly becoming “gatekeepers” to women’s reproductive health services it is important that we start addressing the need to put women’s health back on the political agenda. In Canada we operate under the notion of universal healthcare. The basic idea of “universal healthcare” is that health services are available to every man, woman, and child in the country. As citizens we pay taxes to the various levels of government in order to have a publicly funded system that is accessible to all. Yet when it comes to women’s reproductive health this could not be further from the truth. Abortion services for example – which under the Health Canada Act is publicly funded and should be accessible to all women who require it – has gone the way of the Do-Do and almost disappeared. Pressure on physicians who actually perform the procedure, along with the apathy of health care providers to secure this service for women has also allowed for large gaps in service accessibility.
It is time to turn the clock ahead. Instead of resting on the achievements of the past, women in both Canada and the US, need to take up the cause of reproductive rights, an issue that is not only about equality, but is about attaining the best possible level of health care. Voting into power representatives that share progressive views on women’s reproductive health issues, will be the only way that comprehensive reproductive health policies are instated.