Rally for Choice Speech: Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Center

NB: Speech delivered by Krystal Payne, August 2006, at a Pro Choice demonstration in Fredericton, NB. The demonstration was planned and organized by the Access to Options Committee of the Fredericton Social Network.

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By the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre

I wish I could say I am happy to be here as a representative of the Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Center, but I am not. I am disappointed that we all need to be here. I am disappointed that we need to have a rally to point out that women’s constitutional rights are being ignored by the people that we have elected to represent us. I am heartsick that we need to have a rally to remind our Minister of Health that Regulation 84-20 Schedule 2 (a.1) of the New Brunswick Medical Services Payment Act Violates all five principles of the Canada Health Act: Comprehensiveness, Universality, Accessibility, Portability, Public Administration.

I am saddened that women in our province are held in such low esteem that they are denied basic reproductive choices. It breaks my heart that we live in a society that is so mean-spirited that when battles are hard-won and laws are changed that politicians and policy makers refuse to acknowledge the laws and continue to deny basic human rights to women.

Let me tell you a little bit about the organization that I am here to represent today. The Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Center has been in operation since 1975. It is the only Sexual Assault Crisis Center in New Brunswick. The only one. And we receive no core funding from the provincial government to deliver the services that we provide to survivors of sexual violence. We have the dubious distinction of being perhaps the only sexual assault crisis center in Canada that is not funded by its respective provincial government. The only sexual assault crisis center in the province. We operate on a financial shoe-string and sometimes we struggle to keep our crisis line in operation. If you think we do not understand the message about the value the government gives to our work, you would be wrong. We do get it. We understand that as women we are not valued by our government.

We also understand all too well that the women calling our crisis line are often recent victims of extreme trauma. Physically hurt and emotionally raw they are confronted by a myriad of choices that can seem bewildering and frightening. To report the assault or not? To tell the story again and again to police and to risk laying their spirits bare only to be accused or lying or trying to retaliate for a scorned love? Or to remain silent? Reporting also means that collection of physical evidence where her body is considered a crime scene. For any number of reasons, very few women choose to report the assault. For many, it may not even seem to be a real choice. She wants instead to silently lick her wounds and try to heal – physically and emotionally.

Imagine just how heart-rendering it is for the woman who is silently trying to heal to discover the assault that has wounded her has also left her pregnant. Imagine the despair she would feel. Imagine the desperation. Now imagine how she would try to find her way through the maze that would provide her with information about her reproductive options and support for her choices, whatever those choices are. It’s a complicated maze to figure out. It could involve travel to another community or personal expense. She will be left with no doubt about how much she is valued by our society. Wounded to the very core and then left to fend for herself by a heartless system. What dignity does that give her? What kind of respect for her as an individual?

Our legislators and policy makers owe the women of New Brunswick the basic dignity, respect and value that the Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed belong to Canadian women. Our legislators and policy makers owe the women of New Brunswick the consideration that the Canada Health Act has promised them.

The politicians all seem pretty keen on an election right now. To them I say: go ahead, run your campaigns. But on election day, please understand that many women will be marking their ballots FOR CHOICE.