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Andrea MrozekThere are Canadian women whose waiting doesn’t matter. And then there are Canadian women whose waiting is especially terrible and reported on regularly.

The Canadian Press reported on Aug. 15 that a 29-year-old whose birth control failed got the abortion she wanted. Except it wasn’t quite fast enough. She waited two months for her abortion – too long, she says. Major media outlets reported on this nationally. “Abortion access in Nova Scotia among worst in Canada, advocates say,” read the headline.

Women always get their abortions. But the agony of the waiting, that’s the story.

There are other women waiting. They’re waiting for pregnancies. Statistically, women are trying at older ages to have children. Time is not on their side. They still know of women who managed to get pregnant at 42 or 45, and it keeps them going. They take vitamins. They try acupuncture. They stimulate ovulation. They take hormonal supplements. They’re poked and prodded. They change their diets. And they wait.

For some women, infertility is painful and every pregnancy announcement is like a stab in the side. Merely two months of waiting would be a dream come true.

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Abortion announcements, on the other hand, are much, much worse. A much-coveted conception, cast aside. One woman’s treasure is another woman’s imposition. Or disposition. Don’t you know, it’s all about personal choice? Don’t ask why, because any reason is a good reason. And don’t let those women wait. The waiting makes them (so they say) feel shame.

Of course, waiting too long for an abortion has the terrible complication of delivering a baby. Early in the first trimester, one can more easily be deceived into wondering whether that’s actually true. But every woman knows the end point is a baby, which is why abortions must be done quickly. At 12 weeks, for wanted pregnancies, eager mothers learn how their babies’ fingers are opening and closing, how the baby’s mouth makes sucking movements.

It’s better to get an abortion before the fingers start opening and closing. Before you know the 12-week-old is making sucking movements.

When the Canadian Press reported that Nova Scotia is “among the worst in Canada, advocates say, for abortion access,” there should have been heavier emphasis on “advocates say.” 

For advocates, there’s no abortion that shouldn’t be done sooner. Sometimes they get it wrong, publicly, as in the recent case in Newfoundland where a 12-year-old got a quick abortion and then another. It turns out her stepfather was abusing her. But there was no time to ask.

Nova Scotia abortion activists, it also turns out, have no data – something we learn in the fourth to last paragraph of the story: “Nova Scotia does not appear to keep statistics on how long it takes women to obtain an abortion after a referral.” Still, the story sailed through under the headline about “worst in Canada” wait times for abortion.

What abortion advocates want is to have their cake and eat it, too. Abortion is such a hard decision, they say. Meanwhile, they want no time allotted to making that tough decision. No reflection. No waiting.

Melanie Mackenzie’s story was the lead for the Canadian Press article: “It was the worst two months of my life. The whole thing felt like a punishment,” she said.

That feeling of punishment is something some infertile women feel, too. Did I do something wrong? Why won’t pregnancy happen for me?

For women waiting for pregnancy, if they’ve had abortions in the past, that waiting is all the more a punishment. It shouldn’t be. But one can forgive them for feeling that way. 

Women get pregnant and they get abortions. Women wait for conceptions that they then track diligently through all gestational stages, holding their breath until a baby is born.

When women are waiting for pregnancy, they’re not allowed to say it hurts to read headlines about abortions that happened, but not quite fast enough.

So many women in Canada wait. But only one group has a loud lobby in its corner.

The rest can wait.

Andrea Mrozek is family program director at the think-tank Cardus.

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