Canada’s Supreme court declares anti-abortion law unconstitutional
by gary_satanovsky on January 28, 2012
In every revolution there is some watershed moment that crystallizes the conflict and then changes it, irreversibly. In Canada’s debate over abortion rights that moment came when a Montreal gynecologist, Dr. Henry Morgentale, declared openly and proudly that he had performed hundreds of abortions in contravention of the law at that time. Canadian law allowed therapeutic abortions – those that threatened the health of the mother – and left it up to the hospital three-doctor panels to decide what that meant; Morgentale, who believed that any woman who desires an abortion should have one, did not clear his procedures with any panel.On this day, January 28, in 1988, thanks in large part to Dr. Henry Morgentale’s work, Canada’s Supreme Court overturned the therapeutic panel requirement, striking down the last legal barrier to abortions in the country.
It was Morgentale’s case that which went to the Supreme Court. After his illegal abortion practice was predictably challenged in court, which found in favor of the government, Morgentale appealed to the highest judicial body in the land. There, a seven-judge panel agreed in a 5-2 decision that the abortion panels violated an article of the constitution regarding the “security of persons”.
I realize that abortion i a very hot button topic for a lot of people. All that aside though I think we have to admit that the judgement made 24 years ago today did not in fact cause the world to end. it did not result in the death of the catholic church and it did not in fact stop the persecution of women who decide for whatever reason that this is an option they require.
24 years later we still have people who feel it is their right to interfere in the reproductive decisions a woman makes about her life and her body. We still have people who are willing to kill in order to stop abortions and we still have many of the injustices that have plagued women for millennia. Women are still being payed significantly less than men for the same work just as one tiny example.
24 years later however we can be sure of something. Even with the opposition to abortions there are a lot fewer women maimed or killed by back alley abortions than there used to be.
I understand that for some people the abortion equates to murder and I understand that they will never be persuaded otherwise. That is until their own daughter needs one anyway. The fact is though that like other things that we may not like abortions have been around for ever and are going to be around forever. The choice is not about whether they can be ended it is only a choie of how dangerous and costly you make it for the woman.
Morgantaler risked his life, his career and jail time to make safe abortion possible for women in Canada and his work was finally recognized when he was named to the Order of Canada.
Today when we can still have a major politician running for the GOP nomination in the states insisting that abortion be banned even in cases of rape it is important to remember that this fight is not and probably never will be over.
TO paraphrase the Supreme Court ruling form 1988 the old law took the decision about reproduction away from a woman and conferred it on a committee. It could be seen as a way to force a woman against her will to carry to term a baby she didn’t want. The decision was that individual women should have the final say over what happened to their bodies, not a group of people assembled by the local hospital.
24 years later Canada is a better place because of this decision and because of the bravery of Henry Morgantaler. For those who feel compelled to fight against a woman having this choice I suggest you work at making it better for women to raise children in our society so fewer feel the need for abortions.
That of course would be difficult and not nearly so easy as following whatever the pope tells you to do.