tribute to henry morgentaler

Continuing the abortion-rights theme here at wmtc, yesterday, January 28, was the 17th anniversary of the Morgentaler Decision. That decision by the Supreme Court of Canada decriminalized abortion and effectively ended legal restrictions to abortion in Canada.

In 1969, in defiance of the law, Dr Henry Morgentaler opened Canada's first freestanding abortion clinic. After a series of trials where Quebec juries refused to convict him, Dr Morgentaler served time in prison. It won't surprise you to learn I admire people with that kind of courage and commitment. Like every movement for social change, this was a long, circuitous battle, culminating in the 1988 Supreme Court decision.

Thanks to ALPF, today I read about Dr Morgentaler's work and life (and about the Canadian reproductive rights movement). Morgentaler is also a survivor of the Nazi slave-labor camp in Dachau. He is still a leader in the struggle for equality and access to reproductive-related medical care; you can read something about his current work at his clinics' website.

Canadian women still face barriers to full reproductive freedom. I'm aware of some of these because Haven regularly helps women from Canada, mainly from Quebec, who take the bus to New York City for their procedures.

There are great differences among the provinces when it comes to abortion access and funding, which, I read, violates the Canada Health Act, which calls for insured medical services to be universal, accessible, portable, and comprehensive. From CARAL, the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League:
Because different provinces and territories have different policies on funding abortions at hospitals and private clinics, women, particularly those who are poor and/or young, have limited access to the service. Too often, abortion-related costs, including travel, accommodation and sometimes child care, or simply the delays required by travel, prevent women from having this medical procedure.

Women in Atlantic Canada, as well as remote and rural areas throughout the country, are particularly hard hit. For example, in Prince Edward Island, the government refuses to provide abortion services at all six Island hospitals, forcing the 200 women who seek abortions each year to leave the province for the service. The minimum cost of the procedure is $450, and associated costs for travel and child care can easily push this to $600 or more. Labrador and Cape Breton also have no abortion services, and there is only limited access in Newfoundland.
The article goes on to detail the restrictions province by province. Another comprehensive article, which I'll be bookmarking and reading thoroughly, is here. It also gives some interesting details about Morgentaler's legal battle.

Canada is still miles ahead of the US on this issue, by virtue of having national health insurance, and not being controlled by religious zealots. But I see there is still work to be done, so maybe I can put my experience to use north of the border as well.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes it really scares me that educated adults like
this exist in the us...


Thank goodness there are the sane ones...


Take Care

laura k said...

And by educated adults, you mean demented lunatics. Wow, that is really out there. Reeeeallly ooooouuuut there.

The same-sex marriage column is very good. I wonder how that works for gay Iraqis. We'll bring you freedom, but not too much?

ALPF, you are Canadian?

Anonymous said...

Sure am eh!!
I'm actually from Hamilton, just down the QEW (45 min)from Toronto. Third biggest city in Ontario behind Toronto and Ottawa. Believe me it's not really worth the visit once you guys are living in Toronto. Our downtown has become rotten but the outer burbs and towns (Dundas, Ancaster...) are real nice. My house is on Hamilton Mountain. It's not really a mountain, it's the Niagara Escarpment.

laura k said...

I think you've just outed yourself eh. But who knows, maybe lots of people in Hamilton are reading wmtc. You shall remain ALPF as long as you like. :)

Anonymous said...

Canada's MP's return to the House of Commons today... Boy the things that go on in our government must seem so lame when compared...


Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Hamilton's rather infamous for its heavy industry on the shores of lake Ontario. The city itself is nice, but outsiders travelling on the QEW only see the factories.

Hamilton is to Toronto what New Jersey is to New York.

Anonymous said...

Everytime I hear about Hamilton all I can think about is that Air Farce line in parliament "The speaker recognizes the member for Hamilton.... and the smog."

laura k said...

NJ: good analogy. There are actually lots of wonderful parts of NJ - beautiful woods and lakes, great beaches, farms (ok, so the soil is full of radon, nothing's perfect!), but the state is just the butt of jokes. I only know the good stuff 'cause much of my family lives there.