It may be disputed, some may fight it tooth and nail, but every Canadian woman owes something to Henry Morgentaler. The notorious abortion rights activist died Wednesday of a heart attack at the age of 90, and one indication of the massive change he helped to bring about is the chorus of positive responses online.
Morgentaler. May he who fought so hard for reproductive rights in Canada rest peacefully.— emma woolley (@emmamwoolley) May 29, 2013
Despite the fact that the majority of tweets were in support of the notorious doctor, there are always a handful of folks who enjoy dancing on graves.
But enough about those afflicted with social tunnel-vision. Because Morgentaler believed in a woman's right to choose, and because he spent so much of his life fighting to achieve that, he should be remembered as pro-woman above all else. Deciding that a woman can -- and has the right to -- make decisions for herself shouldn't be a radical thought, but it was. Sadly, to some degree, it still is.
Providing independence-affirming, and in some cases life-saving, procedures to women at their most vulnerable is not an act of violence, but an act of kindness. Performing abortions for women who needed them when the law was not on his side was an act of defiant feminism. For that, and for so much more, Morgentaler is a hero.
The bottom line is, Morgentaler, and the many other doctors who dared to defy the moral majority, saved women's lives. When a country makes abortion illegal, that doesn't mean there are less abortions, it just means they are less safe. Abortions done by amateurs, or by the woman herself, can render women sterile, mutilated or even dead. Out of all the many countries on Earth, Canada is one of the lucky ones.
But sometimes, when the rights are won, people begin to feel safe and begin to get complacent. Morgentaler's death is an opportunity for Canadians to reflect upon what has changed since he began his fight, and what has yet to be accomplished. This year, across North America, there was evidence that the fight for equality on this issue was far from over.
When Motion 312, a motion to study the definition of human life, was defeated 203 for to 91 against, the rights of women in Canada remained intact as we know them today, and many breathed a sigh of relief. But let us not forget that Rona Ambrose, Minister of State for the Status of Women, voted in favour of re-opening the abortion debate in Canada. This is troubling, even if her vote reflected a concern for "sex-selective abortions," as she claimed.
When we honour Morgentaler, we honour the understanding that women are inherently equal to men, that women are the authorities on their bodies and lives, and that a woman's choice is just that -- hers.
I said before that every Canadian woman owes something to Morgentaler, but the truth of the matter is that all Canadians truly do. We get to live in a place where, in most cases, women are entrusted with their own decisions, and where every child can be one who is wanted, and this benefits the country as a whole.
Thanks for everything you did, Henry Morgentaler. We're damn lucky to live in the place where you made your mark.
Follow Devon Murphy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/devonlmurphy