Monday, January 28, 2008

20th Anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada Morgenthaler Decision on Abortion

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada's Morgenthaler decision that struck down the provisions of the Criminal Code restricting abortion.

Commentary:
  • Abortion debate refuses to die, 20 years after historic court ruling (Canadian Press, January 26, 2008): "The ruling was hailed by feminists as a symbolic victory in the wider struggle for women's rights - with good reason, says Sanda Rodgers, a University of Ottawa law professor. 'The ability to plan your reproductive life is absolutely fundamental,' she says. 'If you can't control your own reproduction you can't control anything, your education, the size of your family, your economic status. It was appropriate that it was a defining issue'."
  • Advocates acclaim ruling (Montreal Gazette, January 28, 2008): "Attitudes have changed in the 20 years since the landmark decision freed physicians to perform abortions without fear of prosecution - but not before a few doctors and abortion clinics were physically attacked by radical anti-abortionists. Polling data in recent years indicate most Canadians support women's right to abortion, though the issue continues to stir controversy. No longer a taboo, abortion services are openly listed on the Internet. While getting an abortion carries less stigma today, not one of the women who spoke about undergoing the procedure wanted her name published in this story, however. Safe, legal abortions are available in most parts of Canada. There are about 330,000 live births and 100,000 abortions annually in this country."
  • Celebrating a victory for women (National Post, January 26, 2008): "After eight years of battles in the courts, in the streets and in the media, we had won our argument at the highest court in the land and in the court of public opinion. The next day riding the streetcar, everyone was talking about the victory. Dr. Morgentaler had become a hero to most Canadians -- the little guy fighting against the system. He had gone to jail for his beliefs in the 1970s in Quebec, but still was willing to risk incarceration again in Ontario. He stood up to death threats, bombing of his clinic, anti-Semitism, ridicule and every other tactic that some pro-life opponents used to try to stop him. He never wavered."
  • Pro-life v. pro-choice: The debate beats on (National Post, January 26, 2008): "Canada's old abortion law, Section 251 of the Criminal Code, banned all forms of abortion until 1969, when then justice minister Pierre Trudeau introduced an amendment to allow it in certain cases, to protect a woman's life or health (...) The 'life and health' standard was further diminished when it became apparent that the strongest predictors of a woman's access to abortion were her doctor's age, sex, whether it was a rural or urban practice, and her own age and marital status, none of which say very much about threats to her 'life and health.' Dr. Morgentaler, who had set up a clinic in Montreal, pushed this state of affairs to its crisis by placing the decision solely with the woman, and it was his prosecution that ultimately led the Supreme Court to rule the criminal law against abortion unconstitutional."
  • Michael Coren on the Morgentaler decision: An anniversary of death (National Post, January 28, 2008): "The last 20 years have also seen a curious twisting of the debate around the issue and a monumentally successful campaign to marginalize pro-life opinion. Politicians are told that to even discuss the policy would cost them votes — though polls repeatedly show Canadians are divided on the subject — and opponents of abortion, whatever their views on other issues, are portrayed as wide-eyed zealots. The discussion itself, of course, is seldom heard. In the past week alone yet another university student union, this time at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., has effectively banned a pro-life association. A city council in the same province has removed all pro-life literature from its property, even though the space was legally rented. It is the love that dare not speak its name. The genuine love that dare not speak its name. The love for children, from their earliest and most vulnerable."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:21 pm

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