Honouring the legacy of the late Dr. Henry Morgentaler
June 17, 2013
Toronto, ON–We, at the National Alliance of Philippine Women in Canada (NAPWC), celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Henry Morgantaler, whose dedication and commitment in fighting for abortion rights have been a fundamental contribution in women’s historical struggle for basic rights and entitlements here in Canada and throughout the world. His strong will and determination, over the past few decades in pushing to make abortion accessible for women had been and continues to be an inspiration for all of us to continue to be vigilant in upholding reproductive justice as an integral component in achieving genuine women’s equality and liberation.
At the core of Dr. Morgentaler’s long years of legal battles between himself and the Canadian state, is the persistent compulsion of the state to systemize and strip women of their fundamental rights to control their own bodies. In essence, Dr. Morgentaler’s battle, strengthened by the many women who fought alongside him represented the bigger battle between Canadian women and the Canadian state. His pioneering work towards abortion rights for women in Canada began in 1969 when he challenged the existing law that only allowed abortion under certain medical circumstances. The decision whether or not abortion, often a personal and painful decision, would be performed depended on the decision of a selected committee of doctors, a process that silences the needs and experiences of women. As a result of this repressive law against women’s autonomy, many were forced into backdoor abortions, leaving them vulnerable to all sorts of infection that often included and led to death. Yet, more importantly, women were not given a choice to control nor to make decisions regarding their own pregnancy.
Even with the criminalization and impending threats to his life and security, Dr. Morgantaler, along with other women, relentlessly established abortion clinics in several provinces allowing women a choice and access to safe abortion. His courage and his defiance, not only saved thousands of Canadian women from dying of backdoor abortion, but his resolution, as well, gave further strength to the collective voices of thousands of women demanding to exercise their reproductive rights.
Although the fight for abortion rights was won on January 28, 1988 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the existing abortion law was “unconsititutional” and was in violation of “Section 7 of the Charter of Right and Freedoms because it infringes upon a woman’s right to life, liberty, and security of person,” recent attempts by the current government to open up the abortion debate has clearly shown that the fight to control women’s bodies is far from over.
Thus, as we honour the legacy that Dr. Morgantaler leaves behind, we are also reminded that the ongoing struggles of women for reproductive rights and reproductive justice must not be forgotten. As progressive Filipino Canadian women, we will continue to carry the legacy his work has laid down in upholding the principles of womens’ fundamental rights and entitlements towards the advancement of equality, and liberation for all women in Canada.
Philippine Women Centre
Ugnayan ng Kabataang Pilipino sa Canada / Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance
DARE TO STRUGGLE! DARE TO WIN!