Thirty-one years ago today, the Supreme Court of Canada decriminalized the abortion law because it infringed upon a woman’s life, liberty and security. Named Morgentaler Decision day, it honours the man who was integral to helping move this decision forward.
Dr. Henry Morgentaler risked his life to provide women access to safe abortions.
He opened abortion clinics across Canada and performed multiple abortions before they became legal — because he strongly believed that women should have the right to terminate pregnancies without risking their own death. He was arrested, charged and acquitted many times but continued to open clinics to improve access for women.
Although progress has been made since the ruling years ago, there is still a long way to go.
Access to abortion still remains out of reach for many.
This goes for both clinics and the abortion pill, Mifegymiso, which has made great strides in eliminating barriers to abortion, since it can be prescribed by a family doctor, and be taken at home. The pill’s cost is also now covered by the provincial government, a major step in the right direction towards helping women access this option if they choose. But it still requires a doctor that’s willing to prescribe it and a pharmacy that’s willing to carry it.
Lack of education.
A recent study found that 57% of medicine residents surveyed in Canada had received no formal education on abortion. Medical schools have been neglecting the topic for a long time. Without educating future doctors on the topic, it only furthers the stigma. At the end of the day, free Mifegymiso feels like a moot point if doctors aren’t willing to prescribe it based on an age-old stigma.
It’s a similar situation for those needing a surgical abortion. For women living in rural and remote areas of the province, access to a surgical abortion may require many hours of travelling to a community where the procedure is available. They endure lengthy clinic wait times, and an added cost of travel. One can only imagine the barriers this could create for those in need.
There’s still work to be done.
The topic has its complexities, so follow these links to read more on Morgentaler day and abortion in Canada:
Dr. Dorothy Shaw’s, O.C., VP of Medical Affairs at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, article on Morgentaler day here.
Learn more about Dr. Henry Morgentaler here.
More information on Mifegymiso, the abortion pill, here.
Learn about why medical schools are neglecting abortion training here.
Image: Blaise Edwards / The Canadian Press