PSA: Support Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s Order of Canada Appointment

by matttbastard

Via Fern Hill (who yoinked it from Stacey May @ Shameless):

The Governor General is getting a flood of mail and calls from anti-choice forces. Please tell her how much you appreciate the courageous decision by her and the Advisory Council of the Order of Canada to award Dr. Henry Morgentaler the Order of Canada. Here is the contact information:

Phone: 613-993-8200
Toll-free: 1-800-465-6890
Fax: 613-998-8760

Mail: Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
Governor General of Canada
Rideau Hall
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1

Thank you very much!

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Garson Romalis: “Why I am an abortion doctor”

by matttbastard

Via Jill @ Feministe: check out this speech given by Canadian abortion provider Garson Romalis, delivered on January 25th at the University of Toronto Law School’s Symposium to Mark the 20th Anniversary of R. vs. Morgentaler:

I have been an abortion provider since 1972. Why do I do abortions, and why do I continue to do abortions, despite two murder attempts? The first time I started to think about abortion was in 1960, when I was in secondyear medical school. I was assigned the case of a young woman who had died of a septic abortion. She had aborted herself using slippery elm bark.

I had never heard of slippery elm. A buddy and I went down to skid row, and without too much difficulty, purchased some slippery elm bark to use as a visual aid in our presentation. Slippery elm is not sterile, and frequently contains spores of the bacteria that cause gas gangrene. It is called slippery elm because, when it gets wet, it feels slippery. This makes it easier to slide slender pieces through the cervix where they absorb water, expand, dilate the cervix, produce infection and induce abortion. The young woman in our case developed an overwhelming infection. At autopsy she had multiple abscesses throughout her body, in her brain, lungs, liver and abdomen.

I have never forgotten that case.

After I graduated from University of British Columbia medical school in 1962, I went to Chicago, where I served my internship and Ob/Gyn residency at Cook County Hospital. At that time, Cook County had about 3,000 beds, and served a mainly indigent population. If you were really sick, or really poor, or both, Cook County was where you went.

The first month of my internship was spent on Ward 41, the septic obstetrics ward. Yes, it’s hard to believe now, but in those days, they had one ward dedicated exclusively to septic complications of pregnancy.

About 90% of the patients were there with complications of septic abortion. The ward had about 40 beds, in addition to extra beds which lined the halls. Each day we admitted between 10-30 septic abortion patients. We had about one death a month, usually from septic shock associated with hemorrhage.

I will never forget the 17-year-old girl lying on a stretcher with 6 feet of small bowel protruding from her vagina. She survived.

I will never forget the jaundiced woman in liver and kidney failure, in septic shock, with very severe anemia, whose life we were unable to save.

Today, in Canada and the U.S., septic shock from illegal abortion is virtually never seen. Like smallpox, it is a “disappeared disease.”

As they say, read the whole damn thing.  Then read it again. The dedication to providing women with an essential service displayed by medical practitioners like Romalis and embattled Kansas abortion provider George Tiller, despite constantly facing legitimate threats to their lives, is truly heroic.

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A Landmark Victory For Reproductive Liberty

by matttbastard

celebrate 20 years of choice

On January 28th, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada tendered a watershed decision in the case of R. v. Morgentaler, rendering Canada’s restrictive abortion law null and void.

Judy Rebick recalls the moment she received word that the had court struck down the law:

It was freezing cold. A group of pro-choice activists were standing in front of the clinic along with a mob of media waiting to hear the news from our comrades in Ottawa. They were supposed to call the clinic as soon as the decision came down and the clinic staff would let us know. We didn’t have cell phones in those days.

A reporter called me aside and said she had just heard on her radio that the Supreme Court had struck down the law on the grounds that it interfered with women’s right to security of the person. I didn’t believe her. We thought the Court might very well strike down the law but we figured it would be on the technical grounds of lack of equal access. A decision based on the Charter guarantee of security of the person was too much to hope for. After all, the major argument of the pro-choice movement was that a woman had the right to control her own body and this was close.

Indeed the majority decision written by Chief Justice Brian Dickson stated:

“State interference with bodily integrity and serious state-imposed psychological stress, at least in the criminal law context, constitutes a breach of security of the person. Section 251 (the old abortion law) clearly interferes with a woman’s physical and bodily integrity. Forcing a woman, by threat of criminal sanction, to carry a fetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus an infringement of security of the person.”

It was a profound and incredibly long lasting victory that for us was of equal significance to the winning of the right to vote a couple of generations before. In essence, the highest court of the land said that the abortion law violated women’s right to control her own body free from state interference.

Berlynn points to the minority report, written by the late Justice Bertha Wilson, which goes even further in highlighting her recognition that abortion is a necessity:

This decision is one that will have profound psychological, economic and social consequences for the pregnant woman. The circumstances giving rise to it can be complex and varied and there may be, and usually are, powerful considerations militating in opposite directions. It is a decision that deeply reflects the way the woman thinks about herself and her relationship to others and to society at large. It is not just a medical decision; it is a profound social and ethical one as well. Her response to it will be the response of the whole person.

Today we rightly celebrate the vindication of a woman’s right to exercise the “profound social and ethical” decision of controlling her reproductive destiny without fear of condemnation by the state. But we should also remember that, for too many women in Canada, the struggle for reproductive autonomy is far from over. 20 years after R. v. Morgentaler, access is still far from universal:

In Canada, access to health services is guaranteed by the Canada Health Act. Abortion is considered a safe, legal, insured and funded service, meaning that a woman should not have to pay for abortion services in Canada.

However, access is variable across the country and women are charged fees at some facilities. For example:

  • There are no abortion services in Prince Edward Island.
  • In New Brunswick, to have a publicly funded abortion a woman has to have approval from two doctors to have an abortion in the hospital. If she has an abortion at the clinic, then she will have to pay as the province will not pay for abortions outside publicly funded facilities, such as hospitals.
  • New Brunswick funds only abortion care provided by obstetrician/gynecologists, not family physicians as is common throughout the rest of Canada.

Some of these barriers may violate the Canada Health Act and the intent of the decriminalization of abortion in Canada.

Abortion is funded under provincial and territorial health plans, and coverage varies regionally.

According to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, even though “two-thirds of all abortions are done in a hospital and covered by Medicare”, today “less than one in five hospitals provide abortions, making it difficult for women to access safe and timely abortion services.” This especially affects those women who are financially insolvent and/or reside in remote/rural areas of Canada by placing “undue physical and financial stress on women when forced to travel long distances, find accommodation, take time away from work and, in some cases, have to pay for the abortion themselves.” Furthermore, as Joyce Arthur noted this past November, there are a number of anti-choice activists in Canada who would eagerly re-criminalize abortion altogether, penalizing women (and abortion providers) for engaging in Charter-protected reproductive liberty:

In a disturbing section of November’s The Interim (“Canada’s Life and Family newspaper”), five prominent anti-choice spokespersons plus an anti-choice columnist consider the question of criminal punishment for abortion, if abortion were to be made illegal again. Shockingly, four out of six believe women should be prosecuted and sent to jail, while the other two want women subjected to mental health treatment. All six want abortion providers to be prosecuted for murder

The majority of Canadians would likely be horrified by the idea of sending women to jail for having abortions. Most reasonable people would see it as abhorrent and heartlessly punitive – not to mention totally unrealistic, given the large numbers of women who resort to abortion even when it’s illegal. But the unimaginable prospect and horrific consequences of trying to arrest and jail 100,000 women a year in Canada alone do not seem to faze anti-choicers.

April Reign captures the cruel folly of such proposed measures:

There is a mistaken belief that if abortion were completely outlawed no more abortions would ever be preformed. This of course is ridiculous nonsense. Women have always practised birth control and abortion. And would continue to do so.

Of course, anti-choicers don’t desire the outlawing an essential (gender-exclusive) medical procedure because they actually care about the purported “rights” of the unborn:

For all their talk about valuing babies and life, anti-choicers have demonstrated time and again that they could actually care less. They’re more interested in punishing women for sex and in maintaining a male-dominated family model. And they’re only “pro-life” up until the moment of birth — then you’re on your own.


There are no two ways about this one — when abortion is illegal, women are killed and maimed. Some 80,000 women die as a result of illegal abortion every year; hundreds of thousands more are injured. Women around the world suffer when pro-life laws rule the land. Andpro-liferscould care less. Illegal abortion is the cause of 25% of all maternal deaths in Latin America, 12% in Asia, and 13% in sub-Saharan Africa. Women’s lives, apparently, aren’t covered by that whole “pro-life” thing.

Make no mistake: now more than ever, a woman’s body is a moral battle ground. We can’t cede any ground to anti-choice zealots who would fallaciously and callously equate potential people with human beings, acorns with oak trees–no matter how “reasonable” compromise may seem in theory (especially to those who don’t possess a uterus–“objectifying [the decision], thereby eliminating the subjective elements of the female psyche which are at the heart of the dilemma,” as Justice Wilson further noted in her Minority Report). Those who believe in the rights of women as being 100% insoluble–the whole loaf or nothing, no allowance for seemingly tiny nibbles, until there’s nothing left but crumbs–must remain ever vigilant and assertive in the wake of the baby lobby’s concerted assault on a woman’s bodily sovereignty.

Update: More Choice Day posts from: Alison @ Creekside, Dave and The Rev @ The Beav, skdadl-with-one-‘sk’, Daev @ Designated Protest Zone, Lulu, pale @ ACR, JJ Hippie, Canadian Cynic (also here), Dr Dawg, The Regina Mom, Kuri, Fern, dBO, Mike @ Rational Reasons, Antonia, Miss Vicky, 900ft Jesus, Chet Scoville, F-email Fightback and BJ Bjornsen.

Update 2: Even more from Red Jenny and That Buzz Between Your Legs.

Updated 3: More! More! More! (h/t Antonia Z) Justice is a Woman With A Sword, Megan’s Place, Aurelia (absolute must-read) and The Pedgehog.

Update 4: Welcome Feministe readers! Make yourselves at home, drinks are in the fridge, etc.

Update 5: Great quote over @ Yappa Ding Ding.

Update 6: Always worth teh wait for teh Kitteh.

Update 7: Two more late entries: CathiefromCanada and Purtek.

Update 8: Nikita @ Ranting and Raving is succinct and on point:

This is an immeasurably important choice and we must be on guard to ensure it does not get taken away from us.


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Empty Set

by matttbastard

On the road till Sunday night; expect sporadic/minimal blogging. Until then, enjoy the choonz and check out Birth Pangs up-to-the-minute coverage of yesterday’s terrorist threat against Henry Morgentaler. Yeah, what’s a 20th anniversary celebration without the requisite retro anti-choicer death threat to liven up the party?

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PSA: 20th Anniversary of the Morgentaler Supreme Court Decision

by matttbastard

Via Choice Joyce @ Bread and Roses:

Events Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Morgentaler Decision

Toronto, Friday, January 25, 8:30 am – 5 pm. Symposium to Mark the 20th Anniversary of R v. Morgentaler, Of What Difference: Reflections on the Judgment and Abortion in Canada Today. This symposium will examine the significance of the judgment today: What difference has it made to women, providers, and the politics of abortion in Canada? Sponsored by NAF Canada and the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law. Location: Flavelle Classroom C, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. Free registration. Register and find details at: Contacts: Dawn Fowler, or Joanna Erdman,

Toronto, Friday, January 25, 7:30pm. Fundraising Reception for National Abortion Federation Canada ‘s Patient Assistance Fund. Many women lack the resources to pay for costs associated with abortion care, such as transportation, childcare, and medications. Also, some women cannot access medical coverage and require financial support. Donations to this fund will allow NAF Canada to provide financial assistance when it is urgently needed. Textile Museum of Canada, 55 Centre Avenue. $30 per ticket or $50 for two tickets. RSVP by January 24 to or 250-598-1858.

Toronto, Saturday, January 26, 7pm. Another World is Possible: Cultures of Resistance. An evening of music, art, film, and poetry inspired by diverse struggles for justice as part of the World Social Forum Global Day of Action, and a special tribute to the reproductive choice movement on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in Canada. Featuring Dionne Brand, LAL, Marcelo Puente and Heather Chetwind, Choice Monologues, Ulla Laidlaw, PATAC (Phillipine Theatre Group), Global Aware Photo Exhibit, video on World Social Forum by Velcrow Ripper, and many other artists and performers. Free admission. Ryerson Student Campus Center, 55 Gould St. More info: Contact:

Ottawa, Monday, January 28, noon-1 pm. Planned Parenthood Ottawa will be peacefully standing outside the Morgentaler Clinic at 65 Bank Street to thank Dr. Henry Morgentaler and to remind everyone that there is still an ongoing struggle for accessibility nation-wide. If you would like to join us, please do. Bring pro-choice signs, bring your friends, sisters, brothers, coworkers, and neighboors. We anticipate anti-choice groups to be there as well. Also, on Tuesday, January 22, from 3pm-9pm, please come to a poster-making session for the rally at Planned Parenthood Ottawa, 251 Bank Street, Suite 201. Materials provided. Invitation and details:

Ottawa, Wednesday, January 30, 7-9:30 pm. Gala Night, featuring Honourable Senator Lucie Pepin, Judy Rebick, video presentation from Dr. Henry Morgentaler, and performers Lesley Hoyles (singer), the Asinabika Women’s Drumming Circle, and introducing Peggy Cooke, winner of the Pro-Choice Canada Contest. Free admission, but limited to 200 people. Location: House of Commons, Centre Block, Room 200. Invitation-only event: you must RSVP before Jan 28 to Tracey Bellingham at or 613-789-9958 ext 222 or toll-free 1-888-642-2725, ext 222.

Regina, Monday, January 28, 12:30-2:30 pm. Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Morgentaler Case. Enjoy tea and anniversary cake. Free admission. Location: Women’s Centre, University of Regina. More info: Also, in the days leading up to the event, there will be a “coat hanger campaign” to promote awareness of abortion rights.

Vancouver – Monday, January 28, 6-10 pm. The Morgentaler Decision: Before and Beyond. Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision that finally gave Canadian women true reproductive choice. Reception, cash bar, speaker’s panel with Jackie Larkin, Nitya Iyer and Shelagh Day. New documentary film “Henry.” Location: SFU Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings St., Vancouver. Free admission. Poster with details: More info:

Related: Sweet Jesus, I hate David Frum.

Update: JJ preaches gospel:

Thanks to Dr. Morgentaler we have unrestricted reproductive choice. Thanks to Chantal Daigle, nobody can fuck with that choice by using (abusing) the legal system to force women to be unwilling incubators. Remember “freedom is on the march” and “let freedom reign” and “they hate us for our freedom”? Freedom is good!


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