Morgentaler is a survivor of polish concentration camps but he is most famous for performing abortions. This honour that was bestowed upon him affirms a woman's right to choose. Having the ability to control whether or not you will become a parent is essential to the health and well being of women. It was his victory in court that eventually struck down Canada's ban on abortions in 1988. With his victory women were no longer dependent on getting the consent of a panel of three doctors. For the first time they were able to take full control of their bodies and their futures. Of course the pro birth (note I refuse to call them pro-life) people were up in arms over his appointment.
According to the CBC, The Campaign Life Coalition said it is dreadful that a man who spent his life performing abortions should be honoured. The coalition is urging other Order of Canada recipients to return their medals in protest.
"If Morgentaler had any integrity, he would refuse the medal," Mary Ellen Douglas of the coalition said in a news release. "This presentation should be given to people who have made Canada a better place to live and the elimination of thousands of human beings who would have contributed to the future of Canada is a disgrace, not an honour."
What these people refuse to consider is the lives of how many women that he saved from botched abortions. Whether or not abortion is legal women are still going to attempt them, thus not only ending the life of the foetus but their lives as well. What Morgentaler did through his actions was to potentially save lives but to these pro-birth people, women don't actually count. In actuality the foetus really does not count either, as in their bid to ensure birth they loose interest in the child once it begins to live and breath in our socially unjust world.
According to Campaign 2000, "788,000 that is 11% of children live in poverty. 41% of low-income children live in families where at least one parent works full-time all year, and the family still lives in poverty. Poverty hits children in racialized, First Nations and recent immigrant communities much more often."
This is the world that we are encouraging women to bring children into, and yet for all of their passion and zeal, these pro-birth people do not visibly argue for improving conditions to make it possible for women to want to have more children. We have no socialized day care program. Our universal childcare benefit of 100 dollars a month does not pay for the equivalent of an average week of daycare, and is subject to taxation at the end of the year. This meager benefit also ends when the child turns six, as though the need for daycare stops then.
The cost of basic human needs is rising daily. The average rent in my province for a one bedroom apartment is 800 dollars a month. Even someone working full-time at minimum wage would be hard pressed to pay that figure, as before taxes they earn $1,440 a month. With the cost of utilities rising many Canadians are forced to make the choice between having heat and electricity, or feeding themselves. Even the food they are able to eat has become compromised as prices continue to rise. People are "choosing" a fatty, high starch diet as fresh fruit and vegetables are quickly becoming out of the reach of many. Work harder they say, get two jobs, but Canadians are actually working more hours than they ever have. Go back to school and get more training, but tuition continues to rise. For a year of higher education in 90/91 the average tuition was $1,464, and in 2003/04 the tuition was $4,025. Everywhere the poor and impoverished turn there are roadblocks in place to prevent any kind of social advancement.
I am not claiming that abortion is only a concern for the poor, however the chances of living in poverty marketedly improve when a woman is single and living with a child. I believe that if you are going to advocate for life, it should also include the quality of that life. To force women to have children and then offer no concrete support is unconscionable. So I for one will celebrate the award given to Dr. Morgentaler because not only did he save many lives, he offered women the opportunity to chose, thus allowing them to not only have autonomy of their bodies but the possibility of escaping a lifetime of poverty.