Friday, June 20, 2003

Why doesn't this man have the Order of Canada?

The small, wiry Auschwitz survivor, number 95077, is an unlikely champion of women's rights - but in the past 35 years Dr. Henry Morgentaler has never wavered in his determination to secure abortion services for Canadians. On the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision, he is preparing to open clinics in the Arctic.

Heather Mallick says,
You'd think the fight was long over and the fighter, who's almost 80, would be ready to quit. You'd be wrong.

Although it's been 15 years since Dr. Henry Morgentaler finally won the Supreme Court of Canada decision that gave Canadian women the right - the inalienable female right - to have an abortion, the truth is that in some parts of the country it's still simply a theoretical right. A number of provincial governments, aided and abetted by anti-choice lobbies, are making it their business to find wiggle room in the law. And they seem to be getting away with it.

But Dr. Morgentaler, who has survived more horrors and trials than most Canadians can imagine, and who is still a prophet without honour (he has yet to receive the Order of Canada), is positively fizzing with energy. He talks about his plans, not only to continue the battle, but to open new fronts....

Dr. Morgentaler, however, is not dwelling on the past. He's full of enthusiasm for his latest project to open two clinics in the Canadian Arctic, for which he developed a passion during a recent visit. "I fell in love with the Arctic, the white vistas, going around the ice floes. Icebergs are beautiful, absolutely." He saw a polar bear as it swam around the small boat, agitating in vain for the seal flesh the Inuit guide was bringing back, and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the huge creature. The federal government, at great cost, now flies Inuit patients who need abortions to southern Canada, where the frightened women, finding themselves in a strange environment, often decide against the procedure just so they can get home fast and suffer in a familiar place.

Read more about Dr. Morgentaler's life and purpose.

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