Abortion was decriminalized way back in 1988 after the Supreme Court of Canada had, in its infinite wisdom, declared criminal restrictions on access to abortion unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as they directly infringe upon a woman’s s.7 right not to be deprived of life, liberty, and security of the person.
Framed in the language of human rights, a woman’s right to choose whether or not to proceed with a pregnancy wasn’t going to be taken away any time soon, as far as I could tell, and so the debates and protests (and those offensive, inaccurate and misleading pro-life posters gracing the bus shelters outside Morgentaler clinics) were an exercise in ridiculousness. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to say that folks should ever stop engaging in rational debate or logical ranting sessions (how else would I justify my existence? How else would we keep our brains svelte and shiny?), but did anyone really think that any government would have the stones to re-write the Constitution to exclude women as deserving of security, life and liberty? Did that old man (by pure chromosomal slip incapable of ever having to cope with an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy of his own) with the megaphone and the sandwich board depicting an aborted fetus seriously think that marching around Parliament Hill at noon would cause the government to snap and, 20 years later, force the SCC to revisit their decision? It seemed pretty clear that threats to the right to access abortion were only so much toothless growling used to intimidate women already faced with difficult decisions.
But then I moved to
[If you think that’s the worst of it, check out
Having not grown up under a rock (I guess majoring in human rights and law in university didn’t hurt, either), I was not so blissfully naïve as to assume that everyone enjoyed the same access to all rights across the country. While everyone in
All this long, rambling introduction to say that while I sure as hell am not big on borders and nationalism, choosing to spend Canada Day puttering in my garden and reading in my yard rather than getting liquored and wrapping myself in flags with the rest of the young’uns, this year I had reason to pour myself some rye and toast a national hero. Had I still been living in
See, had I still been living in Ottawa, not knowing all the depressing facts I now know about the state of abortion access in the Maritime provinces, I could open the newpapers every morning, read through all the innumerable articles and letters denouncing the appointment and insulting one of my heroes, and chuckle about all the silly pro-lifers out there who are still under the illusion that a woman’s right to reproductive choice is up for debate. I could read through all the positive reactions to the appointment and feel pretty good about being a Canadian. I could revel in the fact that 3 out of 5 of those who share this country with me are in support Dr. Morgentaler’s appointment.
Being so entrenched in the women’s equality movement in the Maritimes, and learning all I’ve learned, I have lost this luxury. Where a right is not freely enjoyed by all due to barriers to access experienced by any, there is no enjoyment of the right. The right becomes formal rather than substantive. At the risk of spinning in philosophical circles - a freedom from prosecution for seeking enjoyment of the right when one has not the means, or indeed must provide the means oneself, to actualize the enjoyment of said right is not actual enjoyment. And so instead of a self-satisfied grin, a raised glass, and little attention paid to the negative backlash, I instead find myself clenching my jaw, fists balled, steeling myself for further actions which need to be taken to ensure equitable access to abortion for all women across
We, like most countries, have a terrible habit of recognizing our society’s more controversial champions only after they are long dead (ahem,