RE-CON­SID­ER­ING ABOR­TION 30 YEARS AF­TER MOR­GEN­TALER

StarMetro Edmonton - - BIG OPINIONS - KELLY GOR­DON & ALANNA THAIN

Amer­i­can Supreme Court nom­i­na­tions al­ways bring the is­sue of abor­tion to the forefront of po­lit­i­cal de­bate, high­light­ing the com­pli­cated, thorny, and mud­dled land­scape of abor­tion rights world­wide.

In the U.S., while the fury of sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions sur­round­ing Brett Ka­vanaugh re­main at the cen­tre of the con­tro­versy over his con­fir­ma­tion, the va­cant seat on the Supreme Court rep­re­sents the fifth and po­ten­tially de­ci­sive vote over the fu­ture of Roe v. Wade. If Ka­vanaugh him­self has stated that Roe is an “im­por­tant prece­dent”, many be­lieve he poses a threat to the fu­ture of abor­tion rights.

In Canada, by con­trast, 2018 marks the 30th an­niver­sary of the Mor­gen­taler de­ci­sion — the Supreme Court de­ci­sion that struck down ex­ist­ing abor­tion laws as un­con­sti­tu­tional. Since then, there has been no fun­da­men­tal chal­lenge to the tenets of the Mor­gen­taler de­ci­sion: that ac­cess to abor­tion is a mat­ter of life, lib­erty, and se­cu­rity of the per­son.

Not only have le­gal de­ci­sions fur­ther af­firmed le­gal abor­tion ac­cess, but con­ser­va­tive par­ties in Canada — as

op­posed to their Amer­i­can Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts — have also been re­luc­tant to touch the con­tro­ver­sial is­sue.

How are we to make sense

of these two con­trast­ing sto­ries of abor­tion pol­i­tics? Has the pro-choice move­ment’s vi­sion of uni­ver­sal ac­cess to abor­tion care been re­al­ized? Or should we be pre­par­ing for an on­slaught against the le­gal sta­tus of abor­tion rights?

The an­swers to these ques­tions are more com­pli­cated than you might think.

In Canada, the bar­ri­ers to abor­tion are much lower to­day than prior to 1988 and there has been no sig­nif­i­cant le­gal back­track­ing of abor­tion ac­cess. In just the past five years, ac­tivists have suc­cess­fully estab­lished abor­tion care on PEI, ex­tended med­i­cal cov­er­age for in-hos­pi­tal abor­tion care in New Brunswick, and guided the “abor­tion pill” (Mifepri­s­tone) through its ap­proval by Health Canada.

This for­ward mov­ing trend has also been re­flected at the global level. In Ire­land, years of ac­tivism co­a­lesced around the mem­ory of Savita Halap­panavar, a woman who died from com­pli­ca­tions fol­low­ing de­nial of abor­tion care in 2012. Thou­sands of Ir­ish abroad trav­elled #home­tovote in the 2018 ref­er­en­dum; as a re­sult, Ire­land has gone from al­most com­pletely ban­ning abor­tion to plan­ning to make abor­tion ac­ces­si­ble and free in the span of a few months.

How­ever, these vic­to­ries are far from telling the com­plete story. As many keen po­lit­i­cal by­standers might ob­serve, the de­bate over abor­tion — as well as women’s larger re­pro­duc­tive lives and choices — re­mains alive and well.

THE DE­BATE OVER ABOR­TION ... RE­MAINS ALIVE AND WELL.

BLAISE ED­WARDS/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Dr. Henry Mor­gen­taler raises his arms in vic­tory at a news con­fer­ence in Toronto on Jan. 28, 1988.

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