So I just wanted to share a bit about a Canadian hero if that’s alright. Henry Morgentaler is his name.
So imagine this if you will. You are a young Jewish boy in Nazi occupied Poland. The country has segregated you to the ghetto along with your mother and brother. Your father has been killed by the Gestapo. Your sister and her husband have fled to Warsaw where she will later be killed in Treblinka.
Suddenly, the Germans have invaded the last place that could possibly keep you safe. For two days, you and another Jewish family hide from their searching eyes. In the end, it is futile, they find your hiding place and you are given a one way ticket to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. There you witness unimaginable atrocities. People suffocate in horrible gases, are shot in pits, and children are experimented on and torn to bits.
After some time, you and your brother are sent to another Hell, Dachau Concentration camp, where you are imprisoned until the war ends. When you are finally released from your captivity by American soldiers, you weigh only 32 kilos (70 pounds).
You and your brother part ways. He goes to start a new life in America and you meet up with fellow survivors in Belgium. There you marry a woman before finally bordering a ship to Canada with barely more than the clothes on your back.
The two of you settle in Montreal. It turns out, you’re a pretty shitty husband. You don’t stay faithful and it tears your marriage apart. You divorce and your ex gets the kids.
In the meantime, you attend medical school in Montreal. The kind of opportunity offered in the city is nothing you’ve ever seen before. Finally, you have a life to look forward to.
Despite all the amazing things you find in your new country, you see the flaws too. There’s racism both anti-Semitic and other. But compared to what you come from, it’s nothing. You also see a supreme lack of reproductive healthcare, so you start offering things like vasectomies, you are willing to insert intra-uterine devices for birth control where other doctors are wary and you even provide birth control pills to the unmarried.
On October 16 1967, you challenge the existing status-quo and advocate a woman’s right to abortion. It isn’t long before you are shot down and mocked for your radical ideas. Yet suddenly, women from all around are contacting you, looking for a place where they can receive safe abortions. Despite sympathy for them, you have to refuse, the law is what it is.
For a while, you refer them to two other doctors willing to perform abortions, but soon they are no longer available. As more and more women suffer botched unsafe abortions, your concern rises to the point where you can no longer continue ignoring the people who need your help. In order to stop the pandemic, you open up you clinic to those who need safe abortions and, in doing so, you challenge the law, risk your career, and face the fact that you could be imprisoned for life.
Now it’s up to you. One woman dying seeking abortion is one to many, so you have to fight to provide excellent care. You take the law into your own hands in order to fulfill a need echoing through the population.
At the time, abortions could only be performed on women who’s lives are at risk, but you are well aware as a doctor that if a woman wants an abortion, she will get one, no matter how unsafe. So you give them a place to go to potentially save their lives.
Laws are passed so abortions can be more widespread, but the guidelines to actually begin performing them are so great that many hospitals are unable to meet the need. The law required that a committee had to be formed at a hospital that would address cases of women seeking abortions. Unfortunately, whether you were given an abortion depended entirely on the ideological stand point of the people on the committee, and getting there approval could take months. Women everywhere were still in need of abortions.
Finally, you go to the Supreme Court and challenge the laws. When the verdict comes back, it is determined that under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the abortion laws are unconstitutional. You are victorious and Canadian women finally have the right to a safe and legal abortion.
That is the story of Henry Morgentaler. Holocaust Survivor. Father. Womanizer. Doctor. Abortion provider. Human rights activist. He was pro-choice because he understood the concept of bodily autonomy. How couldn’t he, when he suffered for years without a spec of it? A fetus lives inside a woman, but it’s not in its own special self-sufficient environment. No, everything that lets it grow, every nutrient, every bubble of oxygen, everything needed to keep it alive is siphoned off another human being. There is no reason the mother must give up her oxygen and nutrients so it can survive. If she decides she no longer wishes to share her body with it, she has the right to remove it. Yes, a fetus is alive. Yes it has a heartbeat. Yes it is human. None of that means it has a right over another human’s body.
So please, to all you pro-lifers out there, stop calling abortion a holocaust. An amazing survivor of the holocaust FOUGHT for abortion, FOUGHT for bodily autonomy, and FOUGHT for women to have a say in what was inside of them. A fetus isn’t autonomous until it is born. The difference between being in the womb and outside the womb, as you so often ask, is not location. It is autonomy. When that umbilical cord is snipped, the fetus no longer gets everything from the mother. It gets oxygen on it’s own. Yes it still needs someone to care for it, but it’s body no longer takes it’s nutrients directly from the mother. She has a choice in giving it formula or breastfeeding. Her body is no longer giving itself to another human, she is in control. Prior to birth, that is not the case. Her only choice is all or nothing. She cannot choose how much of her oxygen goes to the fetus. She cannot choose how much of her food goes to it. She can either choose to keep it, or abort it.
Just an fyi, if my mother had aborted me, I wouldn’t have cared. I wouldn’t have formed a coherent thought to begin with. I would just not exist. Now if i think back now, i would have preferred my mother abort me, if it would have made her life easier, because i love her and respect her life and choices. (No she has never in any way implied that she did not want me, but i love her enough to respect her if she wouldn’t have wanted me). I would have found it selfish on MY PART to force her to carry me just so i could have a life and take away hers. Pro-lifers call the women who get abortions selfish but I think anyone who would have forced their mother to carry them against their will is the truly selfish person.
*Not all people who get pregnant are women.