On May 29th, 2013, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, a Canadian icon, passed away at the age of 90. I knew a lot about him as a young woman growing up during his years of activism. When I moved away from home at age 18, his biography was the first book I read in my new surroundings. I have many wonderful memories of those early days in my college apartment, reading his biography with the window open to Fall breezes and the voices of campus, wondering where my life would take me. I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing and it took me some time to digest those feelings. I wanted to honor is memory in both a personal and public forum, so this is a thank you letter from me and my uterus.
How do I adequately express the gratitude I feel when I think about you or hear about you in the news? To say that you changed my life – and the lives of countless other Canadian women – seems obvious and trite. When I was born in 1983 it was still illegal for women – for my mother, my aunts, my grandmother – to terminate an unwanted pregnancy; however, you were knee-deep (waist-deep, armpits-deep even!) in legal proceedings seeking to overturn the institutional misogyny represented by these laws. And fortunately for us all, you succeeded.
When I was still a child, long before I was sexually active, Canadian society ingrained in law that I was my own person, with control over my own body, and the right to determine my own future. While 25 years later, all of this may seem obvious, it took 21 years – and lots of determination – to legally codify these rights. But what you gave to us was sovereignty and choice. Thank you for not giving up.
While you were known for your tireless activism for reproductive justice, you were also a complex man. A Holocaust victim, an immigrant, a self-proclaimed womanizer, and a business-oriented physician earning profit through private abortion clinics. Because of this complexity you captured the imagination of our nation. And honestly I am thankful that you were not perfect – a white knight saving fair maidens would be an uncomfortable and unbearable paradox.
It is with much love and gratitude, from both my heart and my uterus, I share this New York Times Op-Ed piece by Thomas L. Friedman in your memory: Why I am Pro-Life. Your work ushered in an era of change, but I think you would agree that we have much farther to go.
Thank you. RIP.