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5 Things the Youth of Canada Should Know About R.v. Morgentaler

Written by Rebecca Richmond

1. R. v. Morgentaler is not Roe v. Wade 

and Roe v. Wade does not apply to Canada.* Why? For the simple reason that we don’t live in the United States of America.

Because Roe v. Wade is so widely spoken of, even in Canada, people can be easily confused. R. v. Morgentaler was the January 28, 1988 Supreme Court decision that struck down the existing (and inadequate) abortion laws in the Criminal Code of Canada. The previous law, established in 1969, allowed for abortions in hospital performed for reasons of the mother’s ‘life or health’. ‘Health’ was not defined, however, and it was Therapeutic Abortion Committees within the hospitals that had to evaluate the cases. As such, access to abortion could vary substantially in different parts of the country, depending on who sat on the committees. The case of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who served jail time for his illegal abortions, reached Canada’s highest court and, on January 28th 1988, the court handed down its decision, striking down the abortion laws. No law has been passed since.

Don’t assume that your club members will know much about the legal status of abortion. A few ways to help educate your club members on subjects like this include:

  • Share NCLN articles (like this one!) and resources with your club members. Better yet, encourage them to ‘Like’ NCLN on Facebook and follow us on instagram!
  • A good basic primer on the history of abortion law in Canada can be found here:  CCBR: History of Abortion Law in Canada
  • Good talking points on the legal status of abortion can be found at WeNeedALaw.ca: Talking Points
*Although, granted, Roe v. Wade has had a significant impact on Canada.
 

Morgentaler 2014 Meme2. R. v. Morgentaler did NOT make abortion a ‘right’.

No ‘right to an abortion’ exists in law in Canada. Not only is there no law, but the Supreme Court never established a ‘right’ like Roe v. Wade did. In fact, the Supreme Court justices were very clear about the fact that Parliament does have jurisdiction to define protections for the child within the womb. The decision, which was 5-2, was split into four separate judgments, and the only Justice who came close to defending an abortion right even stated in her judgment that the state still has an interest in protecting preborn human life:
“The precise point in the development of the foetus at which the state’s interest becomes ‘compelling’ I leave to the informed judgment of the legislature which is in a position to receive guidance on the subject from all the relevant disciplines. It seems to me, however, that it might fall somewhere in the second trimester.”  Justice Bertha Wilson, R. v. Morgentaler, January 28, 1988, Supreme Court of Canada (page 113).

You can listen to an interview where Don Hutchison, Legal Counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, addresses this: Abortion Debate in Canada Interview

3. R. v. Morgentaler resulted in a legal vacuum on abortion.

Since the decriminalization of abortion, abortion has existed in a legal vacuum because of the lack of laws. This has led to/or permitted:

  • Sex-selective abortions, which disproportionately target baby girls. Because sex is generally not known until later in pregnancy, sex-selective abortions are also late-term abortions. Although sex-selection is more commonly associated with countries like India and China where the massive sex-ratio discrepancy ratios have been attracting international attention, the problem also exists in Canada. Researchers have found similarly skewed sex ratios among certain communities in Canada and the former interim editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal even called for a ban on releasing the sex of the baby until 30 weeks in order to help stem these abortions.1 
  • Children born alive (after an unsuccessful abortion) and left to die.2
  • Abortions outside of hospitals. Clinics are now able to provide abortions and, because reporting is not mandatory for clinics, we don’t even know the numbers of abortions being done outside of hospitals. Indeed, abortion statistics have become harder to come by thanks to obfuscation by provincial governments.3
  • Legal issues. Andre Schutten, a former club leader of McMaster and Legal Counsel for the Association for Reformed Political Action, described the legal issues that courts run into thanks to R. v. Morgentaler and Parliament’s refusal to address the legal void.4

 

4. R. v. Morgentaler made us survivors. 

In the quarter century since the 1988 decision, a quarter of our generation has been killed by abortion. It is more than a statistic; we are truly a survivor generation. Everyday when we’re on campus, we walk not only amidst those who are grappling with their abortions but also many who survived when siblings did not, or who may have only narrowly survived themselves. Perhaps we, ourselves, are those very people. This sobering reality means that our generation has a great deal of healing to do; it also means that we, as survivors, must speak up for all those who were silenced.

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5. We will not let R. v. Morgentaler define the NEXT generation.

Beyond standing against the lethal devastation that abortion has wreaked upon our generation, we also must stand up for the next generation. It is now our generation that is having the abortions, many unaware of what their ‘choice’ really means, many unaware of the impact abortion will have on their lives, many unaware of the support and resources available to them, and many facing pressure and coercion to abort.  As young men and women who survived, we now have the opportunity and obligation to reach out to those facing untimely pregnancies and secure the freedom of the next generation. We grew up in the shadow of R. v. Morgentaler, with one quarter of our generation paying the price for our society’s lack of protections for all human beings at all stages. We cannot, must not and will not abandon the next generation to such a fate.

 

Educate your campus on the truth about abortion. Try the QA Project!

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84 Years after the Persons Case Canada Still has Lessons to Learn

Written by Kathleen Dunn

84 years ago today, on October 18th 1929, Canadian women were recognized as persons under the law.  Lord Sankey of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England reversed the Supreme Court of Canada’s earlier decision and ruled in favour of female personhood. “The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours,” he said.

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As a woman, I’m thankful that the Famous Five took matters into their own hands when our femininity was used to marginalize and exclude our gender. In the face of injustice, these women had the strength and courage to take matters into their own hands and fight for their personhood.

But as I reflect on the importance of this day, my thoughts are unquestionably drawn towards the preborn: the only group of Canadian human beings without the status of personhood.

Like the preborn, women were not recognized as persons, despite their fundamental human equality. But unlike the preborn, these women had their own voices and could speak up to defend themselves.  The preborn, while being denied personhood and human equality, are violently killed before even given the chance to speak for themselves.

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The pro-life movement is unique among social justice movements in that the victims of injustice are entirely unable to advance their own cause. Without pro-life voices like your own, the injustice of abortion will continue to silently and brutally snuff out these young lives.

So when you face discouragement in your pro-life activism, feeling as if your voice can do nothing, remember that the preborn have no voice but yours. Their silent screams will only be heard when we let them ring out through our own mouths, as we choose to defend them.

Emily Murphy, one of the Famous Five in the Persons Case, took these words as her motto: “Whenever I don’t know whether to fight or not, I fight.” So, as we celebrate this milestone for women, let us continually, in every moment, make the choice to fight – to be a voice for the preborn – who are entirely voiceless without us.

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Defund Abortion Campus Campaign

Check out this new way to engage your peers in the conversation about abortion! It’s simple to organize, virtually FREE to execute, and makes a BIG impact. The Defund Abortion Campus Campaign is a unique way to get your campus talking about abortion by opening the conversation from the standpoint of tax-payer funded abortion. NCLN hooked up with Campaign Life Coalition Youth to bring this awesome initiative to YOU!

It’s so easy to organize, you can try it on your campus next WEEK! 

Click for a video of step-by-step instructions to bring this campaign to YOUR campus! 

Defund-Steps

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Back-to-School Activism Ideas

We know that planning a semester of pro-life activism can be overwhelming – especially as you see your course-load for the semester! But ensuring that your campus hears the pro-life message doesn’t have to be difficult. So long as you plan ahead, cooperate with your team and make your club a priority, educating your peers will be effective, impactful – and even fun!

Need some ideas on how to spread the pro-life message on your campus? Here’s a list of events you can host on your campus:

Formation:  Instill within your club members a sense of mission (why it’s critical to be actively pro-life on campus), a sense of belonging (why they are needed in this particular club), and provide them with opportunities to be formed as pro-life activists. KeepCalm

  • Offer an apologetics workshop (don’t forget NCLN staff are available to offer workshops on how to defend the pro-life position).
  • Share and watch great teaching videos from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.

Clubs Days/101 Weeks/Clubs Fairs/Frosh Week: Whatever your school calls it, these tables are great opportunities for recruitment and outreach. Download our Clubs Days and Tabling Guide to learn more about how to have a great and effective table!

Leaflet-ing/Distributing Resources: Our Right to Know brochures are great for distributing on campus.  Leaflet-ing is as simple as organizing a small group of students to offer resources and dialogue with your peers in busy places on campus. Contact NCLN to order brochures for your campus!

Surveying: All you need are clipboards, pens and surveys.  This is a great event to engage your peers in dialogue as you ask them to complete a short survey on life issues. Like leaflet-ing, it is low-cost and easy to organize.  Contact NCLN for sample surveys you can use!

Movie Night: This can be a great way to get to know your peers in a social setting, while being inspired by an impactful movie. Check out films like October Baby, Bella and It’s a Girl!

Chalking: A fun activity that can be done to advertise for a particular event or used to educate on abortion statistics.  This can be a great social activity for after a club meeting!

“Choice” Chain: A project by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform.  Contact them for more information on how to bring this to your campus.

Guest Speakers/Debates: A large event is a great way to engage your campus, but they do take time, organization and effort.  Make sure you have enough time to organize an event like this properly and be in touch with NCLN.  Our strategy workshops can help your club organize a high-impact event.

Do not hesitate to contact NCLN for advice on executing these plans and for more ideas! Remember: NCLN is here to help YOU! We are always just a phone call, email or Facebook message away!

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