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Morgentaler & My Generation

By Rebecca Richmond, NCLN Executive Director

Recommit ourselves to a legacy of life - Copy small

 I should not have been looking at my phone as I walked down the stairs, for I nearly slipped and fell when a text message popped up on my screen: “Morgentaler died.”

My heart dropped.  As long as there is life, there is hope, and I sincerely hoped that Henry Morgentaler, Canada’s most prominent abortionist and abortion advocate, would experience repentance and conversion.  I held onto that hope because of what it would mean for the cause of life in Canada, but also for the sake of his own life and soul.

 I was shaken.  Morgentaler has always been a larger-than-life figure and often on my mind.  His biography sits on my bookshelf and, every time I see it, I recall the stories of his life that I read in those pages: the activist upbringing, the suffering of the Holocaust, his complicated relationships with women, his imprisonment, the Supreme Court decision, and the expansion of his clinics.  He remains an icon for abortion in Canada and the builder of a dark and blood-stained legacy that lives on, though he does not.

Like the rest of my generation, I  grew up in the shadow of the 1988 R. v. Morgentaler decision. The 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court case this past January 28th was a personal one for us.  It has defined us as survivors for, in a quarter century, a quarter of our generation has been wiped out by abortion.

We, as young people, have never known our nation without the dark shadow of abortion and the decision that allowed that shadow to persist.  We have never known Canada without Morgentaler.  He, now, may be gone from this earth, but abortion is not.  

 There has been, as was to be expected, a flurry of activity in the media as everyone weighs in on his legacy.  But let us not forget that unrestricted abortion in Canada has been the result of more than Henry Morgentaler.  It is the result of many committed activists, committed financial donors, judges, and politicians; but society is also complicit.  We began to lose in the court of public opinion before we lost in the court of law.

So, for us, Morgentaler’s death must not be simply a time for analysis.  It cannot be a time to sit back and merely approve or condemn his actions.  It must be a time when we recommit ourselves to action and transforming society.  We need to build a legacy of life that goes beyond having convictions and actually ends this injustice.   Being pro-life should be less of a label and more of a lifestyle.  

We have our work cut out for us, but we cannot shrink from the task we face.  A quarter of our generation is dead because of abortion and we cannot and will not abandon the next generation to the same fate.  I have said it before and I will say it again: Twenty-five years of R. v. Morgentaler is twenty-five years too long. This culture of abortion on demand may be a stubborn shadow, but we can cast it out if we shine all the brighter with the light of truth, love and life.

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