by Tennile Sunday
I was packing up at the end of a workday, a while back, and a coworker, we’ll call him “Tim,” invited me to join him and some friends for dinner. I told him I couldn’t, because I’d already made a commitment: I was going to a pro-choice rally outside an abortion clinic in Toronto.
“But we’ve already won the right to choose!” Tim smirked. Then, clearly not the kind of guy who quits when he’s ahead, he continued: “I mean, isn’t it kind of pointless to go to a rally for something that’s not even an issue anymore?”
Not an issue anymore. We’ve already won the right to choose. I chased his words around my head. I couldn’t absorb the idea that my colleague, someone who considered himself a feminist, could be so off base on this. I couldn’t seem to find the words, and courage to tell him how wrong he was. “It’s still an issue,” I told him, tersely.
Another colleague, “Dan,” overheard our conversation and chimed in with a quip he’d obviously cracked before, “As a former fetus, I have to say, I’m pretty pro-life.” He chuckled at his own “wit,” and I was baffled. Why oh why would I ever assume that publishing professionals were all forward-thinking individuals? I snapped back at him, “Well, as a current and lifelong woman, I have to say that I’m pretty pro-choice!” I rolled my bristol board sign up, and got on the subway, ashamed that I could express myself while safely encircled by like-minded rally-goers, but I couldn’t find the voice to adequately defend my standpoint, face to face, to people I knew and respected.
Now, in the wake of Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s death, I am reminded of that exchange, and I realize that we –- people like Tim and I — haven’t actually fought for, or won, anything; the people who worked for abortion rights are worlds braver, and more determined than we are. They knew that speaking out, and demanding change would be difficult and dangerous, but they did it anyway. They were people with true conviction, and endless obstacles to overcome.
Dr. Henry Morgentaler was one of these people. (more inside…)