Sciences humaines




Life as we know it is changing and it has for many years. Change is a great thing; it makes us understand that sometimes the generations before us were wrong or were missing information. This subject is perhaps one that has had the most controversy linked to it either because of ethical questioning or maybe because of the lack of information. Practically nobody agrees with other ways of perceiving abortion even though it has been practiced for the longest time, even in illegal ways. Many crazy or simple people like you and I have fought for the greater good. Some have won but others not. Still, they all made things move in a direction of change as did Henry Morgentaler.

But who exactly was Henry Morgentaler? To begin with, he was a man who lived through tough times since he was born in 1923 in Poland where the Holocaust struck during the Second World War. Thankfully, he survived but his parents were not that lucky since they were both murdered. Shortly after being liberated from a concentration camp in 1945, he had the brilliant idea of starting a family practice in the city of Montreal where he had moved with his wife. That is what made him start to fight against abortion laws since abortion at that time was considered illegal and a crime. Eventually, he opened an abortion clinic also in Montreal since abortion was no longer illegal but it was restricted, that is why his abortions where still illegal. He was charged many times before the restrictions were annulled. Then, he also fought for the funding of abortion clinics so that women would not have to pay for the procedure. In summary, he is the man who changed abortion for all the women in Canada.

Regardless of the fact that abortions have been legal for a small period of time, they have been practiced for more than 3000 years. The first abortions lead back to the biblical times. The procedure was obviously not the same as today since in the past they did not have all the technology we have now. So what were the procedures? Some used abortifacient herbs, some which would bring on the menstruations and were mostly given to women that were suspected of being unfaithful. If the drug didn’t work she was proven not guilty of being unfaithful. However, if the drug did work, the woman eventually miscarried and was proclaimed guilty of adultery. Others used shape tools to try and induce a surgical abortion which was quite dangerous given the rudimentary tools and techniques they had at that time. Also, some used to beat, squeeze and press the mothers belly as a revolting attempt to abort the child. Many of the methods were shown to be inefficient and very dangerous to the mother’s life which shows us how much abortion has changed for the better, especially in Canada.

The numerous changes in abortion methods have brought us to the approaches we have currently. For starters, an abortion can either be spontaneous in the case of a miscarriage or it can be purposely induced. A miscarriage is when a mother loses her embryo or foetus by unsolicited expulsion before the 24th week of the pregnancy. The abortion is then normally not desired which makes for a tragic event. If the mother gets pregnant at an older age, it is more likely that she will miscarry. In contrast, when the abortion is purposely induced, it is mostly because of an unwanted pregnancy: Four out of ten unintended pregnancies end in abortion although it can also be because of a genetic problem in the foetus. There are two types of methods the women can go through: surgical or medical. The surgical method is practiced differently depending on the number of weeks the mother has been pregnant. If it has been less than 14 weeks but more than 6, the medical team will vacuum aspirate the fetus or embryo with the help of a syringe that is operated manually or with an electric pump which will do the same job as the manual one. Instead of the vacuum method, if it is unavailable, the woman can have a sharp curettage which consists in cleaning the walls of the uterus from products of conception after having dilated the cervix. If it has been more than 13 weeks but less than 20, the woman can go through a dilatation and evacuation process. This is how it is mostly done in Canada. This practice involves the dilatation of the cervical canal to give enough space for the hollow tube to be inserted and so that it can then be able to empty the uterus of unwanted tissues. After that, if anything is left, the doctor will use tools to get the rest of the tissues out.

Two other methods exist if it has been more than 20 weeks but they are uncommon since most doctors do not perform these types of abortion in Canada. The first one is a partial birth abortion also called intrauterine cranial decompression which is banned in tto let it out of the uterus more easily.Furthermore, hysterotomy is also a way of having an abortion even if it is not a method that is used in Canada; it is practiced in the same way that a caesarean section would be, with the only nuance that they often give medication by injection so that the foetus is not alive while the operation is undergoing. Furthermore, the abortion can also be realised with the help of pharmaceuticals, to up to 63 days of pregnancy, although only 3% of abortions are done with this procedure since it is less effective and the process is longer. However, if the abortion is accomplished this way, the most popular substances are methotrexate and misoprostol which are used together. The methotrexate detaches the embryo from the uterus to deprive it from nutrients so that it becomes gradually lifeless. Then, the misoprostol dilates and softens the uterus and also causes contractions to simplify the expulsion of the embryo. Still, the abortion may not be complete. As a result, a surgical abortion is always planned in advance to finish the process. It is clear that a lot of methods exist as to the process of abortion.

In conclusion, I absolutely think that there is still place for positive changes as to the techniques that are used in abortions. Maybe we will soon have a doctor or a researcher who will persevere and not back away from his goals easily. He could then provide us with innovative perspectives that might motivate alterations as to the abortion procedures and fast-forward the medical time machine, like Henry Morgentaler did.




Home  |  Paper Editions  |  Team