Thursday, July 03, 2008


On Canada Day, Dr. Henry Morgentaler was inducted into the Order of Canada, which is the highest order that can be bestowed on a civilain. The latin motto of the order is desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning "they desire a better country." Created in 1967, the order was established to recognize the lifetime contributions made by Canadians who made a major difference to Canada, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions. (Source: Wikipedia)

Morgentaler is one of the most controversial figures in the last quarter century of Canadian history, having been the man essentially responsible for the legalization of abortion in this country. His actions got our abortion laws struck down, and no new laws have been put in place since.

Funny little story. My oldest niece was born "out of wedlock". The first time my grandfather met his first great-grandchild, the first words out of his mouth were, "Here's one Morgentaler didn't get."

How fucked up is that?

I think he deserves the honour. I'm not alone. The Toronto Star and Sun Media's Connie Woodcock (one of the more sensible columnists for that organization) both come out in support of the choice. And while there's much moaning and gnashing of teeth among religous people, the fact stands that he got the honour, and he does deserve it.

I'll tell you why. Not because I respect a woman's right to her body, although I do. The problem is here that you could argue that another person's rights are being infringed upon, and so her rights end, blah, blah, blah. The personhood of the foetus is not for me to decide, and I don't care. Further, I suggest it's largely irrelvant, since people are animals and we have no problem killing other animals (and even eating other species' foetuses).

It's also not because any objections to abortion are religious. I could see the rationale for saying that it's unethical in strictly humanist terms. I'd disagree, but I can see the argument, and even understand it. Taking care of the most vulnerable members of the society, blah, blah, blah.

And having a daughter myself, the whole situation gets rather gooey in my thinking: not only because I can't imagine having aborted her, but also because she'll likely get pregnant sometime in her life, and she may choose to end it.

Quite simply, I recognize that the whole deal is rather tricky and emotional, and I refuse to choose even for myself (unless I'm forced to), and so there's no fucking way I'll force my opinions on someone else.

But here's why Morgentaler deserves this honour. Women get abortions anyway. Legal, illegal, first, second or third trimester, safe, unsafe, coat hangers, bleach or unlicensed surgeons. Women abort unwanted or untenable pregnancies. Morgentaler made it possible for women in Canada to get safe abortions. That's it. End of story.

In fact, in countries where abortions are available legally, abortion rates do not climb at all (and seem to drop slightly), simply because contraception is also available. What does change is the incidence of death due to botched procedures. And that this fact is ignored by those who would deny women the right to abort pregnancies shows you that their purpose is not to protect life, but to subjugate women. They're liars, they're bigots, and they're backward.

So congrats, Dr. Morgentaler. And thank you.


Anonymous said...

Well said old chum! Why, it's a bloody shame your mother didn't have you aborted as well.

Father Shaggy said...

Very brave. Thank you, Anonymous, for that insightful and helpful comment.