The last straw

  • July 3, 2008

{mosimage}It's almost impossible to think of a ruder present for Canada's 139th birthday. On July 1, the Governor General of Canada announced that Dr. Henry Morgentaler would receive the Order of Canada, the nation's highest honour.

We know Morgentaler as an icon of the pro-abortion movement. Through his efforts, Canada has no abortion law of any kind today. Each year almost 100,000 abortions are reported; our abortion rates are almost 30 per cent higher than most European countries. Since 1988, when Morgentaler won his legal battle before the Supreme Court of Canada, nearly two million unborn children have been aborted.

Make no mistake, by the Governor General's decision this is what the country is honouring — two million unborn children aborted. Not Morgentaler himself, or his courage, tenacity, perseverance or any of the other admirable characteristics he may have displayed during his decades-long battle to rid the country of any legal restrictions on abortion.

In fact, this distinction bestowed upon Morgentaler is really not about the man himself. It is another battle in the long, long campaign to exalt abortion rights as a “Canadian value” — a notion so embedded in the self-identity of Canadians that no one can question its rightness. It is an attempt to put the right to unfettered access to an abortion in the same pantheon of other “Canadian values” as universal health care, tolerance for diversity and being a helpful fixer on the world stage. Those who dare to to challenge the morality of abortion rights court a deluge of condemnation from the country's opinion makers and movers and shakers.

Dr. Morgentaler, naturally, would beg to differ. In his own July 2 press conference in Toronto, he defended the decision, saying it was all about him. “I'm proud of the fact that 20 years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada legalized abortion and women now have an opportunity to choose a good clinic and doctor to protect their health, their life and their dignity,” he said.

This suggests a rather selective memory. Twenty years ago, before the Supreme Court decision, abortion was widely available in Canadian hospitals. A woman merely had to have her request for one approved by a therapeutic abortion committee; the legal argument hinged on whether any delays associated with getting this approval was an unconstitutional breech of the woman's right to “life, liberty and security of the person.” The judges decided that it was. Henceforth, Morgentaler was free to run his private abortion clinics and, where available, receive government funds to do abortions.

So it was not quite the legal breakthrough he claims.

Nevertheless, it was a monumental decision in that it gave the official seal of approval to the notion that human life in the womb is not worthy of protection. This Order of Canada rubs salt in the wounds of those who still believe every abortion is a tragedy. It devalues the honour for all who hold it.

All those who oppose this decision should make their views known to the Governor General, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of Parliament. We cannot remain silent and allow this to pass unchallenged.

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