Dr. Henry Morgentaler, OC - Macleans.ca

Dr. Henry Morgentaler, OC


UPDATE: IT’S OFFICIAL. Morgentaler to the Order of Canada, along with Gail Asper, Randy Bachman, and other deserving Canadians. Uh Oh, BUZZ HARGROVE is on the list. Will the Keepers of the Orthodoxy not rest?


The rumours have been swirling around since the weekend, but at this point no one has been able to confirm Dr. Morgentaler’s appointment to the Order of Canada. We were told to keep our eye on Canada News Wire around 2pm, but that came and went and no confirmation.

There appears to be a certain amount of political intrigue surrounding the appointment, for obvious reasons. But let’s get to it: Does he deserve it?

My answer is: clearly yes. After a three-decade battle in the name of a woman’s right to choose, he won final success in 1988 when the Supreme Court struck down the criminal code provisions against abortion.

Andrew Coyne is right:The abortion regime we have been left with is a disgrace, but that is Parliament’s fault, not Morgentaler’s. Dr. Henry Morgentaler risked his reputation, his freedom, and his life for decades in service of a cause that had no other serious champion in this country.

He is a remarkable man who has lived a remarkable life. He deserves to be a member of the order of Canada, because, more than the vast majority of members of the Order, he has lived his life according to the motto inscribed on the medal: He desired a better country.



Dr. Henry Morgentaler, OC

  1. I think you make a cogent argument in favour. The two arguments I’ve heard against it seem to be (a) that abortion is bad; and (b) that Morgentaler’s appointment would be ‘divisive’.

    I hope we’re not going to provide ‘divisiveness’ as a veto for that sort of recognition, unless we really WANT blancmange national honours.

  2. Absolutely. For better or for worse, depending on your viewpoint, he devoted his whole life to changing our country- and succeeded Even if one disagrees with his motives you can’t deny that he has truly shaped who we are as a country. And that;s something worth rewarding.

  3. Thanks for the plug. I would have more sympathy with the argument if it ever applied in the opposite direction. But it never – ever – does. A figure as controversial as Morgentaler, but of the opposite convictions would, if he were not behind bars, be shunned by all of the organs of polite society.
    This is not confined only to the abortion issue. It applies across the board. The arbiters of orthodoxy are not content with perpetually skewing every debate to one side. It is necessary also to pretend, wherever possible, that only one side exists.
    Thus, for example, a Rosalie Abella of the right, should one exist, would have no hope of ever being appointed to the Supreme Court. The chorus that would rise up against such a “divisive” debate would be made up of exactly the same people who burbled contentedly at her appointment, and quite unaware of the irony.
    I say this as someone who subscribes to many parts of the orthodoxy. But the smugness of it, the heedless insensitivity to other points of view, can be a little hard to take.

  4. Very few Canadians have pushed the country forward along the evolutionary path in as meaningful a way as Dr. Morgentaler has. The honour is not only deserved, it is owed.

  5. What do you mean, Andrew? We may mock the Pope(s) at times but don’t they all end up as Saints? As to the Order of Canada, there are plenty of clergypeople who are recognized, maybe not for standing outside of abortion clinics with signs or blocking people from stepping in, but who may just hold a strong opinion/faith in the similar principle.
    The issue is a connundrum of which neither side can meet. Honouring Morgentaler this way, if the Harper people would allow it (and I don’t think they have much a say – doesn’t it fall under the responsibilities/duties of the Governor General’s dept?) would definitely be divisive.

  6. He ‘desired a better country’. It is more than a bit ironic that the Order of Canada medal has this Biblical quote (Hebrews 11:16) engraved as its motto. The quote in context speaks of Biblical heroes such as Noah and Abraham. Noah was commanded to be fruitful and multiply to repopulate the earth, and Abraham was called to be the father of Israel.

    Ironic indeed if Morgentaler wears that medal! He has led the way in the 2M or so abortions that have happened in Canada in the past 20+ years. Should he receive the Order of Canada? I think not. He is a disgrace to our great Dominion of Canada and is not worthy of this honour.

    Giving him the Order of Canada would transform the award into the Odor of Canada, as in the Putrid Stench of Death. I desire a better country than this.

    I believe that one day our great nation will look back on the abortion era in the same way we look back today on the wrongs done to our First Nations peoples, scratching our heads and wondering how civilized people tolerated such evils, let alone daring to award those who led the way.

    Perhaps a Prime Minister will arise in the House of Commons one day and apologize to the millions of unborn children who were never given the chance to live a life worthy of receiving the Order of Canada. There will be no compensation, only tears, along with prayers of thanks offered by those who survived the abortion era despite the efforts of Henry Morgentaler.

  7. So what’s so disgraceful about our “abortion regime”?

  8. Andrew Coyne says of the OC “I would have more sympathy with the argument if it ever applied in the opposite direction.”

    Um, Conrad Black was given the Order of Canada and he was certainly a divisive figure when he received it.

  9. All I wish to say is that it’s about time, and please don’t encourage the PM to apologize. I also find it so interesting that males are so vehemently obsessed when they are not the child bearers. Ole! Dr Morgentaler! J. Korpan. (JK)

  10. This is the end of Harper as far as social conservatives like myself are concerned. The argument will be that the decision was out of his hands, but he had shrewdly handled other difficult decisions, and seems to have made no effort to block this honour.Henry Morgentaler gave media interviews claiming that the reduced crime rate in Canada could be attributed to the abortion of “unwanted children.” In his eyes, his clinics were killing unborn children, most of whom were likely to become criminals anyway. Morgentaler, in effect, publicly proclaimed throughout Canada the ‘virtues’ of Third Reich eugenics. And Canada will honour this man? I am sick. I will never celebrate Canada Day again. It is no longer my country.

  11. Somebody hand me a barf bag. A remarkable man? A champion? Desired a better country?

    How did we get to the point where 100,000 abortions a year is considered an accomplishment for rights?

    And Andrew Coyne makes a terrific point. If it were the other side trying to pull off something like this, the Andrew Potters of this country would be howling and screaming. You can bet on it.

  12. Andrew is exactly right when he suggests blind support for the orthodoxy of abortion is driving the proponents of this award. The actual man in question claims to have performed over 5000 illegal abortions (do the math, he made millions). He then manipulated the political and legal system by threatening to expose politicians and judges, cheated on his taxes, used unsafe medical practices (says the RCMP) and generally mistreated women and cheated on his wife.

    He may be your hero, but he’s certainly not mine. He is a horrible example of humanity, and has no business being honored by MY country on MY behalf.

  13. “the Andrew Potters of this country would be howling and screaming.”

    Well, I agree with Coyne’s general point, the “arbiters of orthodoxy” in Canada would be up in arms. But aside from the fact that I do, indeed, support the award for Morgentaler, I certainly wouldn’t object if it were given to someone of the opposite convictions. Liz May for example, or Margaret Somerville. In fact, I would endorse both of these women for the OC.

  14. Bravo Andrew! Spoken like a true believer in the status-quo.

  15. Andrew Coyne’s position is fallacious. There is an “orthodoxy” involved only in the sense that we are (or are supposed to be) heirs to the Enlightenment and supporters of basic principles and structures of democracy (and no, voting alone is not enough). There is no “orthodoxy of abortion,” as someone above puts it; the point is that adult women are every bit as human as men and are fully capable of making decisions about their own lives. What “other side” is there to that principle? Someone here thinks we should be putting slavery up for a vote any time soon?

    Thank you, Dr Morgentaler.

  16. “Someone here thinks we should be putting slavery up for a vote any time soon?”

    So, anti-abortionists are akin to supporters of slavery? Sounds like an orthodoxy to me!

  17. No. People who still don’t believe that adult women are free to run their own lives as they see fit are akin to supporters of slavery. Well: they are supporters of slavery.

    It was so much fun, wasn’t it, to watch the Conservative front bench rise in support of C-484? Peter MacKay, Maxime Bernier, Vic Toews … all those really enlightened guys who believe they have the right to be voting on the full humanity of women. Wow. Just wow.

    Fair’s fair: thanks also to Cannon, O’Connor, Verner, and Boucher, who seem to get it.

  18. “No. People who still don’t believe that adult women are free to run their own lives as they see fit are akin to supporters of slavery.”

    So you don’t think anti-abortionists are against women running their own lives? What is your point then?

  19. Carson it often helps to fully read and understand before commenting on others words. Though perhaps your misrepresentation of skdadl’s words is purposeful.

    Morgentaler deserves this award and the only disgusting thing about it is that it has taken so long for him to be included.

  20. I may have put my point above badly. Read “should be free” for “are free.”

    Anti-abortionists do not believe in the equal humanity of women — simple as that. They may object to that characterization, but that’s what their position comes down to.

  21. “Carson it often helps to fully read and understand before commenting on others words.”

    Perhaps you would like to explain how I have done this.

  22. Dr Morgentaler did NOT “make millions” from the medical care he provided. That is a lie. In the late 1970s I helped women who needed an abortion in their arrangements with his clinic. Many other doctors who were afraid to speak out publicly against the therapeutic committee system would refer women to our community centre, where it was known that we would meet with women and help them get to Dr Morgentaler’s Montreal clinic, if that was their request.

    The cost of the medical service was minimal, about the same amount, say, that a dentist would have charged for a root canal. And if a woman could not pay, there were provisions made for that, since the clinic received numerous small donations from a great number of women, to be used for this purpose.

  23. skdadl,

    Who says that adult women aren’t free to run their own lives?

    I have never gotten this argument.

    a) We’re talking about a human fetus, which is ANOTHER life. It gets killed with an abortion.

    b)BOTH women and men are responsible for having sex and making babies. BOTH have the right not to engage in reproductive activities if they don’t want to make babies.

    Don’t know how we got to the point where something like abortion is couched in terms like “liberation” and “choice”. Such values can be achieved without abortion, can’t they?

  24. Those who would call supporters of Dr. Morgentaler’s courageous life ‘arbiters of orthodoxy’ mistake pro-choice motivation for their own. There is no ‘orthodoxy’ in supporting a woman’s right to choose, in autonomy over her body, but there certainly is in those who would deny it. Any sputtering about the other ‘side’ in some imaginary ‘debate’ you wish was still going on misses the point: there is no ‘debate’ unless we would like to revisit the progress made when we decided, as a civilization, in favour of equality and humanity for all.

    skdadl is quite right to call those who would deny equal humanity of woman anti-abolitionists as much as they are anti-abortionists. Because such people deserve the same archaic space in history as those who have not progressed beyond the eighteenth century.

  25. “So what’s so disgraceful about our “abortion regime”?”

    Seconded. Where is the disgrace?

    The right (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) are constantly complaining about over-regulation, the nanny-state, government intrusion in our lives, etc. etc.

    The abortion issue in Canada is one where the “right and wrong” is left up to individuals involved to decide what is ethical.

    Yet some of the right is up in arms, talking about the “wild west” of the situation. Where’s the intellectual consistency?

  26. “Andrew Coyne is right:The abortion regime we have been left with is a disgrace.”

    That not the usual formulation for pundit log-rolling. It’s supposed to be “Andrew Coyne has it exactly right.”

  27. Mike Moffat, regarding individuals, aren’t you forgetting the baby in the womb? They didn’t decide to get created. Two individuals decided for them, right? And why aren’t there responsibilities and rights associated with that choice?

  28. “Mike Moffat, regarding individuals, aren’t you forgetting the baby in the womb?”

    That’s not why, though, the word “disgrace” was being used. (At least as far as I can tell)

    My interpretation, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that the disgrace was due to the fact that there’s no law at all.

    My question: If our status quo is a pro-choice viewpoint, then why is a law necessary?

  29. if the no choice side really cared about the potential children they would advocate that every male have DNA samples taken at birth so that if in future they impregnate a woman their salaries can be docked a proper amount for the care of that child. Not that that comes anywhere close to the physical, emotional,and monetary challenges an unwilling mother must make.

    Also having secured that legislation the no choice crowd will go on to lobby for proper welfare payments, child care, school funding, etc.

    You will find none of this, however because it isn’t about babyz it’s about control.

  30. My question: If our status quo is a pro-choice viewpoint, then why is a law necessary?

    I suppose some people think it will put an end to the “controversy.”

    Uh…no, it won’t. It will escalate it, in fact. It already has by simple dint of a private member’s bill; an outrage in view of the fact that the abortion rate in Canada has declined under the current legal “disgrace.”

  31. I find this to be a generally very surreal exchange of comments. Almost everyone seems to be avoiding the reality that every abortion kills a real human being (not a potential one – he/she already exists). A significant number of abortionists have bluntly admitted that they do “kill” fetuses. I mean, really, they have to assemble all the body parts to make sure they got the whole real, not “potential” body.
    Also completely missing from the discussion is that it is very, very common for women to be pressured into abortion and many deeply regret their abortions (whether pressured or not) – to the point of mental illness, suicide, a series of broken relationships and more.
    So, if it is just a “choice”, “termination of pregnancy”, etc, why does this happen so frequently?
    A lot of you are not being honest and because of that the discussion is not helpful.
    Yes, it is a “controversy” and not because of religion, conservatism, right wing zealots, etc. It is a controversy because it is state sanctioned, state funded mass killing. And we all know it is but most avoid facing that blunt reality. They just won’t complete the phrase, “choice… to kill.”

  32. April Reign, I’m more than willing to have a discussion about males taking responsibility for making babies that doesn’t involve killing them in the womb. Yours doesn’t seem well thought out or practical, but it’s a start.

    I mean, we’re championing abortion over some bizarre notions of control? Does that seem responsible to you?

  33. Put on sackcloth, cry, put on ashes. The wrath is revealed to all men that there is a time coming and it will be too late and the door will be shut to them and they will not escape…

  34. April Reign, that is foolish, and just more ad hominem crap. I could just as well say: don’t argue for peace in Iraq unless you’re ready to go there, take away all the weapons, dissipate all the latent anger and fix all the underlying causes of hatred and war. If you’re not ready with a plan to take care of all of that, then you really don’t care about peace, you just want control.

  35. This is a joke…
    Historians will have plenty to study.

    Louis XIV : Après moi le déluge.

    USA: the demographic winter is coming.

    Aging workforce.

  36. Canada will be a better country when we can put this superstitious crap behind us.

  37. Every day, on my walk to work, I walk by a couple of older men wearing their anti-abortion sandwichboard. One of them has a picture of a fetus with a message along the lines of “This is a baby, not a choice.” To which I always mentally respond, “I am a human being, not a baby machine.”

    Since I am not a man, I find it difficult to wrap my mind around the perspective of people who have not and will never know what it is like to be fertile and all the very real logistics and complex issues that are involved with the reproductive years.

    One man, Dr. Morgentaler, has shown such empathy for girls and women in unwanted (for whatever reason) pregnancies that I have hope for all you guys.

    A Canada where every child is a wanted child is a beautiful legacy indeed.

  38. Technology can’t be put back in the bottle folks, and this one’s been around since the time of the Pharoahs. Either we recognize that and put in place legitimate means to access it (means where we can take steps to ensure that the woman is sure, has considered available options, and if worse comes to worst, can have it done safely) or we sentence a great number of women to seeking illegitimate ways to go about it — ways that can often lead to permanent injury or the death of *both*.

    If you really respect life, it seems to me that saving one of two is better than none of two.

    If you really believe in the sanctity of life and aren’t simply trying to punish a woman for life for having the temerity to spread her legs without thinking about it, then you don’t believe abortions should be done in cases of rape or danger to the mother either. (After all, danger does not mean death, especially in our day and age, and so forcing her to go through with the pregnancy means you get both or one, whereas otherwise you’ll only get one for sure.)

    If you really believe that the government should prevent abortions, than you believe that the government should prevent us from refusing to give food and shelter to a beggar in the winter. That is, unless you think a beggar’s life is worth less than a foetus.

    In short, if you believe that the government should prevent abortions, you’re probably a hypocrite.

  39. A Canada where every child is a wanted child is a beautiful legacy indeed. — Steph C

    Very well put. Dr. Morgentaler fought hard and sacrificed a great deal to defend our right to control our bodies and shape our destinies. Thanks to him, we are a beacon of hope for many women around the world who don’t have choices.

    I am thrilled that our country has finally honoured this most deserving of Canadians.

  40. I don’t see Andrew Potter advancing his own opinion on abortion. As a Maclean’s columnist for culture and Canadian politics the issue of how the OC is awarded does seem appropriate. Given most of the other comments maybe he (and Maclean’s) should have just ignored the story.

    If the test for the OC, to paraphrase Andrew, is that the winner has sacrificed in pursuit of a better country, then should we award the OC to people who meet that standard but for causes that we now agree (unlike with abortion) are not good causes? So if someone had sacrificed to the same degree to set up residential schools?

    Is integrity and sacrifice enough or do you also have to be right?

    If you have to be right, do we strip the OC from recipients as time goes on? Robin Broadway’s appointment will be for scholarship in economics. Should we strip him in a decade or two if his theories don’t hold up?

  41. Excellent to learn of this on Canada day – a much deserved honour.

  42. Morgentaler should most definitely the Order of Canada.
    I am certainly glad we are not still in the ‘coat hanger in an alley’ phase of abortion.
    Thanks to people like Morgentaler women are liberated from that horrible time.

  43. .
    Congratulations and thanks to Dr Morgentaler as well as to the committee who, 3 times, presented the application for his award.

    How many nightmares must this man have lived through, before women were freed of the restrictions forcing them to bear children which should never have been conceived.

    That man in Belgium who imprisoned his own daughter for 24 years and forced sex upon her for 24 years. She had no rights? Only duties? What kind of nightmare heritage have those unwanted offspring been given?

    Nobody in their right mind advocates for abortion without just cause. But there certainly are reasons for abortion to restore justice where it has been lost.

    The anti-abortionists say that all life is sacred. It’s very puzzling to me, that they also favour the death penalty for those who make another kind of mistake.


    It always puzzles

  44. .
    Congratulations and thanks to Dr Morgentaler as well as to the committee who, 3 times, presented the application for his award.

    Dr Morgentaler lived courageously through many years of frightening threats to his own person, before women were freed of the restrictions forcing them to bear children which should never have been conceived. I thank him for that.

    There’s an absolute need for access to abortion. I think of that man in Belgium who imprisoned his own daughter for 24 years and forced sex upon her for 24 years. She had no rights? Only duties? What kind of nightmare heritage have those unwanted offspring been given?

    Nobody advocates for abortion without just cause. But there certainly are reasons for abortion to restore justice where it has been lost.

    The anti-abortionists say that all life is sacred. I understand that. But it’s very puzzling to me, that they also favour the death penalty for sentient adults who have made another kind of mistake.



  45. That’s “Dr. Henry Morgentaler, CM”

    There are three ranks in the Order of Canada, each with its own “post-nominal”, Companion, C.C.; Officer, O.C.; Member, C.M. The reason Member is backwards is because otherwise it’d be confused with Military Cross.

    Like 91% of Canadians (according to an Angus Reid poll, 2 weeks ago) I believe that abortion should be legal. And I believe that we should honour Dr. Morgentaler’s fight to give Canadian women the right to control their own bodies and not be “drafted” as life support. He is also the only person in Canada to have a constitutional amendment named after him: thanks to him, a judge cannot overturn a jury acquittal.

  46. Very sad day for Canada. I thought more of our Governor General. The Order of Canada now means nothing to me. A real disgrace. Surely we have more deserving people for this award.

  47. Thanks Mona. I wrote the post before we knew which rank he’d be named to.

  48. The only thing that Henry Morgentaler has sacrificed is millions of Canadian children on the altar of greed, hedonism and selfishness. What next, posthumous awards for Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Pinochet – the other mass murderers of the 20th Century?

  49. Well put. The pro-life side calls him a mass murderer as the reason he shouldn’t receive the award. Well of course that side is going to characterize him this way. But for many Canadians he provided them with an opportunity for safe, medically supervised treatment for unwanted pregnancy. As Andrew Potter writes, you cannot deny the man stood up for his convictions. He left an indelible mark on the politics of Canada forever.

  50. A few points.
    I think it is rather perverse to say that every child in canada is wanted when the only reason for that is because we killed the unborn we didn’t want. That feels grotesque.
    Second being pro-life and pro death penalty doesnt make you a hypocrit because killing someone who has done something wrong is diffeent from killing a fetus that has done nothing wrong. That doesnt justify the death penalty (I dont support it), but the two do not conflict.
    Third, it is ironic that women demand that men let women do what they want with the fetus they created with thier body, but then they demand that men bo forced to pay throught it via taxation with the money people have earned with thier bodies even when it offends those people conscience’s. That seems hypoctrical. If I have no say over what you made with your body then stay away from what i made with my body…IE my money. You want an abortion pay for. Because I made my money with my body right?
    Lastly, This debate is pointless because no one is actually debating, they are just putting out their opinion without actually considering the merit of someone else’s point of view. I haven’t seen anything here except straw man arguments and sloganeering. Even what I wrote is oversimplified to fit he space provided. Lets stop pretending this is a debate and call it what it is….ideological venting.

  51. A sad, sad day for unborn children. Abortion is murder and the likes of morgentaler and other ilk like him making money by killing children sickens me to no end. The Order of Canada is forever tarnished.

  52. Fantastic! Such a proud day to be a Canadian for me as there are few I admire more. Morgentaler’s courage and dedication have played a huge role in my life, and for that I cannot thank him enough. Thank you Dr. Morgentaler, and congratualtions.

  53. Only in Canada is it considered good news that we have awarded one of our highest honours to someone who’s involved in infanticide.

    Why do women have a right to murder?

  54. Andrew Coyne, I believe Conrad Black’s position as an Officer of The O of C would answer your argument.

  55. You know, I do find it a bit ironic that the very same people who praise Morgentaler as some kind of champion are really incapable of formulating a coherent defence of abortion.

    It’s always some slogan about reproductive rights and choice.

    Women and men have reproductive choices. They make that choice every time they engage in sexual activities. That’s where the choices and rights lie.

    When a fetus is conceived, all bets are off. There is ANOTHER life to consider.

    With all this talk of rights and choice, what about those of the fetus? Why does it not have any rights? Why aren’t all you champions addressing this simple issue?

    Instead, you either ignore it, or go off on tangents like the homeless and the death penalty.


  56. Am I the only woman who finds it incredibly unnerving to listen to/read about men debating abortion rights?

  57. And another thing I find annoying is that the vast majority of those who oppose abortion are the same individuals who oppose programs such as National Day Care.

    Oh they care about the fetus all right but that love ends at the end of the birth canal. After that, they could care less about what happens to mother and child.

  58. @Dennis 10:11 “When a fetus is conceived, all bets are off.”

    Those who have been raped (inside or outside the family) made no such bet.

    Morgenthaler is considered to have saved lives of women who would have sought illegal abortions. The anti-choice lobby does not recognise this, which one can only assumes that the presumption is that should you seek to have an abortion for any reason, you deserve to die.

  59. Mark, Dennis doesn’t need to consider these things because he will NEVER have to seek an abortion.

  60. A sad and ironic choice. Morgentaler survived the Holocaust where millions of “unwanted” people were murdered and yet he is responsible for promoting an abortion regime that leads to the loss of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of innocent and “unwanted” lives (Regardless of how you feel about abortion, there is no denying that the foetus/baby that is aborted is a living organism). Using the selection committee’s logic, I suppose, Dr. Jack Kevorkian (“Dr. Death”), would be considered for the Order of Canada if he were a Canadian!

  61. Huh? Nobody’s ever denied that a foetus is a living organism. Just like nobody’s ever denied that a cow or a wheat-plant is a living organism. Unless you’re saying that we should not kill any living organism ever, that’s simply a red herring.

    And just like the government has no right to force me to donate my kidneys or a lung to keep someone alive, neither do they have the right to force a woman to donate her womb to keep someone alive.

    Personally, I’d be proud if Dr. Kevorkian were Canadian. The amount of needless suffering that man has curtailed, the amount of happiness and relief he’s generated for families and loved ones of the deceased, and the amount of persecution he’s endured to do it? That man’s near a saint.

  62. john g, the fact that you would even need to ask me that question underscores my very point. Since you want to force women to carry their children to term whether they like it or not, how is it that you do not want to provide them with the assistance that they need to rear those “unwanted” children?

  63. Men should have no vote when it comes to what a woman wants to do with her own body … period case closed … However I would add that all men should responsible for any child they father biologically speaking – every birth should have a paternity test and the father whoever he is should be at least financially responsible for the care and feeding thereof rather than punting this off to the gov’t!

  64. So if I give my time and money to organizations that help impoverished mothers, THEN it’s okay for me to be anti-abortion?

    Babies may be “unwanted” by the birth mother, but what about adoption? That’s a choice too. It’s not just “kill the baby” vs “raise the baby”.

    I’m curious as to how many abortions are estimated to actually be the product of rape. I suspect a very small percentage.

  65. “Am I the only woman who finds it incredibly unnerving to listen to/read about men debating abortion rights?”
    Oh, God, Boudica, that’s exactly what I was just thinking. Unwanted children don’t do anybody any good. Do you know what happens to the vast majority of them? They end up abused, in foster care, and finally as parents of unwanted children themselves. And thus the circle continues. Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this- but go Wayne! Unwanted children are simply a drain on our welfare system. Unwanted children are statistically more likely to have fetal alcohol abuse syndrome, which is a drain on our health care system. If you’re going to argue that having an abortion is ‘destroying a life’ how do you justify destroying two? Also, as to all of the arguments about how ‘women have a responsibility not to get p-regnant’ and ‘it takes two’. Yes, it does, absolutely. But of those two, it’s only one who’s dreams are destroyed.

  66. I’m just thankful that Jesus invented the internet so that I could take part in this well-argued debate.

    Abortion is going to happen whether it’s officially sanctioned or not. As is the case with most invasive surgery, it’s better to have a medical professional perform the procedure than a random individual armed with a random pointy implement.

    It seems to me that Dr. Morgentaler realized this, and was willing to put himself at great risk and endure imprisonment to bring about reform. His basic position is now supported by a (growing) majority of Canadians.

    Look, I appreciate the colossal hardships endured by the other 5,478 Order of Canada recipients (such as Celine Dion) in making our country a better place to live, but it’s more than a little silly that it took this long for him to make this “exclusive” list.

  67. Steve,

    To your first question (which we all know is rethorical), the answer is no. The point is to demonstrate the hypocrisy of those who claim to care about the unborn.

    As for the rest of your post, given that you will never experience maternity and all that it entails physically, psychologically, socially, economically, etc., I find it incredibly offensive to even have to rebut those arguments. Perhaps you should consider women to be more than simple incubators and realize that you do not have the right to force us to go through an unwanted pregnancy.

    I guarantee you that if men could get pregnant, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  68. Celine received an OC?!?

  69. Yes, as did Anne Murray and Sharon, Lois and Bram.

    I’m actually slightly embarrassed that I haven’t received one. Everyone else seems to get them.

  70. Well they did have a significant impact on this country’s arts and culture… I guess…

  71. I find many of the comments above laughable in their comparisons – stating that legal abortions are bringing Canada to the same status of the Third Reich! That championing the rights of women to CHOOSE will make people want to hang their heads in shame that Dr. Morgentaler represents an upstanding and outstanding Canadian! If anyone has read their history books, they would know, as I’m certain Dr. Morgentaler is well aware of, being a survivor of the holocaust, is that the Third Reich was all about disalowing the right to choose, and our Canadian charter of rights and freedoms documents and guarantees that all Canadians should have the RIGHT TO CHOOSE. All he has given us, as women, is the opportunity and right to make a decision for ourselves, rather than have that choice dictated to us by men in power who cannot possibly understand the need for women to be so empowered. Just because the choice is there does not mean that the right to life has been abandoned, it simply means that a choice is offered. God in his finest gift to humanity did provide us with free will after all. Sincerest congratulations to you Dr. Morgentaler for all you represent and all you have sacrificed to bring us to where we are today.

  72. Boudica,

    Hey, I love women. I’ve worked with, worked for, and have chosen to spend muy life with strong, intelligent, multi-facetted women. But I also believe that actions have consequences (good and bad). If a women chooses to have sex and an unwanted pregnancy occurs, then she (and he) are responsible to give this new life a fair shot. Whether they choose to raise it afterwards is up to them.

  73. Steve, you are entitled to your opinion. I just thank god every day that I live in a country where people like Morgentaler are celebrated and where I can decide for myself whether I want to be pregnant.

    Thankfully, that debate has been closed.

    Oh and on bill C-484, any MP that likes his/her job better think twice about voting in favour of that bill come third reading. We, the women of this country, are keeping a watchful and unforgiving eye on the proceedings.

  74. “Since you want to force women to carry their children to term whether they like it or not”

    boudica, first of all, where did I say I am pro-life?

    In fact I am pro-choice, (though I am against discretionary 3rd trimester or partial-birth abortions).

    But even if I were not…your argument seems to be “hey, since we’re forcing you to carry this child you don’t want, here’s some subsidized daycare for your trouble”.

    What else must the state subsidize at taxpayers expense? Diapers? Clothing? Infant formula? Parenting classes? Family vacations?

    And would we have to claim that we never wanted this child in the first place to get access to all these subsidized goodies?

  75. “But even if I were not…your argument seems to be ‘hey, since we’re forcing you to carry this child you don’t want, here’s some subsidized daycare for your trouble’. ”

    John G, I think Canada should have a national day care program regardles of this debate but the answer to your question is yes. If the State forces women to have children they do not want, at a minimum, daycare should be provided. It most certainly should be prepared to help raise them by providing diapers, clothing, food, parenting classes and more.

    The point is this. If you oppose a woman’s right to decide whether she wants to be a mother by claiming that you are concerned about the “unborn child” it stands to reason that this “concern” should still be there once that child is born. The reality is that these so-called “pro-lifers” rarely care about what happens to these unwanted children once brought into this world.

  76. Congratulations to the Advisory Panel on their decision. I noticed too that Harper and his conservative fundamentalist party have distanced themselves from the decision. The Conservatives do not recognize the equality of women and their right to choose so it does not surprise me they washed their hands of this decision.

    Dr. Henry Morgentaler was constantly the topic of discussion all through my youth. He, with many others, brought attention to the fact women were considered less equal to men. He brought it to our attention that women have a right to choose, no how difficult the decision. Doctor Morgentaler brought much needed medical attention to women, who fought for years to have the right to choose.

    No one wants an abortion but there are several circumstances that make the decision necessary, and it is only the woman and her doctor that can make that difficult decision.

    The Catholic Church’s stance on this issue was one of the reason I left that Church. It is an organization totally devoid of compassion. They also do not recognize the rights of a woman (they don’t even allow women priests, so what does the Church know about the body of a woman or how important it is for women to have the right to choose).

  77. We already have a national day care program. They are known as parents.

    I think pro-lifers care very much about a child’s life, they just don’t believe the State should be in charge of children. Residential schools example comes to mind.

    The State does not force women to have sex, so they should also be responsible for results. It might be unfair that only women can get pregnant but you should take that up with mother nature.

  78. Note how jwl singles out women and their decision to have sex. No mention of the men in this.

  79. boudica all I will say is that there is a world of difference between being “concerned” about the child after birth and suggesting that the state must assume responsibility for financing the child’s upbringing.

    And again; should only women who claim that their pregnancy was unwanted have access to this help? Or are you suggesting that the state has a responsibility to finance the upbringing of every single child? Seems kind of unfair to leave out those people who, you know, actually put some thought into planning their family.

  80. jwl, the State shouldn’t be in charge of raising children but they should be allowed to decide for me whether I want a pregnancy?

  81. boudica – You are the one who is writing about women being forced by the State to have babies and that’s what I was referring to.

    I agree 100% that men are involved in decision about having sex and they too should be held responsible. That’s why I wrote ‘parents’ and not ‘parent’.

  82. john g, your question regarding logistics is irrelevant but since you ask, yes. If the State takes charge of my uterus, I expect it to foot the bill from age zero up to graduation day and make that high ed graduation. If the State wants to rule my body, let it figure out the logistics that come along with it.

    And I submit to you that saying you care about a fetus yet refuse to ensure that single mothers trying to make ends meet have somewhere safe to put their children while they are at work clearly shows the hypocrisy of that claim.

    Wanna go into circles some more, john g?

  83. You know what… I’m all for a healthy discussion on just about any topic but this one here isn’t good for my blood pressure.

    There’s something about debating this topic with men that makes me want to start breaking dishes so we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    Besides, this discussion is moot. The right to choose is here to stay. Period.

  84. wow…so in your mind, restricting abortion = assuming the obligation to fund the upbringing of every single child in Canada. Now that’s what I call the nanny state.

    No, I think I’ve heard all I need to, thanks.

  85. boudica: “…makes me want to start breaking dishes…”


  86. In the book Freakenomics it determined that the crime rate in the united states went down as a direct result of abortion becoming legal. Twenty years after women were given the right to choose potential lousy mothers made the choice not to be lousy mothers and did not give birth to criminals. The result, the crime rates went down in the mid nineties.

    Some lives are not worth living. Can you imagine being one of the kids produced in the cellar in Germany? To be the product of 24 years of your mother being torchered, or to have the evil blood of the man that did it flowing through your veings? That is a life that is destined to end badly. I was a surprise for my parents and quite frankly we all would have been better off it my mother had the right to choose.

  87. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it’s mandatory, which is something “pro-lifers” should keep in mind.
    Also: people make mistakes and many are not selfless enough to give up their entire lives for it. With the expense of childcare, if you’re going to be a single mother and have yet to finish school and start a career you can kiss all that goodbye.
    Lastly: making abortion illegal wouldn’t make it go away. Prostitution is illegal and it has been around for thousands of years. Say what you will about the morality of the issue. If you don’t want an abortion don’t get one.
    I for one would not like to go back to the era a coat hanger abortions in basements at exorbitant prices.

  88. It is not a pro-life vs. pro-choice debate, though to the previous comment I would say that being “selfless” is not killing another human being inside of you to make up for the mistake you made.

    However, ideological conviction has no place in this decision. The question is simple; knowing that this issue is so divisive, can the Order of Canada be given in good faith? I find it makes no sense to judge Morgentaler’s character, actions, or merit, in considering the issue.

    Whether or not Dr. Morgentaler is deserving is not up to me. But what is up to me, and to the people of Canada, is if he should receive the award. The discordant truth is, I am against it, and my neighbour is for it. How can the Order be given in such controversy?

    The Order of Canada is not given on merit alone. It is the unanimous voice of appraisal and appreciation from the entire nation. The Governor General and those on the Advisory Council are supposed to represent this voice. Yet, somehow, I’m obviously not being heard.

  89. So what’s the threshold then, Jon? In a country where people like Rob Anders will raise his voice against Nelson Mandela, how small must the minority who doesn’t like a person’s activities be before they don’t matter?

  90. With the amount of people wanting to adopt a child in this country, there is no justification for abortion anymore. Nobody is being forced to raise a child as a single mother.

    The only excuses thus remaining are eugenics (the disabled are inferior and deserve to die), or the need to save the life of the mother (which few dispute).

    Before anyone says that “You can’t give up your child for adoption because you’ll love your child if you bring it to term.” Well… that’s simply monstrous. How can anyone hold the opinion that you have to kill someone before you love them without realizing how hideously monstrous that is? How can anyone possibly think that it is morally equivalent to kill someone or to give them life?

    Fortunately, there is reason to hope. The last paragraph is a very soft target that only requires a philosophical consistency with ethics that everyone in this society does agree upon. As for the humanist eugenics that are so popular these days, all that is required is to convince people that even a bad life is a better quality of life than not being alive.

  91. Terry, you’re skipping over the nine months between conception and birth, where, without abortion, women would effectively be forced to be breeding units. Everybody knows adoption is an option: not everyone wants to be the unwilling vessel of someone else’s progeny.

  92. Oh, I know that Mark. That’s really why we still have abortion, because women are taught to be ashamed of pregnancy by social progressives, where religious conservatives teach them to be ashamed of unmarried sex. The religious conservatives have rehabilitated notion that carrying a child to term is heroic virtue that redeems the sin, but the left simply says that people who get pregnant unexpectedly are stupid sluts. (Despite the fact no birth control is 100% effective, and that eventually a few will get pregnant no matter what you do). True there wouldn’t be 100,000 abortions every year if it wasn’t for alcohol, being too lazy to call the doctor to get pills, or peeling off a condom half-way through to get greater pleasure but there isn’t any organization that preaches both irresponsible sex and no birth control.

    Btw, can we put the idea that sex outside of marriage is equally healthy, safe and responsible yet? I’m not advocating that we put in repressive morality laws, but can we at least come to that consensus ethically? The data is in.

    The idea that there is a right-wing conspiracy to force women into poverty by thrusting the responsibility for raising a child simply isn’t true. In fact, as women are waiting too long to have children, every teenager who chooses to keep a baby would find eager couples waiting to adopt lined up around the block. So why do people keep saying that pregnancy is a life-long commitment?

  93. Women are taught to be ashamed of pregnancy by social progressives? All those centuries of unmarried women being sent to their “aunt’s” place for the summer was the work of social progressives? Those that were made in social pariahs, forced to live in workhouses, declared delinquent? My understanding of history needs a serious re-working. That women can be unmarried mothers in this day and age is the work of social progressives, not those who believe there are ethical and non-ethical kinds of consensual sex.
    And it is hilarious that you accuse “social progressives” of labelling unmarried pregnant women “stupid sluts” while in the very next breath characterizing them as drunk lazy hedonists.
    Again, we’ve agreed that adoption is an option: but you haven’t explained why any woman should be obligated to endure 9 months of pregnancy in order to carry someone else’s child.
    And lastly, that 100,000 number that keeps getting bandied about includes every kind of abortion, including those of non-viable fetuses, pregnancies resulting from non-consensual sex and those needed to protect the mother’s life. It’s more than a little misleading to imply all 100,000 are the from those libidinous straw men who “peel the condom off halfway through to get greater pleasure.”

  94. Well to be blunt, your understanding of history does need reworking. Yes, there was abuses of women, but it wasn’t universal that people would be turned out or hidden from view. If you are talking about “the past” you are talking about centuries and millions here. Also, I did acknowledge that religious conservatives do teach that you should be ashamed of unmarried sex, and that a profound change has occurred in reaction to women’s rights and the legality of abortion. That women have more rights and equality within the public sphere is a triumph. I don’t think abortion was necessary for it, but I also will acknowledge that it sped up the social acceptance of unmarried women with children. Religious conservatives will still argue a child is better off with a father and a mother (as well as certain Democratic U.S. presidential candidates), but a women carrying a child to term and looking after it is acknowledged as heroic because the other options are the easy options. I would argue that such a change could have come about without legalized abortion, though it would have been harder and took longer. Three million dead is simply too high a price to pay.

    Also, when it comes to the equality of women, like a social progressive, you claim sole credit for good changes, and ignore the bad things that happened because of progressive ideology. The residential schools for instance which decided that parents weren’t suitable to raise their own children because they needed to be “progressed” to modern understanding.

    On the side of caring for women, would you like to take a wager who (outside of government) spends the most money supporting unmarried women and their children? It couldn’t be churches (the Roman Catholic Church in particular) and their associated charities could it? Nah… cause that would go against the idea that the religious conservatives lack compassion, and that it is the social progressives who are solely responsible for helping unmarried women.

    As for the why women should be obligated ethically to carry their children to term is because a major inconvenience and a small risk isn’t enough to justify murder. I would assume you would take that as a given, with my strong rhetoric on the matter. I was simply responding to the fact that people keep saying that pregnancy = a lifetime of responsibility and hardship simply isn’t true.

    The argument that thus remains are the three I mentioned. Health of the mother is one where even the Roman Catholic Church makes exceptions, though there are some ideologues within that take it too far (a case in Chile where a woman had uterine cancer comes to mind). If you were too look up the “Doctrine of Double Effect” in google, abortion for health reasons is usually the classic example. The other excuses though come about through a lack of compassion and charity. I regard your attitude that it is morally equivalent to provide protection and nurturing for a vulnerable human being and killing them so they won’t be a bother to be equally monstrous. I guess I don’t have the depth of compassion and justice of a social progressive to see how this can be the case.

    The mother should not be alone in this, because usually if her parents want to keep the child, or the father wants to keep the child, it usually is kept (if only until the adoption process). It is when a woman is driven by shame and fear that she usually makes the decision to abort. I will also make the not so controversial claim that there will probably be considerably more pressure to abort a grandchild in a househould that is pro-abortion and there will be pressure to keep a grandchild in a house that believes abortion is murder.

    For the accusation that women caught by an unexpected pregnancy are derided as stupid, well why do I have to keep saying to people that there is no birth control that is 100% effective? Especially given the fact that very few people use birth control effectively. Alcohol is the biggest culprit, maximizing sexual pleasure (see alcohol) is another, as is engaging in a sexual relationship casually without using the most effective form of birth control (the pill) because of inertia. None of this should be controversial.

    The simple fact of the matter is, the examples you give are only a miniscule fraction of the abortion numbers. A much larger chunk, and the vast majority of abortions performed by married women are due to poverty, though adoption and government support should be an option here too. The rest are the children of the false promises of the sexual revolution, and natural human fallibility in using contraception.

    I am by the way, one of the 91% that agrees that it would be an absolute catastrophe to simply put a blanket ban on abortion. I certainly don’t want a return to the wards for treating women of botched abortions and this was before the ideals of the sexual revolution reached its current wide acceptance. This 91% however is extremely soft, because only 46% believe in abortions without any restrictions at all. Even within that 46% I doubt that all carry your viewpoint of the moral equivalence of abortion and carrying a child to term Mark.

    So the war against abortion has to be a cultural war. There has to be a wide change of acceptance of the practice, and an increased reverence for the type of humanism that acknowledges the humanity of the imprisoned, the sick, the poor and the unborn. Saying that people’s lives have a value only in terms of how close they cleave to the ideal of being at the peak of prosperity, mental and physical health, and how much they are wanted must be rejected.

    Oh, and I would say to those who accuse those on the right as those who don’t agree with social programs there are two types of conservatives. One type are the libertarians, the other are social conservatives. If you hate the fact that they are against social support, why do you court them at election time and regard the social conservatives as scum? After all, many of us remember voting for left of centre parties within memory, and the NDP used to be the most religious party in Canada.

  95. I’m not claiming equivalence between murder and the inconvenience of pregnancy: I just cannot see any way where forcing a woman to bear a child – no matter what the circumstances of conception – would not involve measures that should be abhorrent in a civilised society.
    This is really a discussion of the good versus the perfect: in a perfect world, birth control would be fail safe and abortion used for purely medically necessary reasons. We aren’t in that world: preventing women who want abortions from procuring would, in effect, locking them up. I don’t want that world.

  96. To T Thiwm,

    Well, this is not really a lone individual/small group of people who oppose his award, so the Anders thing isn’t quite applicable. If you look at the online polls being done, the vast majority of newspaper polls (not people, because it’s usually around 60/40) are against him getting the Order. Even pro-choice people vote against him getting it, because of how divisive the issue is. When at least half (at a minimum) of Canada opposes this award, it cannot be given in good conscience.

  97. You’re basing your statement on online polls? Seriously? I made a program myself a few years ago that will automatically vote in an online poll, clear my cache, and then vote again. It’ll easily drop 1000 votes an hour if I don’t throttle it back. Online polls tell you absolutely nothing, and if you’re relying on those, you might as well be reading chicken entrails for what it tells you about the mood of the general public.

  98. Well, here we actually get into the part of the ethical debate where we actually have a grey area. What indeed do you do with a woman who is refuses to bear her child, despite all incentives, and will harm herself to prevent her pregnancy coming to term?

    The world we have is not the world we want to live in. That’s why religious communities looking for a perfect world separate themselves from it. All we are left with is the ceaseless striving toward something better. The pro-life position is radical in which they attempt to preserve life while avoiding the abuses of the past. It will require a sense of thinking and a new social structure that has only been hinted at and never existed. No matter how much we strive, it will also never really exist.

    If you have started thinking about environmentalism, the analogy is apt. No amount of social tinkering and scientific utopianism will ever solve all the environmental crisis that is man. But we always have to strive for something better, and altering our ethical thinking is key to that.

    The place of the state to intervene is also gray. Some pro-life people want to go back to a blanket ban, because it is believed that a few tragedies will be a lesser evil than the great one. It is a position I am sympathetic too, but have to dismiss because there are simply too many people that view abortion as a good. The social attitude has to change before the law can be changed. It would be like bringing in a absolute regime to stop consumption or pollution, which would lead to the death of millions. To simply ban abortion would lead to the death of thousands anyway, only it would be our daughters in addition to our granddaughters and grandsons. Some would argue that laws should exist to reach those that no amount of ethical preaching would reach, such as those who terminate in the last trimester. Most developed nations, more liberal than our own, have laws to that prohibit this and I do not believe it leads to a great deal of suffering, because usually if people are willing to be pregnant for 20 weeks, they are usually willing to be pregnant for the remainder. The only ones who really want to abort at this stage are those who don’t want to suffer a disabled child to live. So this abortion law is the one I want.

    For the rest, I can only speak to those who will listen and offer my help to those who will accept it. However, I will never, ever accept the fact that what we are doing now is moral, and that we can’t do better. I will never accept the arguments for unrestricted abortions as anything but monstrous. An abortion occurs because of the failure from the mother, the father, the grandparents, the extended family, the church and the state. It will never ever be a desired goal or a blessing.

  99. I have to say, as someone who is pro-choice, and quite pleased that the Doctor got the Order, I am pretty disappointed with a lot of the other pro-choicers here.

    I believe it is entirely possible to be pro-life without being sexist, without wanting to ‘enslave’ women, and without denying women equality. To suggest otherwise is to be guilty of the type of absolutist moralizing we usually get from those on the right.

    Some people believe a fetus is a person. As such they believe that person’s choice to live should not be taken from them. I do not agree with this reasoning. I do not believe a fetus is a person or has moral or legal standing approaching that of a woman in society. But I also don’t think that people who disagree with me are monsters or slave-traders.

  100. The Order of Canada has this Biblical reference engraved on it:
    “He desired a better country” (see Hebrews 11:16).

    Perhaps a brief description of the recipients deeds should also be engraved.

    On Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s medal,
    one appropriate Biblical quote would be:
    “he ripped open the pregnant women”
    see: Amos 1:13

  101. Congratulations on an honour long overdue Dr. Morgenthaler. You are a true humanitarian and Canadian hero

  102. I am attempting to unearth the real reason why Henry Morgentaler has been so obsessed with performing abortions. I remember an article in Macleans some time in the 1970’s which was either written by him or it was an interview by some reporter. In the course of the article, he is quoted as saying that Hitler was an unwanted child, so Hitler went on to be evil and kill millions of Jews. He alluded to thinking that unwanted babies grow up with hate inside them. In a documentary by the CBC in 1999 on their Life & Times series, Mr. Morgentaler is quoted as saying : ” Children that are born and loved and well nurtured don’t build concentration camps.” ( http://www.cbc.ca/lifeandtimes/morgentaler.html )So, the question ( not allegation) is, does Mr. Morgentaler have so many abortions done because these are obviously unwanted babies,and might turn out to be just like Hitler, or because of his claim that he stands behind womens’ rights as guaranteed in the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms ? I can’t help but wonder about these things.

  103. An important point is missed in that THE PROCESS AND NORMAL PROCEDURE for selection to Order of Canada awards was changed in this case. Unanimous agreement is the norm but because this could not achieved, THE HEAD OF THE ADVISORY COUNCIL CHANGED THE RULES. What an arrogant abuse of power and powermonging! Changing the rules to suit certain members own agenda! A REVIEW OF THIS CASE MUST BE HELD AS TO WHY NORMATIVE PROCEDURE WAS NOT FOLLOWED!

  104. @John D: Nicely put.

  105. That is a very good point. I think it deserves some looking into alright.

  106. I agree with Rex Murphy. If Morgentaler can receive an OC (which although I oppose abortions, I do not oppose him receiving an OC) why not give an OC to Don Cherry for his longstanding support of our troops and other good causes?
    Don Cherry for OC!!

  107. Orders of Knighthood (which is what the Order of Canada is, minus the knight thing) aren’t supposed to recognise people for being sweetness and light, but for a) being great and b) making the country greater. “Great” in the sense of “can wade into a mass of heathens sword in hand and kick some serious a**” great, i.e. chivalrous.

    Impossible to deny that people like Dr. Morgenthaler, or Mr. Black, have that kind of chivalrous courage.

  108. There is a difference between tolerating and accepting that legalized abortion is the reality in Canada, and endorsing it. Giving the Order of Canada to Morgentaler is an endorsement of his medical practices, no two ways about it. Canadian society is enlightened enough to allow legal abortions; but really, endorsing it? It’s a bit much, thanks.


  110. I find the sweeping generalizations about people who oppose abortion ignorant. I am a woman. I am not a fundamentalist. I use contraception. I am a professional. I am a liberal. And yet, I view abortion as wrong and Morgentaler’s leadership in this area is nothing to celebrate.

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