13 February 2008

Morgentaler and the Order of Canada

There are a lot of deserving people who don't have an Order of Canada. But among them Henry stands out as a giant. It's a monumental absence,” says lawyer, civil rights champion, and recipient of the Order of Canada, Clayton Ruby. "It's blasphemy that this hasn't happened, a national embarrassment,” says Cathie Colombo, Henry Morgentaler's long-time assistant. As reported in the Globe and Mail,
In an unprecedented move, Dr. Morgentaler's supporters have decided to catalogue past rejections and spur a public debate about why one of Canada's iconic figures has never received its highest honour. ... “Clearly, Henry Morgentaler is one of the most courageous Canadians of our generation,” [Clayton Ruby] said... It has been 20 years since the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's abortion law.

The path to that decision arguably began in 1967, when Dr. Morgentaler presented a brief to the House of Commons health and welfare committee in which he urged that Canada's restrictive abortion law be repealed. The next year, he performed his first abortion and then, in 1969, he defied the law by opening a private abortion clinic. In 1970, the doctor was arrested and acquitted, but the acquittal was overturned and he served 10 months of an 18-month sentence in prison.

Legal battles multiplied until the issue made its way to the highest court. On Jan. 28, 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Canada's abortion law, ruling that Parliament had a legitimate interest in protecting human fetuses but that the existing prohibition on abortion was disproportionate in its means and failed to protect women's right to security of the person.
It is because of the selfless struggle led by Dr. Henry Morgentaler - often putting his own life at risk - that countless Canadian women have been spared the butchery, shame, and often death that were often the prior results of a woman exercising the simple right of control over her own body.

Although detractors like Andrea Mrozek, founding director of ProWomanProLife claim that legal access to safe, medical abortions have "done women irreparable harm," on balance, their position with respect to honouring Dr. Morgentaler is perhaps understandable, but regrettable. Irreparable harm is what was perpetrated on young Canadian women who once were forced to seek out back alley abortionists, or turn to self-mutilation with wire coat hangers. By enabling and providing a safe medical choice, Henry Morgentaler saved young women from ever having to face this sort of grim choice, and for that he deserves to be honoured with the Order of Canada.

Do you agree? Then vote in the Globe and Mail poll, calling for Dr. Morgentaler's investiture in Canada's highest honour.

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Anonymous said...

If morgentaler is given the highest honour in Canada, it will certainly mark one of the saddest and sickest moments of our history. I will certainly not vote for who ever would allow this to happen. I hope the powers that be take note of the polls results.

Anonymous said...

It's shameful that Morgentaler hasn't received the Order of Canada yet. He should be awarded it simply for his massive change to appeal law!!

As a student planning on attending medical school it horrifies me to think of the number of women who filled hospital wards with infections and injuries due to botched uncontrolled back alley type abortions or desperate home treatments.

As a woman I am grateful for Morgentaler's voice. Either a woman has complete control over her body... or she has absolutely none!

Anonymous said...

"Either a woman has complete control over her body or she has none"

Is it wrong to make suicide illegal then?

Mark said...

Without a doubt, it is wrong to criminalize mental illness. An attempted suicide should be treated as the manifestation of the very serious illness it is. (Obviously a successful suicide, as tragic as it is, can be neither prosecuted nor treated.)

Those - and there are many - who would seek to effectively criminalize mental illness are heartless, ignorant, or both.

Anonymous said...

This award is long overdue for Dr. Morgentaler. He fought for a long time so women in Canada could have the basic right to make their own decisions about our bodies - a right many of our European sisters had already had for a very long time.

Pro-choice people have a right to believe what they want - and the right to not terminate their own pregnancies - but they do not have the right to control other Canadians. If it were up to them, women would still have to have permission from their husbands to go to a physician (as Canadian women did up until the 1960's).

Canada still is not as progressive on this issue as it should be. Many women in Canada still do not have access to abortion. Canadian women do not have the choice of taking the abortion pill, a medication used to stop early pregnancy, even though it is much less invasive then traditional abortions. This is widely available in Europe but still not used in Canada due to the ridiculous pro-life lobby.

Anonymous said...

In 10-15 years the US Supreme Court will be top heavy with right wing Conservative judges and abortion will be outlawed once again..Thank you Jerry Falwell,you didnt die in vain