Morgentalerís shallow victoryFATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
Leave aside the merits of the case, well-debated elsewhere. Of course itís odious. Yet at the same time it has been highly instructive.
It turns out that abortion is not quite the settled issue it was supposed to be. Awarding the Order of Canada to Henry Morgentaler was intended to confer just that, a sense of settled legitimacy to the publicly funded unlimited abortion license. After all, if the old abortionist could be thrown in the mix with french fry magnates and heraldic experts and promoters of amateur sports and a smattering of superannuated politicians, well then it would seem that abortion is just another one of those soothing things that Canadian officialdom smiles upon, like producing documentary films or preserving indigenous languages.
That's why the abortion party lusted so long and so desperately after the OC for Morgentaler. Every so often one runs across informal campaigns to get the snowflake for this or that putative worthy, and invariably one hopes for a positive result, even if it seems, well, unseemly to be chasing after honours. But the Morgentaler campaign, stretching back over many years and involving several attempts, was an altogether different matter. The abortion party lathered itself up every so often with passionate public calls to let it snow upon the eminence grisly of abortion politics. In the end, it turned out that the customary selection procedures had to be modified in order to ram it through for Morgentaler, but finally it was done, and the grasping hands will soon clutch his prize.
Yet if Morgentaler's award was supposed to put the vice-regal seal of ordinariness upon unlimited abortion in Canada, his snowflake turned out to be unique indeed. It provoked widespread revulsion in some quarters, but more noteworthy, Rideau Hall conducted itself as if the matter left an embarrassing stench in the air.
"For his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations."
That's the brief citation explaining what Morgentaler's qualifications are. Notice anything missing? The man's name is synonymous with abortion; one doesn't drop into a Morgentaler clinic for a bad back. He does one thing, and one thing only, and yet Rideau Hall could not bring itself to even mention it.
They slotted him into the "health care" category, even though any doctor will tell you that vacuuming children out of the womb is not groundbreaking medicine, or even particularly respectable in the medical profession. There were other clinicians on the list this time, and the citations were not so circumspect. One was a researcher in the "study of stroke and dementia," another a nurse providing "readjustment services for people suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction" and a third "for leadership in prosthodontic dentistry, notably for introducing dental implantology to North American dentists."
Why not tell us what Morgentaler did? Even in his moment of triumph, the eyes need to be averted. That's the instructive lesson of the episode, not so much that Morgentaler was finally dragged across the threshold of Rideau Hall, but that it was so distasteful for all concerned. Canada, due to the lawlessness of Morgentaler, the connivance of the courts and the pusillanimity of federal parliamentarians, has the most libertine abortion regime on the planet -- anytime, any reason, with the taxpayer writing the cheque. Canadians don't like to be reminded that we are extremists on abortion, and giving Morgentaler the snowflake is a reminder that we are seriously adrift when it comes to common sense on abortion policy.
It's even worse than that: Lauding Morgentaler for services to "health care" stains that proudest boast of Canadian public policy -- the health care system. If you don't want to mention abortion, then Morgentaler's great achievement was to operate free-standing for-profit abortion clinics across the land, sending the bill to the government for every abortion performed.
The same governments who heroically labour to prevent for-profit hip replacements and MRI scans happily write millions in cheques for private clinic abortions.
That calls for eyes closed, not merely averted. Morgentaler not only bloodied his own hands, but he gave abortion pride of place in the Canadian health care system. The Order of Canada was supposed to make Morgentaler and the hyper-extremism of the abortion party seem normal. The protest of opponents and the obfuscation of supporters have ensured that hasn't happened. Honouring Morgentaler has only served to remind us of something embarrassing we would prefer to forget.
Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Raised from the dead." National Post, (Canada) June 24, 2008.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
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