Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Henry Morgentaler Receives Order of Canada

Dr. Henry Morgentaler is a Canadian physician who campaigned for a woman's right to choose abortion. He is responsible for overthrowing the laws against abortion in Canada. Here's the entry in Wikipedia [Henry Morgentaler].
On June 1, 1970, Morgentaler was arrested in Montreal for performing illegal abortions. ... He was acquitted by a jury in the court case, but the acquittal was overturned by five judges on the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1974. He went to prison, appealed, and was again acquitted. Morgentaler first went to the Supreme Court of Canada in an attempt to overturn the country's abortion law in Morgentaler v. The Queen but was unsuccessful.

In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted as part of the Canadian Constitution. Morgentaler was charged again in 1983 in Ontario for procuring illegal miscarriages. He was acquitted by a jury, but the verdict was reversed by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The case was then sent to the Supreme Court of Canada. He was acquitted once again, and the Canadian Supreme Court declared the law he was convicted under to be in violation of the Charter and thus unconstitutional in the case of Morgentaler et al. v. Her Majesty The Queen 1988 (1 S.C.R. 30). This ruling essentially ended all statutory restrictions on abortion in Canada.
Yesterday, Canada Day, Morgentaler was named to the Order of Canada in recognition of his service to women and to the country. Canadian Cynic has a funny posting about the discussion that might have gone on when the committee was making up it's mind about Morgentaler [Fly on the wall, Order of Canada edition]

As you can imagine, not everyone in Canada is pleased about this award. The (Not Progressive) Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among the first opponents of women's rights to speak out as reported in the Globe & Mail [Cheers, jeers greet Morgentaler's honour].
The Harper government was quick to distance itself from the announcement that Henry Morgentaler, the controversial abortion doctor who changed the face of health care in the country, was named on Tuesday to the Order of Canada.

The Tories, no doubt sensing a brewing backlash from their conservative base, issued a brief response outlining how the appointment process has nothing to do with the government.

“The Conservative government is not involved in either deliberations or decisions with respect to which individuals are appointed to the Order of Canada,” the PMO statement said.
On the other hand,
But Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion called for politics to be put aside and asked Canadians to look at Dr. Morgentaler's contributions to society.

“Dr. Morgentaler has stood up for a woman's right to choose for his entire career, often at great personal cost and risk,” Mr. Dion's office said in a statement. “The Order of Canada process has been designed to keep politics out of it and I think we should all respect and celebrate the decisions of the panel and the Governor-General.”


  1. "The Conservative government is not involved in either deliberations or decisions with respect to which individuals are appointed to the Order of Canada"

    And it's a good thing, too.

  2. Larry, you seem to be having some page load issues in Internet Explorer (stemming from the latest Nobel post?)

  3. Thanks, kamel, it should be fixed now.