Morgentaler: To know a man, know his mind

Let’s face it, abortion is a controversial issue, and everyone will throw around that word. But what does it come down to?

It’s all about perspective. And if you wish to argue against Morgentaler and his practice of abortions, you need to understand him. You can’t make an argument in any debate unless you know what your opponent might understand and relate to.

If you’ve seen the interview on The Hour, you’ll know about Henry Morgentaler being a hero to pro choice and a villain to pro life. But let’s look at him beyond the issue of abortion for a moment. After all, he is a crusader for social and political change with regard to rights and freedoms as much as he is a doctor who performs abortions.

Morgentaler is an Auschwitz survivor, and he was given a UN scholarship for Jewish Holocaust survivors so he could study medicine in Germany. In 1950, he chose to move to Canada instead of Israel, and settled in Montreal where he was a general medical practitioner. He’s been a long time supporter of abortion, and we can see a public look at this as early as 1967 with his testimony to the Government about the subject.

He’s run in Federal politics, been involved in many court cases, and from 1968 to 1999 he was President of the Humanist Association of Canada. He’s still listed as an honourary president for the organization. And the Humanism movement is something the interview did not get into. Why is Morgentaler a crusader for women’s rights, and why did he perform abortions? He believes people are responsible for their own lives and should be allowed to make their own decisions. It is his belief that explains his position, so we have to look at the association which he is involved with.

Here is the definition of Humanism from the Association’s web site:  Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality. From: http://www.humanists.ca/humanism/minimumstatement.php

Even without the issue of abortion, religious groups are going to see Morgentaler as ‘wrong’ based on his being president of an association with this view: Does not accept supernatural views of reality. Groups who use God and religion to support their positions are already seeing a man involved with a group that does not accept God, or at least accept the supernatural aspects we ascribe to religion. Thus, it doesn’t matter how many reasons based on religious views are given by pro life groups, the trend for a woman’s right to choose when it comes to abortion isn’t based on anything to do with religion from Morgentaler’s perspective. Thus it’s difficult to argue against the position of abortion when the opponents you have don’t believe in what you are saying.

Personally, I side more with the pro-life side of things, and I have seen too many amazing things, had too many coincidences to ever say there’s nothing supernatural about the world. God is the Universe for me, and there are great things out there we just haven’t quite explained yet. But any argument I could make to Morgentaler about why abortion is wrong wouldn’t have any impact if I used my belief as the basis, because talking about the soul, and how life is precious becomes irrelevant for someone who looks at life with a scientific view of what you see is what there is. I could quote scripture all day, but a person has to believe in it for it to have an impact.

Through my eyes, I see Morgentaler as a man who has served good in ensuring women have rights, to let them have a say about their own bodies. It’s the same position that make rape a crime, after all. Women are in control of their own bodies. I can respect that, even if I would prefer people to put up children for adoption. From my perspective, it’s not like Canada is having the overpopulation crisis, so what’s wrong with letting people who cannot have children have an easier time of adopting because there are more children to adopt? That is my choice, and I get to make it, and I have to thank Morgentaler for fighting for that right in his own way, even if his views oppose my own.

I can’t call him a murdered, or subversive, or defame him if he has allowed me to still speak my mind and make my own decision. And I cannot impose my religious and social beliefs on him through that same respect. We may be at odds, but it doesn’t make either of us villains in any respect.

The debate is still there, and it will be for a long time. Generations have to go by before a new concept is accepted to the point where debate is no longer an issue. Sure we accept the Internet as a part of daily life now, but how long has the concept of the Internet been around? Almost forty years, and maybe it is the last fifteen that has seen the Internet triumph over people who were anti-technology and wished to limit the encroachment of computers into our daily lives. The right to life vs. the right to choose has existed for much longer than the computer has, and it will take more time to settle the issue.

And if the debate has to continue, it needs to go from God based views about murdering babies to something more natural like propagation of species, building of families and social networks, and most importantly, a strong population base for our spacious country so we can continue to grow and prosper. Or perhaps instead of abortion, some groups for pro-life could promote birth control. I know Catholics might not be happy about that, but if there’s no unwanted baby to abort, it ends the debate.

Even if everyone could agree about abortion tomorrow, a new issue will appear which the Humanists have already brought up: Euthanasia. After all, if a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body and have an abortion, surely it’s going to be stated that control over her body includes the right to die. It’s a natural progression in a cycle of life and death we’re already battling over. And we won’t even get into pre-birth genetic testing and DNA modification questions in this discussion.

We’re a society that needs conflict to survive, unfortunately. It is our passion, our desire, to pick a side and take a stand that can make us great as much as it can tear us apart. We’ll never be finished with our discussions on these so called controversial issues. All we can hope is that we all agree to play nice, not bomb anyone’s property, and agree that each person can at least choose what to believe and receive respect from someone who doesn’t agree.

– Liana

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1 Comment

  1. agreed. extremely well written and thought provoking…


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