Friday, July 4, 2008

Morgentaler and the Order of Canada

I feel like I should say something about this, since it's gotten a lot of attention on the Canadian blogosphere (of which I am a part, after all). Those on the Left are hailing Dr. Henry Morgentaler's admittment into the Order of Canada as a well-deserved and overdue honour to a man who fought for abortion rights his whole life, while some on the Right are comparing him to Hitler (an ironic accusation against a man who was an inmate of Auschwitz), and are saying this "debases" the Order of Canada. Stephen Harper has criticized the decision for sowing disunity among Canadians, pointing out that the Order of Canada should be something to bring us together as a country in honouring our best and brightest. Some previous recipients are even returning their medals in protest.

I support a woman's right to have a clean, safe abortion. It's one of those things that is going to happen regardless of legality (like drug use), so I think the best thing to do is accept it and ensure it is kept out in the open where it can be regulated. Certainly abortion should always be viewed as a last resort, and I am opposed to partial birth abortions (unless the health of the mother is threatened) but I'm not someone who believes life begins at conception, or that an fertilized egg is fundamentally different from the sum of its parts.

So on those grounds, I'm not philosophically opposed to someone like Morgentaler being appointed to the Order, in light of his contributions toward more progressive Canadian social and health policy. It's too bad that this award had to be given within the context of a hot-button political debate (perhaps not quite as hot as it used to be, but one still capable of stirring up a lot of emotion), but sometimes awards themselves can be powerful political statements. As for the merits of this particular one, I leave that to others to wrangle over.

UPDATE: This one didn't exactly "bring Canadians together" either.

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