Henry Morgentaler, RIP

Henry Morgentaler, abortion rights champion, has died. (Globe and Mail)

Author: Carle Steel

Carle Steel was a simple moisture farmer on a barren, sun-baked world who, through fate and destiny, brought the mighty Galactic Empire to its knees. She likes cats, bats, mice and you.

35 thoughts on “Henry Morgentaler, RIP”

  1. Cue the dumbasses of the nation:

    “Hey Henry, how does it feel, buddy?”

  2. P.S. As for your bio, I’m loving this “moisture farmer” thing. I’ve always wondered if a veg like pumpkin, say, could absorb something hard laying beneath it, like a rock or a watch, thru an excessive amount of moisture. Thoughts?

  3. I second the Rest In Peace for a man who really cared about women’s rights.

  4. I’m going out for an abortion later, if anyone wants to come. Pay my respects, you know?

  5. No sub-human snarking on my behalf, even though I’m against everything he stood for. RIP Henry.

  6. I respect him for surviving of the holocaust and standing up for what he believed in. It caused alot of division, yet so needed and necessary.
    I wish no ill will against him. He lived 90 years. There are those who will spit on his grave because of what he did. Abortion still needs to be controlled since we’ve seen the insane things going on in the USA with some abortion clinics.

  7. You are right Stephen, you are right. It is a fetus. It’s not a baby, it’s a fetus. Fetus fetus fetus fetus fetus FETUS!

    That way, you can live with yourself and rationalize the abortions; telling yourself that you weren’t killing a baby, you were just terminating a pregnancy of some fetal tissue. And its your choice and its your body and it is a medical issue and, absolutely YES!

    I am against women’s rights, like you are against hipster glasses and skinny jeans…..oh wait…..

    p.s. When you have any exposure to pregnancy, other than your libfem classes, come and step to me. I will throw you the awesomest FETUS SHOWER, you have ever seen!

  8. Seldom will you see a person who was hated as much as he was loved.
    RIP HM

  9. Seanbot: you want abortion to be illegal? Am I correct in that? Then you don’t support at least one critically important women’s right. Your opinions are dumb. Get better ones. GOOD DAY, SIR.

    Also, skinny jeans?

  10. Stephen: do you diminish the fact that an unborn human being is dehumanized by referring to “it” as a fetus? Am I correct in that? God willing, a future Mrs. (whateva)-Whitworth should accidently announce to your family, “I am having a fetus?” That when she goes to get her ultrasounds, aminos, genetic testing done, that the doctor refers to your baby as “the fetus”? That when your wife, your brother, sister, parents, nieces, nephews, and friends refer to your baby as she’s pregnant with Stephen’s fetus……you know where I am going with this, don’t you. Everyone always says baby.

    Adolf Hitler killed Henry’s parents by brainwashing the population. How do you a person to murder his own neighbour? Answer: Take away the perception of the targets humanity. Therefore, Jews were equated to rats, and vermin. Propoganda with extreme prejudice, for the entire population to see!

    Do you see the parallel?

    Now, sin no more.

  11. Having reread that last post, I hope I don’t have to deal with Barb dropping a babomb on me too. *takes a sip of his cold beah*

  12. Is it correct to say that Henry M. was ahead of his time? In that, can you imagine the shitstorm he’d have dealt with in the Culture War ’00s as opposed to the relatively sleepier ’80s? I mean I remember some controversy, but nothing like the nanny-public outrage that gets unleashed nowadays.

    As for Abortion… Religiously, I was raised Anglican, and even so, it had no affect. I have no hang-ups there. Socially, well, while I obviously understand peoples’ problems with abortion, and how fetal rights or whatever can or maybe should supercede a woman’s right to choose, even though I ultimately disagree, I highly recommend abortion as a social issue that is very well left alone, like the Middle East pre-911. Despite what the Culture Warriors tell you, you don’t HAVE to necessarily have an opinion. It’s call abstaining. From the debate.

    Perhaps a better way to curb abortion, if that’s your thing, is to stop stigmatizing single mothers, lower-income single-parent families, mothers who do not do “a good enuf job” raising their children, stop eroding financial assistance and daycare programs for low income families, so that if a single woman finds herself pregnant, the social prospect of raising a kid on her own doesn’t seem so grim once she has had him or her.

    But that seems to be the ultimate thing with rightwingers against abortion: Try to prevent the abortion, then abandon the family once the child is here, with an “you’re on your own, cut taxes, cut family supports, conform to Christian family values or else…” attitude. Poo on that!

  13. Seanbot3000 said to SW:

    p.s. When you have any exposure to pregnancy, other than your libfem classes, come and step to me…

    That’s actually a great point. The academicization of abortion, I feel, misses the point that, historically, I’m pretty sure that it has been men who’ve driven women to abortions and not feminists, as would be assumed since 1970.

  14. Finally, abstinence education I can get behind! Though as with real abstinence, it only works if everyone’s doing it. And I do understand men’s overwhelming biological urge to get right in there and duke it out.*

    Funny thing, when I went for my abortion yesterday, it turned out it wasn’t a fetus after all! I gave birth to a troll! I’m going to name her Stephen Sean Steelbot-Whitworth. She’s so cute — pictures to follow. I can hardly wait for her to be old enough to take over the moisture farm. I couldn’t be happier!

    (*And of course I value the support of men friends who (like Morgentaler) take a stand for women’s human rights — thank you.)

  15. Jeez, nobodys ever heard of adoption. If ya dont want the kid, give it up. Couples are waiting for years to adopt a child. What about gay couples, maybe they`d like to be parents too.

  16. @ Indy: Adoption is a great option! My favourite writer, Dan Savage, wrote a great book (The Kid) tabout adopting a child with his husband. Everyone should read it. Also, my sister was adopted. Also also, we have writers who were adopted. Adoption is TERRIFIC and I love it. But it’s the pregnant woman’s call.

    @ Talbot: Seanbot says lots of odd things and it would take more free time than I have to respond to them all. What do you even say to someone who imagines people take “LibFem classes” (whatever those are) besides, ‘geez dude, you gotta get out more.’ (Also I’m way too fat to wear skinny jeans.)

    @Seanbot: Hi! I was just talking about you. Okay, so this is a fetus and this is a baby. They’re different things. I’m not dehumanizing fetuses — you’re humanizing them in a weird and creepy way. You should stop doing that.

    Also @Seanbot: In any case, women are more important than the wee organisms developing in their bodies. Their rights come first.I wish you didn’t support state-enforced pregnancy.

    @Seanbot one more time: And you realize that it’s all right to not like abortion? It really is. No one (besides Carle) actually LIKES abortions (also, Carle is kidding. Probably). But women aren’t equal if it’s not an option, and if you fight against legal abortion you’re gonna get in trouble on this blog.

    P.S. @Seanbot: Since you’re in trouble anyway, you should probably just have come out and criticized the deceased public figure instead of taking a weenie passive-aggressive pot-shot at me for criticizing the late Ralph Klein. It’s all right to criticize deceased public figures.

  17. Talbot makes some very good points, one of which often gets glossed over: that the major beneficiaries of legalized abortion are men.

    Safe, taxpayer-funded, legally obtained abortion absolves men fully and finally of any responsibility for their sexual conduct. It allows their world to unfold as they think it should. That unfolding includes sex-selective abortion, which gives women’s right advocates headaches because it emphasizes who is really in control of women’s bodies.

  18. Stephen, Seanbot hasn’t humanized fetuses: nature has. If not, I would have given birth to alligators.

  19. Barb: men most certainly do not benefit more from legal abortion than women.

    Also, just a heads up: for some reason that comment went into our blog’s holding pen. I happened to notice and approved it right away but I guess be aware that our software is apparently discriminating against you again. What a jerk.

  20. Who, me or the software? I saw that “moderation” comment myself and wondered what was going on.

    Insofar as legalized abortion has a much lower fatality and permanent injury rate than the illegal variety, I agree that women have benefited. That does not change the big picture.

  21. My mother wouldn’t be so firm on the ‘not aligators’ part of your comment, Barb.

  22. The suggestion that men are the major beneficiaries of abortion is just weird. Men cannot choose to forgo any of the responsibilities for their sexual conduct because of the availability of safe, legal abortion. Men cannot legally force their partner to have an abortion, and men retain a financial obligation to children who are carried to term. They may be relieved of the responsibility, but only through the choice of someone else. Safe, legal abortion has — however — given women the choice to mitigate some of the consequences of their own sexual conduct. Women are the primary beneficiaries of safe, legal abortion. To argue otherwise seems silly.

    Speaking of consequences, what is the inherent harm in mitigating the consequences of sexual conduct? No one has a moral issue with wearing seatbelts to mitigate the harm of engaging in the risky behaviour of driving. Yet from condoms to birth control to abortion, there is a clear push from some (primarily religious) members of society to stop the mitigation of harm from the risky behaviour of sex. It’s so archaic and sex-negative. Sex is fun; people should do it more (especially with me).

    Regarding your alligator comment, Barb, please stop equivocating between “humanizing” in the sense of giving moral weight to, attributing human motivations and emotions to, etc. and “humanizing” in the sense of identifying as biologically human. If I say “That is human hair” or “That is a human fetus”, I clearly am not humanizing in the same sense as when I say “Black people deserve all the rights and responsibilities associated with human beings.”

    Finally, I agree that sex-selective abortions are wrong for a number of reasons, and should be discouraged. However, I don’t see them as a major problem in Canada. Focusing on sex-selective abortions and framing abortion as a feminist issue are transparent attempts for the socially conservative to insert the thin edge of the wedge into the (legally and politically in Canada) firmly closed abortion debate. Stop it; we know exactly what you’re trying to do!

    “I am okay with not killing babies” Brad

  23. Brad: the idea may seem weird and silly to anyone who simply hasn’t given it the thought it deserves. Your second and third sentences are very much open to debate. Men can absolutely choose to forgo their responsibilities (“It’s not mine; that’s your problem”), and while they cannot legally force an abortion, they can make women pay in other ways for not having one.

    Look up the definition of “equivocating”, and and be more careful about how you define “humanizing”, and then maybe we can have a meaningful discussion.

    The issue of sex-selective abortion, which is abhorrent to to you and to me, as well as to others, is perceived by some as a thin-edge-of-the-wedge issue. It need not be; after all, Dr. Morgentaler campaigned for access to abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy, not willynilly any time and at any stage. That’s a restriction, and a reasonable one. What could be more reasonable than forbidding prenatal discrimination against girls, in a country that prides itself on equality of the sexes? Maybe you don’t see sex-selective abortions as problematic here, but others do, including concerned members of the ethnic communities where the practice is carried out routinely, at taxpayers’ and women’s expense.

    Don’t ascribe motives to me based on too-hasty reading and ideology. I never said a word about “feminist issue[s]”.

  24. Well Barb, I’ve done as you say. “Equivocation (“to call by the same name”) is classified as an informal logical fallacy. It is the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning or sense (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time).”

    I assert that “humanize” has more than one sense. The clearest way to demonstrate this is by using the definition of “dehumanize”:

    “dehumanize (third-person singular simple present dehumanizes, present participle dehumanizing, simple past and past participle dehumanized)

    To take away humanity, to remove or deny human qualities, characteristics, or attributes. ”

    Note the “to remove or deny”: these are words with separate meanings, with “to add or affirm” being the relevant antonyms. So, “to humanize” can mean to add human qualities, which is what nature has done to a human fetus. It can also mean to affirm human qualities, which is what Steve accused Seanbot of doing.

    Your alligator reply claimed that Steve was wrong to accuse Seanbot of humanizing fetuses (in the second sense) by pointing out that nature is the one who has humanized fetuses (in the first sense). It is a textbook example of equivocation.

  25. I will acknowledge that I have shifted my interpretation of the sense in which you used “humanize” in my latest reply. I initially interpreted your argument along the lines of “nature has forced us to affirm the human-ness (an ugly word I’ve chosen to use to avoid equivocation on the term “humanity”) of a fetus by making it a human fetus, rather than an alligator fetus”. Under this interpretation, you would still be equivocating based on the distinct sets of human qualities affirmed. In one sense, those qualities are “worthy of rights, respect, love, etc.” and in the other they are “composed of human DNA”. I apologize for my misinterpretation, though that interpretation was generous to you in that it involved a subtler form of equivocation.

    I suspect you may argue that a fetus has the quality of being “worthy of rights, respect, love, etc.” by virtue of some of the other human qualities nature has provided it with (the potential to become a full-fledged human being, for example). Because of this, you may not have been intentionally equivocating as (in your mind) possession of the one set of human qualities necessary implies the quality of “worthy of rights, respect, love, etc.” That’s a leap I am not prepared to follow you across. Perhaps if you identify exactly what human qualities a fetus has that cause it to be “worthy of rights, respect, love, etc.” I could be persuaded to make the jump.

  26. I still maintain that the argument that — in your words — “the major beneficiaries of legalized abortion are men” is prima facie absurd. You have made a strong claim that runs counter to intuition. Without some similarly strong argument/evidence, I am loath to entertain it. The issue of men being unfairly advantaged by the existence of legal abortion is imaginary.

    In one short comment, you brought up that issue and the issue of sex-selective abortions. The main connection those issues have in common is the unequal treatment of women. The unequal treatment of women is the core concern of feminists (though perhaps you would prefer I use the term “women’s rights advocates”). Sex-selective abortion is wrong. However, I have seen no evidence that it accounts for a sizable portion of the abortions in Canada. These issues (one imaginary and one minor in our culture) are fairly new to the abortion debate. The most vocal raisers of these issues are people like Mark Warama who have no history of fighting for women’s rights and are anti-abortion in general. It is a strategy to diffuse one of the primary attacks of the opponent. By presenting women’s rights arguments (laughable though the arguments may be) for the pro-life position, pro-lifers are attempting to shield themselves from accusations of being anti-women.

    Perhaps that is not your intent, Barb. Perhaps you are honestly swayed by those arguments. By repeating the arguments though, you are helping to build that shield.

  27. Finally — even if sex-selective abortion were a major issue in Canada — legislation is a horrible tool to attempt to deal with it. In the context of video games, Dave Sirlin argues that a ban must be “enforceable, discrete, and warranted”. (http://www.sirlin.net/ptw-book/what-should-be-banned.html) A good law has the same requirements.

    Leaving aside the issues of discreteness and warrant, I fail to see how a ban on sex-selective abortions could be enforceable. Absent a mind-reading machine, how can an outside entity determine whether a woman has chosen to have an abortion because the fetus is female or for one of the myriad legally acceptable reasons? Discrimination cases are notoriously difficult to prove; Short of an admission of guilt, it usually takes a pattern of behaviour to establish discrimination. How many female fetuses would a woman have to abort, while carrying male fetuses to term, before it could be determined beyond a reasonable doubt that she was selecting for sex?

    Admittedly, an abortion doctor could have enough cases to show a bias towards sex-selection. However, in that case, which of the abortions should he or she have refused? Can we hold a doctor responsible for the choices of that doctor’s patients?

    I can conceive of no likely situation in which a ban on sex-selective abortion could reasonably be enforced without also denying a large number of “acceptable” abortions. The key to reducing or eliminating same-sex abortions is through education and the reduction of misogyny in general. In countries where it is an issue, an argument may be made for providing incentives for having female children. The hammer of justice, however, is simply the wrong tool for this screw.

  28. I apologize for the long string of comments. Each of the points I had to make was fairly involved so I broke my comments up by issue. The fact that I’m a bored night owl with unreasonable hours has made this into a monologue rather than a discussion. I hope my tone remained mostly civil, Barb. I do enjoy butting heads with you! I’ve thought of more to say, but I suspect I have gone on too long; Instead, I think I’m going to go out and try to find someone willing to have my abortion.

    I’m out!

    *drops microphone*

  29. Brad, you obviously care a great deal about the topic, because you’ve been up all night, thinking, choosing your words, and making your case. Your tone has indeed been civil, and I too have enjoyed this discussion, which has been free of polemic and has been, I think, enlightening for both of us.

    Apology accepted, for your misinterpretation; I have to remember, while pursuing economy of expression, not to be too darned subtle. For me, a fetus is a human being, and worthy of treatment as such. I’ve studied human development, read all the arguments, and reasoned and struggled mentally, but I just cannot insult my own intelligence by concluding that a human being only exists once it’s delivered.

    While I’m clarifying, I note that I never said that men were “unfairly advantaged” by abortion; I said that they were the major beneficiaries, which is not the same thing. Also, I used the phrase “women’s rights advocates” to include concerned men, and to avoid any knee-jerk exclusive reaction by readers of the comments to the term “feminists” (as in “libfem”). As to my argument being counter to intuition, so are a lot of others: people used to think that the earth was flat and that Nile river flood mud spawned mice. Counter-intuitive thinking has brought us modern science.

    You’ve seen the connection about the treatment of women that I’d hoped someone would see. One thing that you have failed to see, however, is that someone can have come, after much observation and reasoning, to the conclusions I have without being anti-woman, socially conservative, complicit in undermining the current law, a dupe of the right wing, etc., etc. Please give me some credit for free thinking, and certainly don’t ask me to restrict my freedom of thought and expression just because of your perception that it somehow “helps the other side”.

    As to sex-selective abortion being a minor issue in Canada, I think that you may find folks in some Asian-Canadian communities who would strongly disagree with you, and who would take offence at your seemingly dismissive view of what they see as part of the struggle they have to put an end to discriminatory cultural practices, in a country where they thought they could leave those practices behind.

    Just to clarify further: I never mentioned banning sex-selective abortion; you brought it up in your well-expressed presentation on the difficulties involved in legal action. I stated that I found it abhorrent, and that it is something of a rock-and-hard-place situation for women’s rights advocates, which it is. The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

    Just in closing, have you ever wondered why abortion has been such a hard sell to First Nations communities? It’s long been perceived as a form of genocide, and it’s hard not to see their point.

    Thank you for your thoughtful responses, and I think we can agree respectfully to disagree.

  30. My friend, a dialysis nurse named Liz, lived in Montreal in the 60s and she knew of Henry Morgentaler from a party where she encountered him. She said she didn’t like him. He was acting drunk and boisterous. A typical asshole, even in the eyes of a liberal, one-time pro-choicer.

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