It would seem that Morgentaler has decided that it would be easier to open an abortion clinic in Winnipeg owing to the fact that Manitoba at present has a NDP government which has abortion on demand as one of its policies. In addition, Manitoba’s Attorney-General Roland Penner has publicly stated his own very strong personal pro-abortion views. On CBC National radio programme, “As It Happens”, aired on December 2, 1982, Attorney-General Penner stated, “personally I am in favour of freedom of choice. I want to have the law changed and at the same time want to make sure that facilities for abortion are more readily available in Manitoba.”
Later in the programme, he admitted that in order to push his personal views on abortion, he had personally urged the pro-abortionist Women’s Coalition of Winnipeg to petition his government to look at abortion facilities, which would operate within the law.
In spite of his pro-abortion views, Mr. Penner alleges that he would prosecute Morgantaler should any “information” (charge) be laid against him by “irate” citizens.
There is some question, however, as to how diligently the prosecution will be carried out under Attorney-General Penner’s administration.
Morgentaler obviously feels that he is in comfortable territory in Manitoba and to this end he and his associates have now purchased a house in Winnipeg, which they are planning to open for business, the middle of April.
The Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons, several weeks ago, gave Morgentaler a license to practice in the province, but the license allows him to perform only legal abortions, which must be carried out in a hospital, with the consent of a therapeutic abortion committee.
If Morgantaler goes ahead and performs abortions at his clinic, he can be charged under the Medical Act and his license can be lifted after a formal hearing Registrar James Morison said.
The pro-life groups in Manitoba through Winnipeg lawyer, Ernest Wehrle, have opposed the clinic’s plan at a meeting of local city councilors. “My understanding is that the city has given Dr. Morgentaler a development permit, but not an occupancy permit,” Wehrle said. “The city’s legal department is studying the city’s legal liability if they grant an occupation permit and then find he’s performing abortions.”
Pat Soenen, Manitoba president of the League for Life, said : “Dr. Morgentaler has made it abundantly clear in public that he intends to open an abortion clinic. Under Section 21 of the Criminal Code anyone aiding or abetting someone in the course of a criminal act can be charged. Our view is that the city and the college would be aiding and abetting Dr. Morgentaler in breaking the law if they helped him establish an abortion clinic.”
It’s not just the law Morgentaler is up against. The clinic, on Croydon Ave., has been daubed with pro-life slogans, and protest groups have warned the city they’ll sue if Morgentaler is granted an occupancy permit. Workers have painted out the graffiti and a burglar alarm system has been installed, but renovations are still needed before the city will consider an occupancy permit.
The Manitoba League for Life has collected 25,000 signatures opposing the clinic and hopes to have 40,000 by April. It intends to publish all the names in a newspaper advertisement. And Joe Borowski, who heads a group called Alliance Against Abortion, has pledged to take up civil disobedience to fight Morgentaler.
“We’re not going to waste our time in the courts,” the former Manitoba cabinet minister said. “We will do what citizens have done throughout history, and if they don’t like it, they can put me in jail.”
He said Morgentaler will have to hire guns or thugs to stop his group. “If he is allowed to open we’ll turn that street into a battle zone. A 24-hour picket line will be set up the minute he opens for business and we have lots of other secret plans to stop him from killing babies.”
The controversy is also causing deep repercussions within Manitoba’s ruling New Democratic Party. Health Minister Larry Desjardins finds his political future may be at stake. He is pro-life and was put on the spot when the annual convention of the Manitoba New Democratic Party approved a resolution to set up clinics to perform abortions along with other medical procedures. The NDP Party may well live to regret that resolution.