Over a two-week period late last year, abortionist and Humanist Association of Canada vice-president Henry Morgentaler twice attacked religion.

At a Dec. 3 press conference, Morgentaler said the state should force the end of religious affiliations to hospitals. He said that their “biases” interfered with the “reproductive rights” of Canadian women and singled out Catholic teaching that abortion is a “serious sin” as an especially grave offence. “We live in a multicultural, non-sectarian society,” said Morgentaler. “It’s abnormal that hospitals should remain with religious denominations.”

Mary Ellen Douglas, national organizer for Campaign Life Coalition, said that Morgentaler is seeking publicity again. She told The Interim that Morgentaler’s outrageous comments are meant to garner media attention and indeed the Canadian Press and Toronto Sun obliged. She noted that the media ignored a large pro-life conference in Toronto featuring some of the biggest names in the pro-life movement from around the world. “What a double standard,” she complained.

Douglas also said that, “If it wasn’t for the Catholic Church, there wouldn’t be hospitals in Canada, because many were founded by Catholic nuns.”

Morgentaler, who owns eight private abortuaries, said that because hospitals “are all paid for with public money, there’s no reason that hospitals should be Catholic or Protestant or Jewish.” The abortionist claimed that the merging of secular hospitals with Catholic hospitals has resulted in a drop in the number of abortions and a dearth in the provision of contraceptives.

Official statistics, however, show that the number of abortions has been holding steady, with the exception of Ontario, which hasn’t released abortion numbers since 1998. Many hospital mergers occurred in Ontario under former premier Mike Harris.

Douglas said she is more concerned about the increasing pressure on Catholic hospitals after mergers to do abortions and provide contraceptives. “We want less killing, not more,” she said.

Morgentaler also accused health ministers in Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Quebec and New Brunswick of abusing their power “for religious reasons” by not fully funding abortions committed at private (read: Morgentaler’s) facilities. None of the health ministers has resorted to religious arguments in their defences of provincial funding policy.

Two weeks earlier, Morgentaler accused Manitoba Health Minister Dave Chomiak specifically of allowing his religious views to influence public policy. Morgentaler complained that the province would not negotiate with him to buy his Winnipeg abortuary or otherwise increase access to abortion. “My appeal to you,” he wrote in an open letter to Chomiak, “is to stop victimizing women by denying them access to abortion services … Keep your religious views to yourself.”

Maria Slykerman, president of CLC Manitoba, told The Interim that Chomiak, a Catholic, has never used religious justifications for his government’s actions in dealing with Morgentaler. Slykerman added that Morgentaler “hates the Christians because Christians are fighting the abortion issue.”

Peter Dallas-Vicenza, a spokesman for the health ministry, told Canadian Press that Morgentaler’s comments “just show how difficult it is to negotiate with him.”

Despite Morgentaler’s heated rhetoric about the denial of “abortion services,” the province pays for abortions at public hospitals and picks up part of the tab for abortions at Morgentaler’s private abortuary.

The Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus criticized Morgentaler’s attack on Chomiak, wondering, “What is wrong with being a religious person, whether in private or public life? After all, if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.”

The PPLC indicated what Morgentaler has fallen for is the almighty dollar. In a press release signed by caucus members Maurice Vellacott (CA, Saskatoon-Wanuskewin), Tom Wappel (Lib Scarborough Southwest) and Elsie Wayne (PC, Saint John), the PPLC noted, “One is left to wonder why the infamous abortionist is so passionate about the rights of women when soliciting the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions, but treats his crusade with less fervour when public funds are not available.”