On Friday November 21, 1984, the OFL voted to take Morgentaler’s side in the abortion debate but, as a Toronto Star journalist reported, “only after a long debate.”  Federation president, Cliff Pilkey, refused to let Morgentaler address 1,700 union delegates in plenary session.  Instead he was permitted to speak to an audience of 300 during a lunch break.

 

The delegates instructed the OFL to urge Attorney-General Roy McMurtry not to appeal Morgentaler’s acquittal; to urge Ontario Health Minister, Keith Norton, to accredit the abortuary as a hospital; and to urge Federal Justice Minister, John Crosbie, to remove abortion from the Criminal Code.  According to the Star, the delegates passed the resolution by a narrow majority (according to the Globe by a 2-1 majority).  The resolution also recommended that every public health unit should be forced to set up “family planning clinics” to “help” girls regardless of age or parental consent.

 

Although similar resolutions have been passed before, opposition “this year was greater than usual, with some speakers opposing specific aspects” (Globe).  Terry O’Connor of CUPE told the convention it should stick to workplace issues or else risk alienating members.  Nevertheless, the OFL donated $3,000 to the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics.

 

In addressing the union crowd, Morgentaler told them that he was the son of a Polish trade union organizer and that his mother had belonged to Poland’s Jewish Socialist Bund.  “I was raised with the ethos of social justice and human dignity, the ethos of the brotherhood of man, and I have remained true to those values,” he said.  As for the right-to-life lobby, it is largely made up of “vicious shrill fanatics who scare the politicians, the same politicians who bring their wives and mistresses to me and then make speeches about the sanctity of life.”  These people, he said, promote “a totalitarian semi-fascist ideology which they want to impose on everybody.”

 

A.H.