The University of Western Ontario announced that it would bestow an honourary doctorate to Henry Morgentaler leading pro-lifers to call for alumni to cease donationg to the institution.
For two decades before the 1988 Morgentaler decision, the abortionist operated illegal abortuaries in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg, was repeatedly charged and served time in jail for breaking Canada’s abortion law. Former Campaign Life Coalition London vice president Henry Lamb said he did not understand why UWO was giving a Doctor of Laws, its highest honour, to such a man. “He’s the last person I’d think would be on anybody’s list whether you’re pro-life or not,” Lamb said.
“I have a real hard time with it because the (abortion) issue hasn’t even been properly debated in this country, and they want to make Henry Morgentaler a doctor of laws when there is no law?”
Joanne McGarry, executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League and an alumnus of UWO, said her organization is urging alumni to register their disagreement with the university’s decision by refusing to donate to their alma mater. She also said it was important to notify the university to let them know the reason UWO would longer be receiving their donations.
McGarry said “This man’s sole contribution to Canada has been the taking of life in unprecedented numbers.”
London MP Pat O’Brien (Lib.), also an alumnus, urged UWO to find another recipient for the honourary degree, saying “there has to be a long list of deserving medical people, so why did they have to single this guy out?”
In an open letter to the university London Free Press columnist Herman Goodden said that it was the first institution of higher learning to grant an honourary doctorate to Morgentaler.
“What on earth are you people thinking?” asked Goodden. “Abortion is the most intractably divisive social issue of the last half century.” The columnist warned the university could face reprisals not just in fundraising efforts by “tick(ing) off one half of the population” but also by losing out in the race for quality students as pro-life families eschew UWO.
UWO vice president Ted Garrard, who said that no previous nomination had caused such a stir, said the university will not change its decision.