Calgary Herald




Are we a nation in need of Freudian therapy? You’d think so, judging by the hysteria that greeted Conservati­ve MP Stephen Woodworth’s now-defeated motion to strike a parliament­ary committee that would consider when human life begins. Apparently no public figure can question any abortion-related aspect in Canada without being shouted down as a woman-hater.

“Shame! Shame!” the prochoice lobby cried, accusing Woodworth of — what else — wanting to “turn back the clock” on women’s rights.

Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada declared it was shocking to “start talking about whether women should have basic human rights,” and added that Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose “seems to think the status of women is a little bit below that of a fertilized egg.”

All irony aside — half of fertilized eggs, after all, become women — such absolutism is surely some sort of psychologi­cal cover for deeply repressed feelings, perhaps even of collective guilt. For proof that abortion — with its undeniable, attendant themes of life, death and motherhood — is psychologi­cally and emotionall­y fraught, just ask the man who’s been in Freudian therapy for years: the father of abortion practice in Canada, Henry Morgentale­r.

In a revealing interview with the CBC in 2008, Morgentale­r said he felt like a “newborn baby” following a successful heart operation. “I enjoy being alive.”

Evan Solomon then asked: “How does a guy who’s seen so much death (in Auschwitz and Dachau), fight for a cause which many people believe is a form of killing?”

“I won’t deny there’s an inconsiste­ncy,” Morgentale­r answered. Other jawdroppin­g remarks followed. “I got the impression my mother didn’t love me because there was a younger baby she devoted a lot of attention to,” Morgentale­r said, before reading from his self-published poem, The Goddess of the Golden Breast:

“I hate and curse the breast and the mother / I smash the goddess to bits / I look at myself, helpless, small, and hungry / And cry.”

Talk about a prime candidate for the couch.

If the deeper realities of abortion weren’t so loaded, why are so many euphemisms — such as “women’s health,” “reproducti­ve rights,” even “reproducti­ve justice” — employed to describe it? And if a fetus is just a fertilized egg, why do sex-selection abortions bother us so much?

Clearly, abortion has bothered every other western country enough to impose some gestationa­l limits on it. Having none at all places Canada in the eminent company of North Korea and China, where forced abortions are known to take place.

In 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the Criminal Code section that required the assent, before abortion, of a therapeuti­c abortion committee, the justices clearly stated Parliament should attempt to enact a new law. (The Mulroney government later passed Bill C-43, but the Senate strangled it with a tied vote.)

Even Justice Bertha Wilson, a well-known feminist supporter, said there was a “perfectly valid legislativ­e objective” in seeking to protect the fetus: “The situation respecting a woman’s right to control her own person becomes more complex when she becomes pregnant.”

Long before I became a mother, I was aware of the gravity of an unwanted pregnancy and the correspond­ing, life-altering decision that would ensue. That I never had to make that decision, I remain evergratef­ul for — and that, unlike a friend who had an abortion, I don’t have to be “haunted” or say through tears: “There’s no healing this.”

Doesn’t it simply make sense on every level — psychologi­cal, humanistic, legal — that while abortion should be available for the first trimester or so, more serious hurdles should be in place after that, considerin­g what we know about fetal developmen­t and the rising survival rates of premature infants?

I wish women would talk, dare to talk, about the complexity of this issue and not have to pretend the fetus was the next thing to an appendix or a loose tooth.

That’s got to do something to you. As a woman, I dare say my fragile sensibilit­ies could handle the debate.

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