Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Abortion Doctor Receives Honorary Degree

Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Abortion Doctor Receives Honorary Degree

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact voice@ausu.org, attn: Debbie Jabbour


The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, was inundated with protestors this month, as abortion doctor Henry Morgentaler accepted his first honorary degree. While signs waved outside, graduating students gave Morgentaler two standing ovations at the convocation ceremony inside. Campus officials, worried about the potential for violence, implemented unprecedented security measures, accrediting media and closely regulating all convocation attendees. A crowd of some 2000 family, friends and students were on hand for the convocation ceremony of about 400 social sciences graduates.

Morgentaler has devoted his career to challenging Canada’s abortion laws, facing raids, firebombs, clinic protests, and jail time. The controversy surrounding the University’s decision to award him with an honorary doctorate of laws, pitted faculty members and the university president and chairperson of the board of governors against each other, and even resulted in the loss of a $2 million bequest withdrawn by the donor in protest.

In his acceptance, Morgentaler told the audience that as a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, he had witnessed cruelty and inhumanity and personally experienced oppression and the injustice of “racist, dogmatic and irrational ideology.” Taking the opportunity to diminish suffering and injustice was therefore very important to him (Leong, 2005). He concluded by advising students against using civil disobedience to effect change, encouraging them to instead use the political process to change what is not going well in Canada.

Regardless of whether you are for or against abortion, it is heartening to see a university take a stand in promoting freedom of speech, standing by their decision and not succumbing to protest and threats.

Leong, M. (2005, June 17). Protests mark honorary degree for Morgentaler: Pro-life activists outraged as pioneering abortionist given kudos. National Post; CanWest News Service.

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