The University of Western Ontario will confer an honorary doctorate at today's convocation upon Canada's most notorious abortionist, Dr. Henry Morgentaler.
The decision has led to petitions against conferring his degree, protests by both sides and the cancellation of bequests and donations to the university.
The resulting furore puts the lie to the oft-repeated claim that Canada has reached "social peace" on abortion. For if abortion were a truly settled issue, Morgentaler's honorary doctorate would have been of no more public interest than anyone else's.
But the decision to confer the degree also highlights a shift in thinking amongst supporters of abortion. As the medical and scientific reasons for so-called therapeutic abortion have been rendered increasingly indefensible, and the social science evidence increasingly negative, abortion supporters' rhetoric has changed.
When abortion was first legalized, its supporters spoke of it as a tragic but sometimes necessary procedure to prevent worse health risks. Now its supporters praise abortion in itself as a practical good, the sine qua non of women's freedom. Its eugenic benefits are now openly praised for reducing everything from health care costs to crime rates.
A similar shift in thinking occured in the United States about slavery in the period between the end of the American Revolution and the Civil War. Even in the South, slavery was generally regarded as a temporary evil that would eventually disappear.
But as abolitionist sentiment grew throughout the North and the rest of the civilized world, and economic and social changes rendered slavery increasingly anachronistic, Southern defenders of slavery began praising slavery as a positive good, not only for white slaveholders, but also for the slaves themselves.
The pro-life movement in Canada needs to address this shift in thinking and counter it. Something much more malign underlies the rhetoric of "choice" now than did 35 years ago. That malignancy manifests itself today with honorary degrees to abortionists and celebratory barbecues. Tomorrow, its manifestations may be much worse.