Sainte-Anne-De-Beaupre, Quebec - The archbishop of Montreal announced Thursday he is returning Canada's most prestigious award because an abortion doctor received the same honor.

Archbishop Jean-Claude Turcotte said that he hoped opposition voices like his would prompt officials reverse their July decision to give Dr. Henry Morgentaler the Order of Canada. The award is bestowed on Canadians the government feels have made a major contribution to the country.

Morgentaler led a successful campaign to overturn Canada's anti-abortion laws on Jan. 28, 1988, making Canada the only western democracy at the time with no criminal sanctions against abortion.

Turcotte, who received the honor in 1996, said he had to relinquish the honor because his silence could be misinterpreted.

Turcotte told reporters he felt obliged to reaffirm his convictions regarding the "respect for human life, from conception to death."Abortion rights groups applauded the government's decision to honor Morgentaler in July, saying the doctor put his life on the line to advance women's rights.

Morgentaler, a Polish-born physician who survived the infamous Dachau concentration camp, quit his family practice in Montreal in 1968 to open his first abortion clinic in defiance of the laws of the day. He was arrested several times and spent months in jail.

A government web site says that Morgentaler was made a member of the Order of Canada for "his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations."