Thursday, June 16, 2005


The history of abortion in Canada is the story of Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s life. Today he will receive an honorary law degree from the University of Western Ontario, while protestors have camped outside the Alumni Hall.

Morgentaler is a Holocaust survivour. After living through Auschwitz, he accepted a United Nations scholarship and went to medical school in Germany.

Upon graduation he refused to go to Israel because he did not believe in Zionism. He and his wife moved to Canada where he practiced medicine in Montreal for twenty years before his convictions about abortion caused serious conflicts. On October 19, 1967, he gave public testimony about his belief that any pregnant woman should have the right to a safe abortion.

In 1969 he began openly performing illegal abortions. Soon after in 1970 he was arrested in Quebec for performing one. Later in 1973 he claimed to have performed 5,000 illegal abortions. He was acquitted by a jury in the court case, though this was overturned by five Roman Catholic judges on the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1974. He was sent to prison, though he appealed and was again acquitted.

Morgentaler was charged again in 1983 in Ontario. He was acquitted by a jury, but the verdict was reversed by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The case was then sent to the Supreme Court of Canada where he was acquitted once again, and the Canadian Supreme Court ended all statutory restrictions on abortion in Canada.

In 1992, his Harbord Street clinic in Toronto was bombed but he was not hurt. Morgentaler was also the first president of the Humanist Association of Canada.

Morgentaler dedicated his life to legalizing abortion. His two marriages failed because of all the instability in his life and not being able to see his son caused him a lot of grief.

In early 2005, CTV aired a television movie, documenting his life. The movie took the audience through Morgentaler’s long and difficult struggle for legalizing abortion in Canada but also portrayed him as a promiscuous man who enjoyed controversy and publicity.

Among publicity, promiscuity, controversy and humanism, which one really motivated Morgentaler to fight anti-abortion laws is still in the dark.

In the testimony that he gave before the Government of Canada in 1967, he showed pictured of women who had attempted to perform abortion on themselves with various sharp tools. He testified that he had patients that were battling sever injuries and infection because a non-professional had performed the operation on them. His tragic experiences as a medical professional and his drive to save these women were his motivation, he said.

Although some 300 pro-life protestors have been camping outside the Alumni Hall at UWO, The Globe and Mail poll shows that 67% of Canadians approve of this gesture.

Many still believe that Morgentaler’s motivation was money and he owed thousands of dollars in taxes to the government. Many also claim that there is evidence that Morgentaler’s practice was not safe and re-used certain pieces of equipment. Still, he is well appreciated for ending the anti-abortion laws.

Polls show that whether or not Canadians believe abortion is wrong, they support the Supreme Court’s decision to give women the choice.


At 2:03 p.m., Blogger Gerrit Bosman said...

That's a beuatifull story, you should read 'The rules of the ciderhouse' by Irving.
One last question: what do YOU believe to be right?


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