RIP Dr. Henry Morgentaler, who died today in Toronto at the age of 90.
Morgentaler is well known in Canada, both revered and hated, for crusading for access to safe and legal abortions. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada declared existing anti-abortion law unconstitutional, much in part to Morgentaler’s work as an activist for the cause.
An interesting passage from the Globe and Mail:
Dr. Morgentaler had a complex relationship with women all his life. As a child, he felt his mother didn’t love him as much as his younger brother; as a doctor, he performed thousands of safe, but illegal, abortions on desperate women with unwanted pregnancies; as a social and political activist, he worked to repeal Canada’s draconian abortion law in order to give women control over their reproductive lives; as a medical administrator, he opened eight clinics across the country to try to give women equality of access to abortions; and, as a man, he was a consummate philanderer who married three times and conducted many extramarital affairs. “He was a man who loved women and couldn’t be monogamous,” Catherine Dunphy wrote in her 1998 book, Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero.
Dr. Mortentaler was born and raised in Poland, and was imprisoned at Dachau for being Jewish during the Second World War. After surviving the Holocaust, he immigrated to the United States and finally to Canada in 1950. He attended the University of Montreal, where he received his medical education, and was one of the first Canadian doctors to perform vasectomies and to provide birth control pills to the unmarried.
He became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2008, “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.”
RIP Dr. Morgentaler.