Who is Henry Morgentaler?
have a vision, a dream that all people should be treated in
a humane, compassionate way.”
Henry Morgentaler – January 31st, 1988
Born in Lodz, Poland, Dr. Henry Morgentaler survived the Holocaust and came to Canada at the end of World War II. Upon completing his medical studies at the Université de Montreal in 1953 he opened a family practice in Montreal. As a Humanist leader he promoted the idea that people had a right to control their own sexuality and reproduction, without interference by the state. In 1967 he presented a brief on behalf of the Humanist Fellowship of Montreal to the House of Common’s Health and Welfare Committee, where he urged that Canada’s restrictive abortion law be repealed.
have a commitment to human values, to human dignity,
to respect for people who are different, to social justice,
a richer life for all people, to democracy in its broadest
social and political sense”
Henry Morgentaler – 1965
In the following years Dr. Morgentaler challenged the criminal code by providing safe abortions for women in his Montreal clinic. He faced several trials and was acquitted each time by a jury. In an unprecedented move, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a jury verdict, and in 1975 he went to jail for 10 months. His belief in a woman’s ‘right to choose’ eventually led to a change in the law. Finally, after years of struggle the law against abortion was declared unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada on January 28th, 1988. He continues to campaign province by province, seeking to provide abortion services to women deprived of access, a struggle which continues to this day.
believe that children should receive love and affection so
that they may grow up to become kind and responsible
persons. I also believe that the best way to achieve this is
to allow women and couples to decide at what time in their
life they should bring a child into the world.
In a case of unwanted or accidental pregnancy a woman should have the right to choose
and obtain an abortion under good medical conditions to protect her life,
health and future fertility. I have dedicated the largest
part of my professional life as a physician
to help women obtain safe abortion in an atmosphere of compassion and empathy.
I am proud of the dedicated staff who have helped me achieve this humanitarian objective.
Henry Morgentaler – undated
None of this would have been possible without the loyalty and support of women’s groups across the country who lobbied governments, raised funds for legal fees, and created a voice that no longer could be ignored. We applaud these women and their dedication to Dr. Morgentaler, a doctor who could not ignore the cry for help.
A recipient of numerous Humanitarian and Public Policy awards over the years, Dr. Morgentaler also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Western Ontario in June 2005.
fighting for reproductive freedom, and making it possible,
I have made a contribution to a safer and more caring society
where people have a greater opportunity to realize their full potential.”
Henry Morgentaler – June 16th, 2005
Today, Dr. Morgentaler operates six clinics in Canada providing excellent care for women in need of abortion and contraceptive services.