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Archive | May 29, 2013: Death of Doctor Henry Morgentaler

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar15,2024

Archives | May 29, 2013: Dé cès of Doctor Henry Morgentaler

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Henry Morgentaler, Canadian doctor and pro-choice activist, died on May 29 2013.

Radio-Canada

On May 29, 2013, Dr. Henry Morgentaler died in Toronto at the age of 90. He was a strong advocate for the right of women to legally obtain an abortion in Canada. His fight, as we see by viewing our archives, did not go smoothly.

Women still have to go to charlatans, who are responsible for the majority of injuries that occur. So, deaths and serious injuries […].

A quote from Henry Morgentaler, 1971

Today's Woman, May 24, 1971

This comment was made to journalist France Nadeau during the show Femme d’histoire of May 24, 1971 by a man who made the legalization of abortion in Canada one of the great fights of his life.

In Canada, this It was in fact only in 1988 that a Supreme Court decision completely decriminalized abortion.

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Before this judgment of the most high court of the country, abortion acts were often carried out in squalid, dangerous, even fatal conditions for women.

This situation shocks the doctor immigrated to Canada in 1950.

Holocaust survivor, Henry Morgentaler began practicing family medicine in Montreal in 1955.

He then gradually becomes aware of the appalling conditions in which clandestine abortions are practiced almost everywhere in Canada.

In 1967, Dr. Morgentaler asked the Canadian House of Commons to amend federal abortion law.

In 1969, the government of Canada authorized the practice of certain abortions in hospitals when the mother's life was in danger.

This opening towards what was then called therapeutic abortions did not satisfy the doctor, however.

As Henry Morgentaler told journalist France Nadeau, the change in the law only concerns 2% of abortions.

The rest continues to be practiced in deplorable conditions.

To obtain a safe abortion, Canadian women have to go to clinics in the United States and it is very expensive, laments the doctor.

There is no one who is for abortion, just as there is no one who is for brain surgery or a tonsillectomy. We are for the right of women to have an abortion in good medical and psychological conditions.

A quote from Dr. Henry Morgentaler, 1976

In this context, Henry Morgentaler opened a clinic in Montreal in 1969 which performed abortions considered illegal because they were non-therapeutic.

He is being sued by the Quebec government, which is filing three lawsuits against him for illegal medical acts that will land him in prison for 18 months.

In 1974, the doctor was acquitted by a jury, before being found guilty in the Court of Appeal, then acquitted again by a jury.

60, December 14, 1976

December 14, 1976 , the show Le 60presents an interview with hostAndré Payette with Henry Morgentaler, who discusses these legal proceedings.

The Ministers of Justice of Canada and Quebec, Otto Lang and Jérôme Choquette, persecuted him, the doctor claims.

He even suspects that directives were given to prison guards to make his detention conditions very difficult.

I was even put in the hole, recalls Henry Morgentaler. People ideologically opposed to my position sought to kill me, the doctor firmly believes.

The years go by…

Dr. Henry Morgentaler accuses opponents of abortion of being responsible for the explosion that destroyed his Toronto clinic very early this morning.

A quote from Charles Tisseyre, host of Téléjournal, May 18, 1992

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Le Téléjournal, May 18, 1992

On this morning of May 18, 1992, as recalled in the report by journalist Marc-André Masson presented to the Téléjournal , Dr. Morgentaler's Toronto clinic is a field of ruins.

The place is so damaged that the firefighters refuse to venture there for fear that the building will collapse on them.

The possibility of an accident caused by a gas leak is ruled out.

The investigating police officers believe instead that they must focus on a criminal trail .

It is all the controversy surrounding the existence of Dr. Morgentaler's clinic in Toronto that pushes the police to favor this hypothesis, and the doctor share their opinion.

Behind this explosion lies the desire of pro-life activists to stop the clinic's activities.

Henry Morgentaler describes these activists in the report as reactionary elements, religious fanatics, who are opposed to women's rights.

Since the trials in Quebec, the pro-life movement has lost several legal battles in an attempt to completely ban abortion in Canada.

Let's go back 10 years.

Front page, November 23, 1982

As shown in this report by journalist Rachel Verdon , presented on the program First page on November 23, 1982 and hosted by Louis Martin, Dr. Henry Morgentaler then left for a crusade in Toronto.

You can have an abortion in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario, but access to this procedure is restricted.

Ontario doctors who perform this procedure are in particular likely to be prosecuted under section 251 of the Canadian Criminal Code.

The latter requires obtaining authorization from on the part of therapeutic committees and to perform this procedure in a hospital.

However, at the time, in Ontario, the quotas authorized by therapeutic committees were much lower than demand because of pressure from the pro-life movement.

Moreover, while Jewish hospitals perform abortions, Catholic hospitals prohibit them.

Doctors who ignore the requirements of Section 251 may be sued.

The situation is more or less similar in the other provinces of English Canada.

Dr Morgentaler therefore specifically wants Ontario – and subsequently the other provinces of English Canada – to liberalize its laws on access to abortion, as Quebec has already done.

After the broadcast of Rachel Verdon's report in 1982, the legal context evolved and opened the door to the decriminalization of abortion in Canada.

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada declared section 251 of the Canadian Criminal Code unconstitutional. The practice of abortion is in fact legalized.

The decision is based on the principle that section 251 violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in particular because it contravenes the notion of women's safety.

In 1989, the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed this with their decision in Tremblay v. Daigle that the fetus does not have any legal identity before birth.

This decision removes a weighty legal argument from the pro-life movement.

In 1990, Brian Mulroney's government attempted to once again restrict abortion in Canada.

His bill was, however, rejected by the Senate.

In 1992, Dr. Morgentaler's Toronto clinic was therefore perfectly legal.

This is what infuriates many pro-life activists.

Le Téléjournal, May 19, 1992

The day after the annihilation of the clinic, on May 19, 1992, as highlighted in this report by journalist Marc-André Masson presented to Téléjournal and hosted by Bernard Derome, the police confirmed the criminal nature of the 'blast.

The reaction is strong.

In front of the site where the attack took place, hundreds of pro-choice activists demonstrate their support for Henry Morgentaler.

The doctor swears that he will rebuild his clinic. However, he needs $250,000 to get there.

The Ontario government is moving ahead of an already planned announcement and confirms that it will provide financial support the decision of Henry Morgentaler.

The Toronto attack does nothing to bridge the divide between pro-choice supporters and pro-life activists.

In 2008, Henry Morgentaler received the Order of Canada.

His appointment arouses indignation in pro-life circles.

Three personalities, including Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, even handed over their distinction as a protest.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my natasha@thetimeshub.in 1-800-268-7116

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