Montreal physician Henry Morgentaler (1923-2013), whose very name became synonymous with the abortion debate in Canada for four decades.
Just as the phrase “Roe v Wade” is used in the United States as a catch-all for ongoing debates over abortion services, so too, for many years, did the mere mention of the name Henry Morgentaler in Canada.
Morgentaler’s tireless challenges to the country’s abortion laws, beginning in 1969, resulted in periods of imprisonment, unprecedented public debate, political mobilization, and relentless (on both sides) legal battles. By openly performing abortions, expanding services to different parts of Canada, and unapologetically breaking the law, he became a symbol to be celebrated or excoriated, depending on the audience. His legal battles ultimately led to the decriminalization of abortion in Canada in a landmark 1988 Supreme Court ruling.
An example of Henry Morgentaler’s political and cultural ubiquity can be found in the work of cartoonist Terry Mosher (known as Aislin) in the Montreal Gazette in the seventies. Mayor Drapeau had said that the Olympic Stadium “can no more have a deficit, than a man can have a baby.”
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