Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Henry Morgentaler March 19, 1923 - May 28, 2013 Canadian Abortion Doctor Won Landmark Decision in Top Court

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Henry Morgentaler March 19, 1923 - May 28, 2013 Canadian Abortion Doctor Won Landmark Decision in Top Court

Article excerpt

Henry Morgentaler, Canada's most heralded and vilified abortion doctor, who was assaulted and imprisoned for defying restrictive laws but who won the landmark Canadian Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationally in 1988, died Tuesday at his home in Toronto. He was 90.

In a country known for tolerance and free medical care for all citizens, Dr. Morgentaler was for decades at the center of battles between powerful interests like the Roman Catholic Church, which opposed abortion for any reason short of saving an endangered mother's life, and women's groups that contended that the decision not to bear a child is a personal one.

Dr. Morgentaler, a Polish-born socialist who survived Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Dachau and immigrated to Canada after World War II, basically founded the Canadian abortion-rights movement in the late 1960s. Over the years, he opened abortion clinics in major cities across the country, trained hundreds of doctors to perform abortions and said he personally performed tens of thousands of them.

He was threatened with death, attacked with garden shears, roughed up by a mob, caricatured as a baby butcher, splashed with ketchup and accused of fomenting violence. He escaped injury when one of his clinics was firebombed. After several abortion doctors were shot, he began wearing bulletproof vests and installed bulletproof windows at home.

From his perspective, anti-abortion laws violated a woman's right to control her body and imposed untold suffering on unwanted children to assuage the sensibilities of religious moralists, and he refused to shut up or be discreet.

His clinics were picketed by protesters and raided by the police. He was arrested four times for performing illegal abortions and acquitted each time by jurors, who accepted his defense that the operations were necessary for the patients' mental or physical health. …

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