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Henry Morgentaler

Born: 19-Mar-1923
Birthplace: Lodz, Poland
Died: 28-May-2013
Location of death: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Agnostic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Doctor, Activist

Nationality: Canada
Executive summary: Abortion rights in Canada

Canadian physician Henry Morgentaler was a long-time activist for women's abortion rights. A survivor of Dachau and Auschwitz, he resettled in Canada and worked as a family practitioner for many years before announcing his public opposition to anti-abortion laws in hearings before Parliament in 1967. After his testimony made headlines, pregnant women and girls began calling his clinic, and Morgentaler began providing illegal abortions. In 1968, while the procedure remained illegal, he opened Canada's first abortion clinic, and the following summer he demonstrated his abortion technique on a Canadian commercial newscast. In 1970 he closed his family practice and dedicated himself full-time to performing abortions.

In 1975, Morgentaler was imprisoned when the Canadian Court of Appeal, for the first and only time in history, overturned a verdict of innocence to instead convict. A law passed subsequently to prevent the Court of Appeal from reconsidering not guilty verdicts is commonly called the Morgentaler Amendment. He was jailed several times, and his clinic was raided repeatedly by Montreal Police until 1977, when the city adopted an unofficial policy of looking the other way. In 1983, with abortion still tightly restricted in Canada, he opened a second clinic in Winnipeg and a third in Toronto.

In 1988, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling struck down the nation's anti-abortion law as a violation of a woman's right to "life, liberty and security of person". In 1993 his clinic was bombed, but promptly rebuilt. Morgentaler estimated that he had performed more than 100,000 abortions, and many hundreds of thousands more were performed by other doctors at his chain of clinics. He died in 2013.

Father: Josef Morgentaler (labor activist, d. in concentration camp)
Mother: Golda Nikita Morgentaler (d. in concentration camp)
Sister: Ghitel Morgentaler (d. at Treblinka)
Wife: Chava Rosenfarb (novelist, m. 1946, div. 1975)
Son: Bamie
Son: Goldie
Wife: Carmen Wernli (m. 1979, div., one son)
Son: Yann
Wife: Arlene Liebovitch (one son)
Son: Benny

    Medical School: MD, Université de Montréal (1953)

    Margaret Sanger Award 1989
    Humanist of the Year 1975
    Order of Canada 2008
    Humanist Association of Canada President (1968-99)
    Abortion (acquitted, convicted on appeal, acquitted by Supreme Court)
    Naturalized Canadian Citizen 1950
    Assassination Attempt 1983
    Nazi Concentration Camp Inmate Dachau and Auschwitz
    Jewish Ancestry
    Polish Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Depression

Official Website:

Author of books:
Abortion and Contraception (1982)
Freedom Is My Passion (2007, memoir)

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