On Wednesday, 29 May, Henry Morgentaler passed away in Canada.
He had the great fortune of being able to eliminate an injustice during his lifetime: since 1988 abortion has been legal in Canada, and it’s now regarded in the same way as any other medical procedure.
Morgentaler used nearly every means available to this end. He performed innumerable illegal abortions and then submitted scientific evaluations; he was generous about sharing his experience as a physician with foreign colleagues, teaching them about the best methods and instruments; and he also made the information he gathered available to all interested gynaecologists, thereby raising the general level of knowledge. Morgentaler gave lectures, wrote newspaper articles, and spoke before every available forum: not even court cases or prison sentences were able to stop him.
On 28 January 1988 Canada’s Supreme Court finally found the abortion law at the time to be unconstitutional. After that, Morgentaler celebrated this important day each year with a dinner for his key supporters, because “for the first time, it gave women the status of full human beings able to make decisions about their own lives.”
Another happy day for Morgentaler was 10 October 2008: at Montreal’s Citadel Governor General Michaëlle Jean awarded him the Order of Canada while opponents protested outside. One of them was the Catholic Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, who returned his own Order in anger.
Morgentaler thanked the governor general for this honour by saying, “Canada is one of the few places in the world where freedom of speech and choice prevail in a truly democratic fashion. I’m proud to have been given this opportunity, coming from a war-torn Europe, to realize my potential and my dream, to create a better and more humane society.”
You can read more about him here:
Visit the Museum for Contraception and Abortion (MUVS), Mariahilfer Gürtel 37, 1150 Vienna, open Wednesday to Sunday, 2 to 6 p.m., or visit our website on http://en.muvs.org/ and our facebooksite http://www.facebook.com/eMUVS.