I never quite met Henry Morgentaler in person, although I picketed his abortion mills all over Canada and once protested a party in his honor so vigorously that he had to send out staff to plead with us to “tone it down.”
Known as “the father of abortion in Canada,” Morgentaler died at his home in Toronto May 29 at the age of 90.
He had survived both Auschwitz and Dachau under the Nazis and came to Canada from his native Poland shortly after World War II. He began his abortion career while abortion was still illegal in Canada, performing his first abortion there in January 1968.
He was sentenced to 18 months in jail for his early abortions but served only ten months after suffering a heart attack in jail. He began his all-out abortion crusade in 1969, eventually training hundreds of men and women to do abortions and establishing abortion clinics in all but one of Canada’s ten provinces.
Morgentaler was a household name in Canada and appeared in a 1984 documentary, Democracy on Trial: The Morgentaler Affair, and was the subject of a biography, Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero (2003). His abortion clinics were picketed by protesters and raided by 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 mental and physical health of the patients.
Morgentaler was considered by many a national hero, but Canadian pro-lifers saw him as a mass killer. I joined them in protesting him nearly every time I was in Canada. On one of these occasions, I took a large group of pro-life activists to the site of a new abortion facility he was about to open in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Since we had no media coverage at his clinic, I moved the protest group to the local TV studios and picketed in the reception room until the manager sent a camera crew out to cover us. On that same trip I was able to find a young woman to open her own pro-life office.
Morgentaler stopped doing abortions following heart bypass surgery in 2006. While he had received many humanitarian awards and was considered a hero to abortion supporters all across Canada, pro-life leaders such as Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition said her group has prayed that Morgentaler would have a change of heart “before the very end.”
We at the League pray that such a change of heart took place.