Manitoba fights for women's reproductive rights, 1983-1986

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
Henry Morgentaler's civil disobedience in Manitoba began to slow late in 1986 when his request for a license was denied. The legal breakthrough came in 1988 when the Supreme court decided that the abortion law was against women's rights.
5 May
1983
1986
Location and Goals
Country: 
Canada
Location City/State/Province: 
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Goals: 
To make abortion legal in Canada and allow women to exercise choice.
 

Henry Morgentaler was born in Poland of 1923 and lived to change the world of women’s rights in Canada. He was a Holocaust survivor who lost both his parents in concentration camps and spent his own time there until 1945. After moving to Canada in 1950, he began to study medicine and the University of Montreal, and soon opened his practice in 1955.

In the 1960-1980’s a number of people urged the legalization of abortion by holding demonstrations. They believed that the law against abortion was a breach of the fundamental right women had to make a choice.

Morgentaler performed illegal abortions across eastern Canada, mainly in Toronto, Montreal, and St. John’s. The first clinic was opened in Montreal of 1968; this is when he began to protest against the law regarding abortions. While in 1973, Morgentaler performed an abortion on live television in order to demonstrate his passion for the cause. In 1975, he stayed in a Montreal prison for about 10 months for defying the law, until he had a heart attack and was released for health reasons.

Henry Morgentaler was influenced by the slogan 'every child a wanted child' which came along-side his time spent in concentration camps. Growing up he felt that his own mother did not love him as much as she should have. This brought him to the decision to perform abortions to make sure that every child would be loved by their mothers.

Morgentaler opened his Manitoba campaign on 5 May 1983, when he opened his first clinic in Winnipeg. The clinic was often surrounded by protestors from the pro-life side of the debate. Many times they blocked the doors to the clinic, attempting to stop Morgentaler and other workers from continuing their practice. The police stormed the clinic and arrested Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Dr. Robert Scott, and head nurse Lynn Crocker; they were charged with procuring miscarriages.

The clinic was stormed a few times more in 1985, bringing the total charges on Morgentaler to 7 in Manitoba alone. He appeared in front of the Supreme Court of Canada on account of the charges in Manitoba as well as abortions performed in Toronto.

In 1986, the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons denied Morgentaler’s request for a license to practice in the province. They stated that abortions were to be practiced only in verified hospitals and his clinic was not one of these locations.

Although this ruling did not give him the legal entity to perform operations, he ignored this and continued to provide illegal, but safe, abortions. Later that year his practice slowed in Manitoba, while he continued to defend himself in court.

In 1988 the Canadian the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion law was no longer acceptable, conflicting with the fundamental charter of rights and freedoms. This can be considered a victory for the many who worked for women’s reproductive rights in Canada. Morgentaler’s Manitoba civil disobedience campaign did, however, bring the issue to a head and arguably made it impossible for the Supreme Court to avoid the issue any longer.

Research Notes
Influences: 

Henry Morgentaler was influenced by the slogan 'every child a wanted child' which came along side his time spent in concentration camps. Growing up he felt that his own mother did not love him as much as she should have. This brought him to the decision to perform abortions to make sure that every child would be loved by their mothers. (1)

The work that Morgentaler contributed to in Canada sparked the still ongoing debate in Canada. Specific actions are not known however the debate as whole will seem to never end. (2)

Sources: 
CBC news. "Dr. Henry Morgentaler's death highlights abortion divide." CBC news archives. 30 May.2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/dr-henry-morgentaler-s-death-highlights-abortion-divide-1.1344197>

Hargreaves, Shannon. "Access to Abortion in Canada." University of Ottawa. 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2013. <http://www.med.uottawa.ca/historyofmedicine/hetenyi/Access_abortion_Canada_Shannon_Hargreaves.pdf>

Hodge, Jarrah. "The Morgentaler Decision." Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <http://www.morgentaler25years.ca/about-henry-morgentaler/>

Martin, Sandra. "Abortion rights crusader Henry Morgentaler, revered and hated, dead at 90." The Globe and Mail. 29 May. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/abortion-rights-crusader-henry-morgentaler-revered-and-hated-dead-at-90/article12221564/?page=all>

Additional Notes: 
Morgenthaler's campaign sparked the ongoing debate between pro-choice/life activists.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Darrah Horobetz, 28/11/2013