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, MLA Kirkfield Park
June 5, 2013

Dr. Henry Morgentaler

“Canada is a wonderful country with democracy still governing the rule. Within democratic principles, it is possible in Canada to affect change for better laws and procedures.”

Those words were spoken in 2005 by Dr. Henry Morgentaler. A principled and compassionate defender of a woman’s right to choose, Dr. Morgentaler passed away from a heart attack last Wednesday.

As a Holocaust survivor who came to Canada following the Second World War, Dr. Morgentaler worked throughout his life to speak truth to power. He was an advocate of the right to a safe abortion and operated several clinics throughout his life for women to obtain safe procedures.

Dr. Morgentaler was also one of the key players in the Supreme Court of Canada’s controversial 1988 ruling that declared the law prohibiting abortion unconstitutional. Under the old system, legal abortions could only be performed after a patient had successfully petitioned a committee of three doctors. The Court ruled that forcing women to endure such delays was demeaning, potentially life-threatening and in violation of the Charter guarantee of life, liberty and security of the person.

For almost half a century, Dr. Morgentaler was both despised and revered; lauded and jailed. His Toronto clinic was bombed, and he received both an honourary degree and the Order of Canada. His efforts forever altered Canadian jurisprudence, the landscape of women’s rights and the lives of thousands of women. Complications from illegal or unsafe abortions were once the most common reason for women to be hospitalized in Canada. Today, thanks to the progress we’ve made, those complications that risk women’s lives are incredibly rare.

Mr. Speaker, equality includes having control over one’s own body. For his efforts to ensure that women everywhere have a choice over what happens to their own bodies, Dr. Morgentaler is a hero to many. This complex person —a doctor, a survivor and a choice advocate— will be remembered across the country for his compassion and for his dedication to affecting change in Canada.

Thank you.