A Humanist You Should Know: Dr. Henry Morgentaler

Posted on by
photo of Dr. Henry Morgentaler
Dr. Henry Morgentaler – 1975 AHA Humanist of the Year

Dr. Henry Morgentaler, 1975 American Humanist Association Humanist of the Year, signer of Humanist Manifesto II (1973) as well as being the first President of the Humanist Association of Canada, died Wednesday at age 90. He profoundly changed Canada by challenging and eventually winning against anti-abortion laws. Morgentaler, risking his career, safety, and personal freedom, used Humanist principles in a way that helped women who needed their rights protected.

Dr. Henry Morgentaler not only changed abortion law in Canada, but his experience in the courts led to the establishment of an important legal protection that applies to all Canadians: Never again will a judge be able to simply toss out a jury acquittal and replace it with a conviction.

Morgentaler, who died yesterday at age 90, always said that no jury of reasonable people would ever find him guilty of a crime just because he provided women with safe abortions, and he was right.

A frail-looking man who had endured the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau, and came out of them weighing less than 100 pounds, he had a heart attack in a Quebec jail before his conviction was negated in 1975.

His clinics were raided, and a few were firebombed. Death threats against him filled police notebooks.

In 1988, after the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the abortion law completely, citing the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms and essentially agreeing with Morgentaler’s rationale, provinces still could set up barriers for therapeutic abortions and did.

A crusader’s legacy: How Henry Morgentaler changed Canada’s laws

Dr. Morgentaler was and should be honored as a Humanist of the highest order and someone we should all aspire to emulate. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to post this about Dr. Morgentaler before he passed away.

He will be missed.

Regarding Henry from the CBC ‘The National’ 05/29/2013 (viewing might be restricted by geography)


Comments for this post are closed. If you wish to send a note to the editor, visit our contact form