Henry Morgentaler, the family doctor who led the abortion movement in Canada, died of a heart attack at his Toronto home early Wednesday. He was 90.
Dr. Morgentaler, who was the focus of both reverence and hatred, was one of the key players in the 1988 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that declared the law prohibiting abortion unconstitutional. He is survived by his wife, Arlene, four children, several grandchildren and his extended family. Funeral arrangements are private.
Dr. Morgentaler had a complex relationship with women all his life. As a child, he felt his mother didn’t love him as much as his younger brother; as a doctor, he performed thousands of safe, but illegal, abortions on desperate women with unwanted pregnancies; as a social and political activist, he worked to repeal Canada’s draconian abortion law in order to give women control over their reproductive lives; as a medical administrator, he opened eight clinics across the country to try to give women equality of access to abortions; and, as a man, he was a consummate philanderer who married three times and conducted many extramarital affairs. “He was a man who loved women and couldn’t be monogamous,” Catherine Dunphy wrote in her 1998 book, Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero.