Henry Morgentaler, the former leader of Canada’s fight to legalize abortion, is receiving the highest civilian recognition in the nation, the Order of Canada. Jean said that Morgentaler was being recognized for “his commitment to increased health care options for women, his determined efforts to influence Canadian public policy and his leadership in humanist and civil liberties organizations,” according to Reuters.
Morgentaler began his fight for abortion rights in 1969 when he opened an illegal abortion clinic in Montreal. He was consequently jailed for 10 months when he publicly revealed that he had assisted thousands of abortions without going through the then-required screening process. After he was acquitted, Morgentaler challenged a number of laws in other Canadian provinces; this leading to the 1988 Supreme Court ruling that effectively made abortion legal. Today, Canada is a leader in abortion rights, with some of the greatest access to abortion procedures in publicly funded clinics and hospitals.
The recognition of Morgentaler has spurred a large amount of debate and controversy and is being condemned by anti-choice leaders and religious groups. This outrage has been met with an overflow of support for Morgentaler’s work. He is set to receive the award at a ceremony at a later date. “It’s not that Dr. Morgentaler needs that honour — we need to recognize his achievements,” said Maria Corsillo, manager of the Scott abortion clinic in Toronto, according to The Ottowa Citizen.“This is a person who has single-handedly changed our country so that we are one of the few countries that absolutely recognizes women as full and equal human beings.”