CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Dr. Morgentaler and the Abortion Debate

History, Social Studies
1 lesson
To investigate the issues in the abortion debate
In this introductory activity, students explore the career of Dr. Henry Morgentaler and examine the central issues in the abortion debate.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Write the word "abortion" on the board or chart paper. In groups of four or five, have students record all the ideas, facts, and opinions they have on this topic. Then give the students the medical definition of the word "abortion." As a class, review what each group recorded. Discuss what students know about the legality of abortion in Canada, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, and the two sides in the abortion debate.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to the topic Dr. Henry Morgentaler: Fighting Canada's Abortion Laws on the CBC Digital Archives website. Divide the class into six groups and assign each group one of the following:


"Morgentaler enters the abortion debate" and "Morgentaler and his opponents"

"Abortion controversy heats up"

"Challenging the law"

"Stress and joy of notoriety" and "Re-entering the abortion fray"

"Morgentaler attacked at clinic opening" and "Abortion law ruled unconstitutional"

"Morgentaler's controversial legacy"

Students should make sure to view the Did You Know? sections. As they browse, students should note important facts and dates, then organize the information they find into three sections: abortion facts, pro-abortion arguments, and anti-abortion arguments.

Revisit and Reflect

Pair the groups and have students compare the information they found. As a class, create a complete list of abortion facts and of arguments on both sides of the debate. List any other questions that students may have. Students can either explore the site for additional information or return to these questions as they complete other activities related to this topic.


Students can write a personal response to the information in one section of the class list, or reflect in their journals about their thoughts on Morgentaler's determination to legalize abortion.

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