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Morgentaler: Challenging the law on abortion

The Story


In 1969 Dr. Henry Morgentaler embarks on his long legal journey in Quebec when he opens his first abortion clinic. By 1973 the Montreal clinic has been raided time and again by police, and Morgentaler has amassed numerous criminal charges including conspiracy to perform an abortion.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Newsmagazine
Broadcast Date: Jan. 26, 1976
Reporter: Ann Medina
Duration: 4:35

Did You know?


• In November 1973 a Quebec jury acquitted Morgentaler on the charge of conspiracy to perform an abortion, but his legal troubles were far from over. The Quebec Court of Appeal threw out the verdict and found him guilty. Morgentaler was sentenced to 18 months in prison after the Supreme Court of Canada rejected his appeal. On March 27, 1975, he began serving his sentence.
• Morgentaler was the first person in Canada to go to jail after being cleared by a jury.

• Canadians supporting abortion on demand held large rallies demanding Morgentaler's release. Opponents of abortion gathered one million signatures on a petition against abortion that was delivered to Ottawa.
• While Morgentaler was in prison, Quebec went ahead with another charge against him.
• Again a jury acquitted but this time the Quebec Court of Appeal didn't overturn the verdict.


• In January 1976 federal Minister of Justice Ron Basford set aside Morgentaler's conviction on the first charge and ordered a new trial. While he awaited retrial, Morgentaler was released from prison after serving 10 months. At the retrial in September 1976 he was acquitted of the original charges.

• In November 1976 the newly elected Parti Québécois government in Quebec announced that outstanding charges against Morgentaler would not proceed. The province's Attorney General declared that doctors providing abortions in Quebec would not be prosecuted.


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Dr. Henry Morgentaler: Fighting Canada's Abortion Laws more