OTTAWA - Henry Morgentaler, a Holocaust survivor who became one of Canada's leading abortion campaigners and spent time in jail for terminating pregnancies, died on Wednesday at the age of 90, activists said.
Morgentaler set up Canada's first independent abortion clinic in Montreal in 1969 at a time when the procedure could only be performed in hospitals and was limited to cases when doctors deemed that continuation of a pregnancy could harm a woman.
His campaign for women's rights eventually made its way to the Canadian Supreme Court, which backed him in a January 1988 judgment that said existing abortion laws were unconstitutional.
The then Progressive Conservative government tried in 1990 to recriminalize abortion in cases where women's health was not at risk. That effort ended in failure, leaving Canada with effectively no restrictions on abortion.
"Canadian women owe Dr. Morgentaler a tremendous debt of gratitude for standing up for their lives and health at great personal sacrifice and risk. He survived numerous threats on his life, a clinic bombing, and aggressive protests," said National Abortion Federation president Vicki Saporta.