A 25th Anniversary Celebration

Meeting Henry

Jack Layton and Henry Morgentaler in 2005

Jack Layton and Henry Morgentaler in 2005

We welcome your personal stories or recollections about meeting or knowing Henry, whether as a patient, friend, colleague, or activist. Please share them in the “Reply” box below.
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1 Comment

  1. Joyce Arthur

    I first met Henry in the early 1990’s, when he came to Vancouver to speak at a pro-choice event. A group of us from the BC Coalition for Abortion Clinics took him to a restaurant in Chinatown, and I remember chatting to Henry about our common membership in the Humanist Association of Canada. We are both proud atheists! I was a beginner in the pro-choice movement at that point though. After taking more of a leading role, I met or spoke to Henry on a more professional basis various times over the ensuing years – including at the Toronto premiere of the film “Henry” in 2007 where he took delight in kissing me several times. (His wife Arlene patiently explained that this was his custom.)

    I visited the Toronto Morgentaler Clinic around 2005, and met with several staff members, including Henry’s long-time personal assistant Shayna, and of course Henry himself. Towards the end of the day, he invited me to watch him perform an abortion, after obtaining the patient’s consent. Even for a seasoned pro-choice activist like me, the procedure was an eye-opener. There was no trauma, no pain, no blood, and it was all over in 5 minutes. The patient, a young black woman, chatted casually and cheerfully with the nurse while a thin plastic tube, a cannula, removed the contents of her uterus. I suddenly realized I had been reading too much anti-choice propaganda about the alleged horrors of abortion, because it was not like that at all. For one thing, there was nothing to see during or after the procedure – I couldn’t even make out any fetal parts when the nurse showed me the pan. The patient was relaxed and confident the whole time, and the staff were professional and supportive, with Dr. Morgentaler explaining matter-of-factly to the patient what he was doing as he was doing it. At one point, he proudly commented to me that his technique resulted in little or no blood loss for the woman.

    There’s so much I appreciate about Henry, but what stands out is his confident and positive attitude towards women’s right to abortion – if I may paraphrase what I imagine he would say: “Of course, they have an unquestioned right without having to explain anything, and why on earth should they feel bad?!” I also deeply appreciate his sustained commitment to ensuring legal access for women, his courageous personal sacrifices including his arrests and jail time, his training of dozens of other abortion providers, and his many years of providing tens of thousands of safe abortions. I can only guess at the countless number of lives he has saved. Thank you, Henry.

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