The not-so-secret history of antisemitism in Canada’s abortion debate

Protesters taking to the streets in 1975 to support Henry Morgentaler. (Photo courtesy of Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec)

With the United States embroiled in the fight over abortion rights, many Canadians have turned to reflect on our own nation’s history with the once-controversial practice. A key figure in Canada’s pro-choice movement was Henry Morgentaler, a Holocaust survivor and doctor who offered safe abortions for women who didn’t qualify for one within Canada’s once-restrictive system. Morgentaler endured jail time and blatant antisemitism for his convictions, but won out in the end, as abortions became effectively decriminalized following a landmark 1988 Supreme Court decision.

Today, advocates in Montreal are pushing to name a park after the late doctor, who has no monument commemorating his contribution to Canada. To discuss his legacy, and how antisemitism seeped into the debate, his daughter, Goldie Morgentaler, joins to share stories of her father’s fight for reproductive freedom.

And zooming out for a religious look at the issue, Avi sits down with Rabbi Daniel Korobkin from the Beth Avraham Yosef of Toronto Congregation to discuss how abortion is handled in halakhah.

What we talked about


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold, Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Michael Fraiman is the producer. Andre Goulet is the technical producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.