Last Friday (10th October 2008), Dr. Henry Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada for ‘putting himself at risk in his determined drive to increase health care options for Canadian women [and] influencing public policy nationwide’. The Order of Canada is the highest civilian honour awarded by the country. In 1969, Canadian law required any women seeking an abortion to obtain agreement from a committee of doctors that her health or life was in danger. The people on the committee were almost always male, and different committees interpreted the law in different ways so that some women found it relatively easy to obtain an abortion, whilst others were forced to continue with their pregnancy or seek a dangerous ‘backstreet’ abortion. Dr. Morgentaler felt that the law was unfair and opened an illegal abortion clinic in Montreal in 1969. In 1973, he challenged the law by publicly declaring that he had illegally performed thousands of abortions, filming himself performing one and having it shown on television. He was arrested, and jailed. After being acquitted, he challenged laws in other Canadian provinces, which eventually led to the 1988 Supreme Court ruling that effectively made abortion legal. Here’s the Feminist Majority Foundation article. And here’s an article outlining the history of abortion in Canada.