Step by practiced step, Henry Morgentaler has worked toward his goal of free-standing abortion “clinics” in Nova Scotia.

Step one: verbal violence

The government has consistently rejected his overtures. In 1989, changes in legislation restricted abortions and several other medical procedures to approved hospitals.

Morgentaler described it as “fraudulent, reactionary and stupid legislation that violates women’s rights, and violates the Supreme Court decision on abortions.” He particularly objected to the $50,000 fine for abusing the Act.

The Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) challenge to the legislation was dismissed on the grounds that they had no direct interest in the outcome. Needless to say, they were highly indignant.

Step two: referrals

During the summer of 1989, a newly-hired staff opened a Halifax office for abortion referrals. In October, Morgentaler brought things to head by flying in to do abortions.

As he conducted media tours of the clinic, and gloated about performing abortions that day, pro-life leaders lodged complaints with police.

Morgentaler was subsequently charged with 14 counts of violating provincial law, and trial was set for March 1990.

Step three: appeal

Right to Life groups and government lawyers asked the provincial Supreme Court for an injunction to close the “clinic” until after the trial in March. Accusing government of a personal vendetta and of adding to the suffering of women, Morgentaler appealed twice, in both cases unsuccessfully. The Halifax abortion “clinic” remains closed.

Step four: game playing

On March 5, the day set for the trial, Judge Ross Archibald refused to stat proceedings because Henry Morgentaler had not seen fit to be present.

The judges also wanted time to consider a proposal by Morgentaler’s lawyer Ann Derrick that newspaper articles be admitted in evidence. She wants to use quotes attributed to the premier and cabinet ministers to prove that the law was drafted as a specific attack on her client.

Crown attorney Craig Poterrill termed the use of such articles “simply unacceptable in a court of law.” The trial is now scheduled to begin June 4 and is expected to last a month.