In Memoriam: Dr. Gary Romalis

By Rachel Walden — February 11, 2014

Dr. Gary Romalis, a major proponent of women’s reproductive health and rights, died on Jan. 30 at age 76.

Dr. Romalis was dedicated to helping women by providing abortion. In a 2008 speech at University of Toronto, Romalis addressed some of the horrible consequences he had witnessed of unsafe abortions, and explained why he chose to provide abortions:

I can take an anxious woman, who is in the biggest trouble she has ever experienced in her life, and by performing a five-minute operation, in comfort and dignity, I can give her back her life.

Dr. Romalis life was threatened multiple times by anti-abortion extremists. In 1994, Romalis was shot by a sniper while eating breakfast in his home. In 2000, he was stabbed by a man as he was entering his Vancouver office. After recovering, Romalis kept working — in fact, after 2000, he limited his practice to only abortions.

Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves executive director, remembered the effect this violence had on Romalis and his family:

Dr. Romalis was not only a brave physician who continued to provide abortion services after two frightening attempts to kill him, he was a constant role model for medical students and residents considering a career in the reproductive health field.

I will never forget the day my late husband, Irv Zola, chair of the sociology department of Brandeis, came home after comforting Dr. Romalis’s daughter, then a student in my husband’s class. She was so shaken and bewildered that anyone would want to attack her sensitive and caring father, and being 3,000 miles away from him made it even harder.

Renee Ghert-Zand, a family member of Dr. Romalis, writes in The Forward:

My cousins have lost an exceptionally warm, loving and involved father and grandfather. The Vancouver Jewish community has lost a compassionate and committed member. Canada has lost a courageous physician who let nothing stand in the way of his doing the right thing.

Toward the end of his 2008 speech, Gary said: “After an abortion operation, patients frequently say ‘Thank You Doctor.’ But abortion is the only operation I know of where they also sometimes say ‘Thank you for what you do.’”

Thank you for what you did, Gary.

Our condolences are with Dr. Romalis’s family, as is our gratitude for his lifetime of service.

Remembrances of Dr. Gary Romalis:

In Memoriam – Dr. Gary Romalis

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