Editors’ Note: This is the first post in our series “A Season of Gratitude.” We’re all grateful for the the work of heroes like Dr. Kinch. To read more articles in this series, click here.
The name Dr. Henry Morgentaler is synonymous with pro-choice in Canada, but Dr. Robert Kinch was also instrumental in securing women’s rights as his colleague. Born in Iraq in 1920, Dr. Kinch immigrated to Canada with his family in 1949 after seeing a billboard advertising “Ontario Wants You.”
Dr. Kinch launched his career as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Toronto. In 1968 he moved to Montreal as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill University, eventually becoming chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Royal Victoria and Montreal General hospitals. He was appointed chairman of the Department of Obstetrics of Gynecology at McGill in 1979.
Beloved by his patients, Dr. Kinch delivered thousands of babies while determinedly championing maternal health and the advancement of sexual education.
In the early 1970’s abortion was decriminalized but could only be performed for therapeutic reasons after a committee agreed that a termination was necessary for the health of the mother. Dr. Kinch created a therapeutic action committee at Montreal General hospital, earning him the distasteful moniker of “Kinch the Killer” by anti-choice activists who picketed the hospital. Undeterred, Dr. Kinch helped to establish one of the first family planning centres in Montreal, providing access to birth control, pregnancy termination and counseling on other health matters to women.
Retired vice-president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada André Lalonde is quoted as saying of Dr. Kinch: “He was pro-choice and advocated for changes in Canada, offering training to future generations of professionals.”
In the late 1980’s Dr. Kinch became divisional chief of maternal-fetal medicine University of Texas Medical Branch. Several years later he moved to Fort Worth, Texas, accepting a similar position. In 1998 he returned to McGill University, continuing his practice and teaching part-time. Shortly after, a fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynecology was created in his name.
A passionate educator, Dr. Kinch taught until he retired at the age of 86. Dedicated to furthering education in obstetrics and gynecology, former graduates of Dr. Kinch are the chairs of departments of gynecology and obstetrics at eight different Canadian universities, a singular distinction of Dr. Kinch.
Dr. Kinch remained active in the medical clinics of his community and as an educator wrote sexual education curriculum for schools in Ontario. “He introduced sexual health training when it was taboo in all medical schools [because] he saw the need and responded.” Lalonde says.
Internationally recognized as a champion of women’s health and reproductive rights and as a leader in the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Robert Kinch leaves behind a profound legacy of integrity and compassion. He died of natural causes on July 22, 2011, at the age of 91.
Roxanna is a freelance writer and artist educator who likes comic books, subjecting others to angry tirades, and coffee.