I was 17 in 1969. I had an illegal abortion that year…performed by a doctor for cash.
Times were different then. You couldn’t get contraception at all without your parents or a husband and abortions were illegal, of course.
I was a feisty kid, raised in a socially conscious family. I had great connections in my community where I was already a volunteer in a youth-run Birth Control and Abortion Referral Centre. We were fighting for reproductive rights even then. I knew where to go and how to get the service I needed. Had I not, I could have had a very different life. Many did.
That was 50 years ago. Today, we probably all know someone who has needed to terminate a pregnancy. The barriers to abortion and contraception are different, but they still exist. Many people in Canada still don’t have the choices that I did.
Through Action Canada I am still fighting for reproductive rights to this very day. When you give to organizations like Action Canada, you are joining in this fight—you are saying that everyone in Canada has the right to make choices about their own bodies regardless of where they live or how much money they make.
Back in 1969 I was volunteering at a youth-run Birth Control and Abortion Referral Centre. Teens were providing information and referral services that the hospital could or would not. We had lots of printed information, private meeting rooms, and a supportive cast of unnamed doctors to whom we referred clients. We visited schools to talk to teachers and parents. And unfortunately, we dealt with the aftermath of botched illegal abortions.
I remember one woman so clearly. She was incarcerated at Kingston's Prison for Women. She came to us on a day pass. She was alone, pregnant, and terrified. We were determined to help. We needed a car, a driver, and an appointment at the Morgentaler clinic in Montreal. On her next day pass, we had to get her there in time for the procedure and back before her curfew. It all worked out, and we all felt so powerful. It was the right thing to do.
Today, at Action Canada, the Access Line provides 24/7 information, support and referral for everyone. Callers have no idea where to go to access an abortion and, in some cases, have to travel hundreds of kilometres from home without childcare, access to a vehicle, or money to spare. Access to abortion across Canada is extremely unequal. Rural and Indigenous women are particularly affected. Abortion is an essential service, underfunded and undervalued.
I am a 50-year Action Canada supporter and I hope you will join me in keeping this vital service vibrant. Your tax-deductible gift will help ensure donor-funded services like the Access Line are there for people when they need it.
In 1970, our group worked for the Canadian Abortion Caravan—people from all across the country who opposed the 1969 amendments to the Criminal Code which restricted legal access to abortion. They were making their way across Canada from Vancouver to Parliament Hill. The lead car was a VW van with a coffin strapped to the roof!
Stopping in towns all across our country, meeting with women’s groups, church groups, and politicians, the Caravan picked up more and more people to protest the prevailing abortion law. Our slogan: Every child a wanted child…Every mother a willing mother.
This was such an important event for me personally and for the whole movement to advance reproductive rights. So many of us from all over came together to protest. While we were in Ottawa, not one single politician would speak with us. We were mad!
On Monday May 11, 1970, we were marching around the Centennial Flame, chanting loudly and then carrying our ‘coffin’ up the steps of the Peace Tower. We knew that about 30 of our companions, in costume as ‘respectable’ women, had snuck inside to chain themselves to chairs in the public gallery. Members of our Caravan took turns speaking out to politicians down below in the House of Commons. Each woman had a copy of our demands and as one person was silenced by the RCMP, another took up the speech and kept it going. It is the only time in Canadian history that a protest group has shut down the House of Commons. No charges were ever laid. But the abortion law was not repealed for another 10 years!
Today we need to support Action Canada as our national voice for change and progress. Support for both the direct help to people in need, but also relentless advocacy work to break down barriers that stand in the way of all people getting equal access to respectful and comprehensive reproductive health care.
Action Canada is doing the work to push governments to fund accurate access to information on abortion, intervening in court to stop anti-choice activities, working with hospitals to provide abortions, and supporting the development of provincial and federal policies that remove unnecessary barriers to abortion. This work is as important as helping individuals.
I wasn’t aware until recently of the number of anti-abortion Crisis Pregnancy Centres in Canada. In some provinces they outnumber Abortion Clinics! These centres provide unbalanced counselling, never mentioning the option of abortion.
Every day frightened people seeking information, support, and options around pregnancy are misled. Won’t you support real choice for all and help put an end to these fake clinics?
I actively fought against misinformation and the lack of support in the 1960s and 1970s by working directly in my community. Today, I donate to Action Canada because the work is not over. You know that government funding is not enough to move our collective mission forward. Your individual support, no matter the amount, is critical to the ongoing work. Will you give?
Together, we can make sure that all women and people in Canada, no matter who they are, what their income or where they live, have the ability to make choices about their own bodies and families.