In May 1970, seventeen women from Vancouver set out on a cross-country trek to reject Canada’s criminal abortion law and demand legal reform. They stopped in cities and towns along the way, performing acts of guerrilla theatre to show how women were suffering and dying from accessing illegal “back-alley” abortions. When the Caravaners arrived in Ottawa and government leaders refused to meet with them, they discretely entered the House of Commons and chained themselves to gallery seats – shutting down Parliament for the first time in Canadian history! Their civil disobedience drew vast media attention and public support, which paved the way for feminist battles of the ‘70s and ‘80s that ultimately decriminalized abortion in Canada in 1988.
On Mother’s Day weekend 50 years later, feminists from across this country embarked on a virtual “trek” of their own—a 2020 Abortion Caravan, so to speak—to honour the Caravaners and their significant impact on Canadian society. Co-editors Jaime Nikolaou and Robyn Schwarz launched “Then and Now: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1970 Abortion Caravan” – a series of position papers that showcase how pro-choice organizing in Canada has evolved from 1970 to present. You can read these papers individually or as a collective whole, which are available for download below. Please circulate widely!
The 2020 Abortion Caravan, position papers: