roe v wade

Celebrating 25 Years of Decriminalized Abortion in Canada

prochoiceLast week American feminists and pro-choice activists celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and on Monday January 28, Canadians will mark the 25th anniversary of the R. v. Morgentaler decision, which decriminalized abortion in Canada. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the case, there is a detailed timeline here.

In brief, Dr. Henry Morgentaler had been providing abortions, which were illegal under Section 251 of the Criminal Code, since 1968. In 1969 there was a change to the law which allowed for abortions in very limited circumstances: at a hospital with a Therapeutic Abortion Committee (panel of doctors) who could approve and perform abortions if a woman’s life or health was at risk. The change was unevenly implemented and women waited an average of eight weeks to access an abortion.

After years of legal battles, Morgentaler’s most recent case (he and two other doctors were arrested in 1983 for performing illegal abortions at a Toronto clinic) came to the Supreme Court of Canada, and on January 28th the abortion law was found to violate section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it infringes upon a woman’s right to life, liberty, and security of the person (a contrast to Roe, which was based on a woman’s right to privacy).

The decision was and is a big deal. In a statement of support, Anand Grover, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Right to Health, said,In decriminalizing abortion, R v. Morgentaler upheld these principles as crucial to women’s reproductive freedom and autonomy. It recognised the fundamental right of a women to make decisions concerning her own body, ushering in an era of equality, dignity and freedom for women in Canada.”

Events will be held across the country to celebrate and reflect on the significance of the ruling. And the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has set up a website – – that’s full of great background and facts about the struggle for abortion rights from the 1960s to today. I encourage you to check it out and send a congratulatory message to Dr. Morgentaler.

I wasn’t yet born when Roe v. Wade was decided. And I was only two years old at the time of the Morgentaler decision, but I am so grateful for the work that was done so that I and other women of my generation could have safe access to the full range of reproductive health care. I value these anniversaries and the opportunity they provide to hear the stories of those who struggled for women’s rights long before the recent “War on Women”. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Blogging for Choice 2012

Welcome to the 7th Annual Blog for Choice Day, hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice America. For last year’s post on anti-choice gains in politics, click here. This year’s question is:

What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?

It’s probably obvious that this question refers to this year’s November US election. Other than continuing to blog and social network on reproductive rights issues I’m not sure what else I can do for this. After all, I’m stuck up here in Canada and we aren’t expecting a federal election for another couple of years. But I do have a couple of suggestions for American feminists working on the ground and on the web during the election period.

1. Be discerning. Obama was supposed to be a pro-choice President, and those of us feminists who believed in that might be feeling a bit screwed over at the moment, particularly as a result of the Plan B betrayal. Get out to all the campaign offices and town halls you can and don’t support a candidate who doesn’t give you an answer on your issues.

2. Make it a deal-breaker. Yes, there are many important issues in an election. By all means stay active on your other issues, but make sure being anti-choice is on your list of deal-breakers for supporting a candidate. Things are different in Canada and abortion issues are usually not my top concern heading into an election, but I only vote for candidates whose personal and party positions are pro-choice.

3. Make your voice heard. Don’t let a politician say they didn’t know about your issues. Call, write, or email your candidates’ campaign offices. Better yet, go to their public appearances and try to get to ask a question, or meet with them after. Write letters to the editor of your local paper. Blog, tweet, and post on Facebook about your issues and to rally support for the pro-choice candidate you end up backing.

4. Put your time where your mouth is. Not everyone has money to give, but most campaigns also need volunteers for a variety of jobs, meeting almost anyone’s schedule. If you’re able to give even a few hours on a pro-choice candidate’s campaign, you could be making the difference between them winning or losing.

Although 2011 was a record year for states passing anti-abortion legislation, your hard work helped hold off an anti-abortion ballot measure in Mississippi. We know you can do the same in the other states where such measures are being proposed.

And not just that.

The 2012 election may be an opportunity not just to defend our rights but to elect candidates that will expand them. I look forward to seeing that happen.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Politics Leave a comment

Blog for Choice Day 2011

It’s the 6th annual Blog for Choice Day – this year marked on the Friday before the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This year’s question is given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?

As far as the States goes, yes I’m worried about it. And I’m definitely worried about the anti-choice ballot initiatives we’ll see coming in the 2012 election (parental consent, fetal rights, etc.) . Unless the Democrats & Obama can get the youth vote and the progressive base motivated, I’m worried the results on those will be less positive than in 2008. But being more familiar with the situation in Canada, I’m going to focus on that. January 28th is the 22nd anniversary of R. v. Morgentaler, the Supreme Court ruling that decriminalized abortion in Canada, so the timing’s appropriate here too.

Here in Canada, in advance of a possible federal election this spring, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to reassure folks that he has no intention of reopening the abortion debate by introducting legislation to recriminalize abortion. This would be a lot more convincing if he’d been able to stop his backbenchers from introducing Private Members Bills, the most recent being Rod Bruinooge’s failed C-510, subtlely designed to criminalize aspects of abortion. In addition to Bruinooge’s bill to prohibit “coerced abortion”, we’ve also seen several incarnations of the “Unborn Victims of Crime Act” .

But luckily, most of the rest of the MPs usually realize how ludicrous these bills are, and none has passed. What I’m more worried about than changes to federal law are the continuing problems with access to abortion.

Even though abortion is considered an insured and funded health service and the Canada Health Act is supposed to guarantee access to health services, problems with accessibility still exist. There are no abortion services in PEI, and in New Brunswick coverage is restricted to women having abortions at a hospital after receiving the permission of two doctors. If she wants to go to a clinic, she must pay for services. Rural women in most provinces face difficulties with access, though some provinces make it easier than others to travel to cities that offer services.

In addition, abortion is the only time-sensitive and medically necessary service excluded from the inter-provincial health care billing agreement, meaning women staying in a province other than their home province may face lack of coverage unless they return to their home province.

To me, being pro-choie isn’t just about making sure women have access to abortion; it’s also about making sure women can choose to have and keep children without facing severe and undue financial hardship or threats to her safety. The Pro-Choice Action Network draws attention to how Aboriginal women are sometimes counselled into abortion based on the racial biases that they’re “too poor” or not fit to be a parent. We need to support pregnant women and new mothers with maternal health initiatives and accessible childcare. We also need to make sure we’re providing adequate support for children with developmental disabilities so that parents never have to face the excruciating decision about whether to put their child into foster care because they’d be more likely to get the supports they need.

Being pro-choice is also about empowering women (and men) with the information they need and the power to negotiate safe sex to avoid unwanted pregnancies. The amazing reproductive justice advocate Jessica Yee works tirelessly with Aboriginal populations and notes that, especially in Northern Canada, the destruction of indigenous cultures and the fact that most (mostly white) care providers have not been trained in culturally appropriate care has led to difficulties making sure women get safe sex negotiating skills and sexual health information.

So for 2011 the pro-choice issues I’ll be watching for are more crazy Private Members Bills from the Conservatives, child care accessibility, and access to sexual health information. And I’ll be keeping an eye on the continued struggle by feminists in the States to maintain and increase access to abortion services. Looking forward to reading the other Blog for Choice participants’ posts!


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Politics 4 Comments