In 1969, in defiance of the law, Dr Henry Morgentaler opened Canada's first freestanding abortion clinic. After a series of trials where Quebec juries refused to convict him, Dr Morgentaler served time in prison. It won't surprise you to learn I admire people with that kind of courage and commitment. Like every movement for social change, this was a long, circuitous battle, culminating in the 1988 Supreme Court decision.
Thanks to ALPF, today I read about Dr Morgentaler's work and life (and about the Canadian reproductive rights movement). Morgentaler is also a survivor of the Nazi slave-labor camp in Dachau. He is still a leader in the struggle for equality and access to reproductive-related medical care; you can read something about his current work at his clinics' website.
Canadian women still face barriers to full reproductive freedom. I'm aware of some of these because Haven regularly helps women from Canada, mainly from Quebec, who take the bus to New York City for their procedures.
There are great differences among the provinces when it comes to abortion access and funding, which, I read, violates the Canada Health Act, which calls for insured medical services to be universal, accessible, portable, and comprehensive. From CARAL, the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League:
Because different provinces and territories have different policies on funding abortions at hospitals and private clinics, women, particularly those who are poor and/or young, have limited access to the service. Too often, abortion-related costs, including travel, accommodation and sometimes child care, or simply the delays required by travel, prevent women from having this medical procedure.The article goes on to detail the restrictions province by province. Another comprehensive article, which I'll be bookmarking and reading thoroughly, is here. It also gives some interesting details about Morgentaler's legal battle.
Women in Atlantic Canada, as well as remote and rural areas throughout the country, are particularly hard hit. For example, in Prince Edward Island, the government refuses to provide abortion services at all six Island hospitals, forcing the 200 women who seek abortions each year to leave the province for the service. The minimum cost of the procedure is $450, and associated costs for travel and child care can easily push this to $600 or more. Labrador and Cape Breton also have no abortion services, and there is only limited access in Newfoundland.
Canada is still miles ahead of the US on this issue, by virtue of having national health insurance, and not being controlled by religious zealots. But I see there is still work to be done, so maybe I can put my experience to use north of the border as well.