4 Women On What It Was Like Before Abortion Was Decriminalized In Canada
Yes, access has radically improved since 1988—but we can’t be complacent.
by Rachel Chen
Updated Jan 7, 2020
Abortion was decriminalized in Canada in 1988, after pro-choice advocate Dr. Henry Morgentaler successfully challenged the constitutionality of Canada’s abortion law. Three decades later, access to both medical and surgical abortion isn’t perfect—especially for women in rural areas—but it’s radically better than what it once was. Still, as we see threats to Roe v. Wade (the landmark case that gave Americans a right to abortion) growing next door in the United States, it is important to remember how we got where we are.
Here, four women share what it was like to be faced with an unwanted pregnancy prior to 1988—and why we can never go back to such restrictive access.
What it was like to fight at an illegal abortion clinic in Toronto during the 1980s
Excerpted from Judy Rebick's new book, Heroes in my Head
June 13, 2018
On June 15, 1983, Dr. Henry Morgentaler opened an illegal abortion clinic in Toronto. The Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics (OCAC) had chosen a spot on the second floor of a lovely Victorian house on Harbord Street, a quiet downtown thoroughfare lined with bookstores and cafés near the University of Toronto. With the Toronto Women’s Bookstore on the ground floor, we were assured of supportive neighbours. The interior staircase up to the clinic was useful for security purposes—if anyone broke in, it gave the nurses and doctors time to secure the patients—and there was a front stoop, perfect for rallies. The plan was to hold a symbolic opening for the media at 10 a.m. Dr. Morgentaler, who lived in Montreal, would arrive at 3 p.m., say a few words, and then go inside.