20th Anniversary of the Decriminalization of Abortion in Canada

Monday, July 26 2010

20th Anniversary of the Decriminalization of Abortion in Canada - Time to Celebrate but Also Acknowledge the Challenges Ahead in Safeguarding a Woman's Right to Choose Launch of the "Proudly Pro-Choice" Year-Long Campaign and Web site

Ottawa, January 28, 2008 -- Today, on January 28th, women and men all over Canada will be remembering and celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Morgentaler decision which decriminalized abortion in Canada and in doing so made the accessibility of safe abortions a reality to Canadian women. Be "Proudly Pro-Choice", say pro-choice organizations Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD), Canadians for Choice (CFC) and the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health (CFSH) during the Parliament Hill launch of an on-line campaign in support of women's right to choose. “We ask Canadians to stand with us and affirm your pro-choice beliefs”, they say collectively. “Wear your pro-choice buttons, get involved in the pro-choice movement and celebrate how far we’ve come.”

However, while it is a time for celebration, the anniversary is also an opportunity to acknowledge the challenges that lay ahead in safeguarding a woman's right to choose.

"Many Canadian women still face incredible barriers such as unknowledgeable staff members, anti-choice healthcare professionals, unexpected costs and travel time, a lack of reciprocal billing, bad referrals and the fact that they have to leave a message on a voicemail instead of talking to a live person. All of these barriers prevent women from exercising their right to control their fertility”, states Patricia LaRue, Executive Director of Canadians for Choice.

In 2006, Canadians for Choice initiated a comprehensive study that documented the accessibility of abortion services in Canadian hospitals. In April 2007, the findings of the research were released in a report entitled "Reality Check" and presented the following observations:

· Since 2003, the percentage of hospitals with accessible abortion services has decreased from 17.8% to 15.9%; this means that abortion services are only accessible at 1 in every 6 hospitals.

· 3 out of 4 times, the researcher spoke with hospital staff members who were ignorant about the issue of abortion and the services their hospital provided. 75% of staff members reacted to inquiries about abortion with disbelief, confusion or a complete lack of knowledge.

· Hospital abortion services are poorly dispersed across Canada, the majority of which are located in urban areas, within 150 kilometres of the American border.

Peggy Cooke, winner of the Pro-Choice Canada Contest has experienced first hand the hurdles women in New-Brunswick have to overcome when trying to express their right to choose. Ms. Cooke writes of her experience as a Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic escort and says, “How can women be so abused by the system when all this time we thought we were living in an enlightened society? No woman, faced with an unplanned pregnancy should have to go through the ordeal that many of the women in New Brunswick have to go through. As long as there is still one woman facing that kind of judgement in order to have an abortion, we do not live in a pro-choice Canada.”

“Though the Morgentaler decision clearly represents a legal victory in support of women's rights, an anti-choice government could damage such rights without doing more than pass legislation,” declares Katherine McDonald, LL.M, LL.B, Executive Director of Action Canada for Population and Development. “From a governmental perspective, anti-choice actions can range from appointing anti-choice Ministers, or senior bureaucrats, who then make anti-choice policy on women’s rights, human rights, and sexual and reproductive health. They can appoint anti-choice judges. They can stop funding clinics, refuse to approve new contraceptives, refuse to approve medical abortion, refuse to ensure that provinces provide abortion services, and not actively intervene to ensure that provinces provide comprehensive sexual education programs to effectively reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.”

“We at Canadian Federation for Sexual Health are fearing for the next generation who are being bombarded by shocking misinformation and anti-choice campaigns based on fear-mongering. In the absence of consistent sexual health education and youth-friendly services, youth are being denied the information they need to make informed decisions,” says Linda Capperauld, Executive Director of the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health.

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