The Abortion Caravan was created by members and supporters of the Vancouver Women’s Caucus. It was a van followed by a convoy of cars from Vancouver to Ottawa. They wanted to challenge the reforms to the abortion law in the spring of 1970. (Hewitt & Sethna, 142). The Abortion Caravan’s goal was to have the abortion law changed to remove restrictions women faced in order to receive an abortion. The reason feminists and the women’s movement wanted access to safe and legal abortions without restrictions was because they knew that women wanted control over their reproductive rights and were willing to go to any length to do so; this meant that many women were putting their health and lives on the line to get an abortion.
The Caravan, along with other women’s movements of the time, was under the scrutiny of the government. The RCMP followed the Caravan from Vancouver to Parliament Hill (Hewitt & Sethna, 142). The RCMP and the Canadian government were concerned about women’s movements and their connections to socialist and communists organizations. The van these women used had many slogans including “Smash Patriarchy” on the van. This slogan was one of the reasons the RCMP saw these women as possible communists. The RCMP saw women’s organizations as a problem because they would change social norms but did not interfere with the Abortion Caravan.
The RCMP apparently had little faith in the women of the abortion Caravan and underestimated the means they would go to to achieve their goals. The “RCMP in the capital found themselves completely unprepared when the VWC led an occupation of the lawn of the residence of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau by approximately three hundred women” (Hewitt & Sethna, 142). They did not expect this many women to take action or expect them to protest on the Prime Minister’s lawn.
Some of the women of the Abortion Caravan actually breached the security of the parliament buildings. I find this entertaining because if the RCMP was so concerned about the women’s movement you would think they would stop them from breaching security.The first breach was when -“approximately eighteen women sneaked into the public galleries of the House of Commons to condemn loudly the unfairness of the abortion law” (Hewitt & Sethna, 142) and the second was when they changed themselves to the seats in Parliament as an ode to the British suffragettes who did the same in the fight for the right to vote.
The link between the British suffragettes and the modern women’s movement in Canada is an interesting one. They both fought for what they believed in. The British suffragettes fought for the right to vote which now-a-days would seem ridiculous to most people in Canada. Hopefully someday the fight for abortion and birth control will also seem just as ridiculous of a right to have to fight for.
Abortion Caravan participant Marcy Cohen made this video showing the journey of the abortion caravan. It has videos, audio, pictures and newspaper clippings from the fight for free and legal abortion.