On May 11, 1970 the abortion caravan came to Ottawa. Started by the Vancouver Women's Caucus the abortion caravan was the first national feminist protest. 500 activists travelled across the country to protest for two days on Parliament Hill.
80 women donned black headscarves and circled the centennial flame with a coffin and banners proclaiming 'twelve thousand women die.'
30 of the protesters dressed in their most lady-like attire, complete with panty hose and gloves to infiltrate the House of Commons. Once inside, they chained themselves to their chairs and refused to leave until their demands were met. The activists shut down the House of Commons.
Abortion, though not entirely illegal, was still a part of the Canadian Criminal Code. Section 251 stated that to be legally performed an abortion must be proven to endanger a women's life by a Theraputic Abortion Committee (comprised of doctors) at a given hospital. The doctors were often all male and only one in 30 women were approved for the procedure. Abortion clinics were also illegal under this law.
Though abortion would not be removed from the Criminal Code until 1988, the abortion caravan was a catalyst, bringing the issue to the forefront of Canadian consciousness. The discussion changed from myths and speculation to women talking about their own experiences.
Access to abortion is still an issue today. According to a Canadians for Choice report, only 15.9 percent of Canadian hospitals offer abortions.
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