May is a Key Anniversary for Women’s Reproductive Rights

A Statement by the United Steelworkers

Fifty years ago this month, Canadian women converged on Ottawa for Mothers’ Day to demand something we now take for granted: each woman’s right to decide if and when they become mothers.

The Abortion Caravan was a protest against changes to the Criminal Code which restricted legal access to abortion. Protestors forced a meeting with then-Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, after chaining themselves to their chairs in the House of Commons visitors' galleries and shutting down Parliament. At a time when thousands of women in Canada were dying from back-street abortions, the Abortion Caravan pulled women together across the country. The protest and resulting mobilization contributed to abortion laws being struck down in 1988. 

"The Abortion Caravan sparked a broad and ongoing movement for justice and equality that has had a huge impact on so many across this country,” noted Carolyn Egan, President of USW Local 8300 and a long-time women’s rights activist. “The fight for abortion access and reproductive justice for all continues today.”

"Our union continues to take on issues and work for full equality for women, not only in the workplace but in society as a whole,” said Veronica Tanner, chair of the USW National Women’s Committee. “The right to make decisions about our own bodies is an important element of full equality."

“This was an important moment in the history of reproductive rights in Canada,” observed Ken Neumann, USW National Director. “Our union will always fight for full equality for women, including the right to choose if and when to have children.” 

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard not to notice the leading role that women are playing in the global fight – as front-line care-home workers, nurses and cashiers to chief medical officers of health to prime ministers,” Neumann said. “Women are decision-makers in our homes, workplaces and parliaments, and that obviously includes control over their own bodies.”

50th Anniversary of 1970 Abortion Caravan Facebook page

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