Abortion in the 1970`s

Abortionin the 1970’s



Thearticle “Lonely, tragic, but legally necessary pilgrimages:Transnational Abortion Travel in the 1970s”, by Beth Palmer,discusses how the Calgary Birth Control Association (CBCA) helpedpeople from Canada to cross to the United States for abortion. Thetitle of the articledepictshowlonely the journey was, but people deemed it a necessary pilgrimage.Most importantly, the article describes the complexities that existedregarding abortion during the time. Some of the challenges occurreddue to inequality in gender and financially based matters where theCBCA claimed actually to practice an inverted form of the oldeconomic discrimination. These elements indicate decision-based onwomen’s socio-economic privileges that highlighted the interestingclass-based distribution of resources.

Theessence of the current study entails understanding thecharacteristics involved in carrying out abortion in the 1970s. Italso seeks to illustrate how feminism acts contributed or hinderedwomen from getting abortions in Canada and the United States. Thedetermination of these factors plays a significant role in thedemonstration of the tensions that reproductive-rights activistsencountered in addressing the needs of individual women against thelong-term objective of changing the laws and improving accessibility.Most importantly the article points out the shortcomings of theCanadian healthcare system as well as the legal modifications in the1969 omnibus bill because women traveled to the United States toacquire abortions. Nevertheless, such facts compel to the fact thatthe reproductive rights are an international issue.

Analysisand Contextualization

Thearticle starts by depicting the story of a woman from Alberta whowent through an abortion procedure and later stated that it entailedthe only answer and way. She also indicated that the abortion broughtabout physical and mental relief from a complicated situationregardless of the fact that most people were against it.Additionally, Alberta’s story indicates her support to the abortionprocedure through portraying the advantages that allowed manyCanadian women to acquire freedom. Contrastingly, she depicts theshortcomings in the Canadian healthcare system that occurred as aresult of lack of accessible services that brought about stress tothe women who suffered from unplannedpregnancies(Palmer, 2011). Most importantly, Alberta’s experience highlightsthe fact that the access to abortion services remained a pressingissue for Canadian women especially after the decriminalization ofthe medical procedure. Consequently, the government attempted toalleviate the situation by making therapeutic abortion possible inhospitals based on the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1968 and 1969.However, most Canadian women opted to travel for many miles in searchof safe medical abortion procedures. These activities brought aboutthe emergence of several informal groups which helped women connectwith physicians in other local communities with the aim of obtainingabortions. One of the local organizations that existed in the 1970sentailed the Calgary Birth Control Association (CBCA). It helpedpeople, mostly women, to cross borders into the United States toaccess abortions. However, these journeys as propagated by activistswere lonely and tragic but brought about pilgrimages that werelegally necessary (Palmer, 2011).

Besides,the services offered by the groups in helping people cross bordersexemplify the difficulties that existed in the abortion movementduring the time. They also indicate the undercover strategiesemployed by activists in helping women access abortions.Additionally, they suggest the Canadian healthcare system facedsignificant challenges and lacked the ability to realize the needs ofwomen facing unplannedpregnancies(Palmer, 2011). These may be followed closely by the fact thatreproductive rights entail an international issue majorly influencedby geopolitical borders. On the other hand, the evaluation of thesefactors brings about a revelation of the tension that supporters ofreproductive rights encountered in their attempt to address theimmediate needs of pregnant women as well as the long-term objectivesof improving access to abortion (Palmer, 2011).

Thearticle indicates that the accessibility entails one of the majorvital markers of women rights. It utilizes elements included in 1969feminist manifesto to advocate for the fact that abortion should belegalized and made available to allow women to possess control oftheir bodies. The manifesto “Toward a Female Liberation Movement”,by Rosalind Petchesky, highlights the significance of legal,accessible abortion indicating that it makes the challenging aspectof women’s responsibility for pregnancy less total (Frank, 2014).Nevertheless, it points out that the accessibility to abortionservices does not establish reproductive freedom or ensure an equaldistribution of responsibility for reproduction. Most importantly,the author insists that the law on abortion entails a critical pointof view through which the history of women may be shown. The view ofsuch aspects involves the fact that abortion policies locate women’sautonomy in public as well as attending to intimate sexual relations(Frank, 2014).

Thesimilarity in the issue of legalizing abortion in the United Statesoccurred after many poor women died. Most of the women who died fromillegal abortion, 75 percent, entailed those from poor backgrounds,especially the colored ones. These activities brought about a pushfor legalizing abortion influenced by the civil rights as well as theantiwar movements. These activities contributed to New York State aswell as others passing a law that allowed abortion on demand only ifoccurred in a medical facility conducted by a doctor (Frank, 2014).They also attracted women who could afford it as well as feministnetworks which supported the protests through loans, referrals andfought to keeps abortion prices down. Contrastingly, not all womencould afford to go to New York and thus pursued facilities offeringabortion illegally. These activities contributed towards the U.S.Supreme Court ruling that through the end of the first trimester ofpregnancy, only pregnant women and their doctors had the legal rightto make decisions regarding abortions. The court also indicated thatstates could restrict second-trimester abortions in the interest ofthe safety of the mother. However, it was the responsibility of thestates to protect a baby possessing the ability to survive during thethird trimester (Frank, 2014).

Thearticle “Lonely, tragic, but legally necessary pilgrimages”points that due to the legalization of abortion in America, Albertaadopted the initiative to increase the availability of hospitalscarrying out the procedure. For instance, it indicates that duringthe mid-1970s there were about twenty-six hospitals in the provincethat fulfilled the criteria for providing legal abortions. However,they still faced challenges in that more than one-third of the peopleof Alberta could not access hospitals as the rural facilities lackedaccredited equipment (Palmer, 2011). The unavailability of thisequipment emanated from differences in attitudes among hospitalabortion committees and bed shortages. The women who needed abortionservices had to seek help from medical professionals as well associal workers. Nevertheless, these groups lacked the properequipment to curb the shortcomings of the system and were monitoredto ensure that they followed the necessary policies (Palmer, 2011).

Similarto the United States, those Canadian women who traveled to Seattle toobtain abortions included upper and upper middle-income classes. TheCBCA group claimed that it effectively practiced an inverted form ofold economic discriminations through referring women with theresources to travel to the United States for an abortion to makein-province hospital space for women facing financial constraints.The decision pointed out a distribution of resources based on classin that it allowed wealthy women to use personal resources to obtainan abortion and leave the local, hospital-based, insured proceduresto those who lacked other options (Palmer, 2011). Nevertheless,protagonists such as Christabelle Sethna claimed that extensivetravel to access abortion was pursued by marginalized womenespecially the poor, racialized and rural females. Contrastingly,historical evidence indicated that in Alberta, the largest part ofwomen traveling to seek abortion procedures entailed wealthy women.These activities facilitated in shaping the CBCA’s politicalactivism through prodding federal legislators to amend the lawsrequiring women to apply for TAC approval. The organization urgedthat Alberta government to address hospital services as well as addedpressure for local and national political change. These were followedclosely by the persuasion of transnational affiliation with theAmericans. These aspects brought about a cross-border relationshipwith the Abortion Referral Service in Seattle where legal abortionswere readily available (Palmer, 2011).

Theactivities carried out by the CBCA organization attracted otherAmerican groups which recognized the fact that reproductive rightsexceed borders. These American groups sought to help the CBCA throughproviding abortions and challenging the Canadian laws. These occurredthrough collaboration with organizations such as the National Women’sHealth Coalition based in America that contacted the CBCA to requestthem to send a sympathetic physician for free training in the UnitedStates (Hajek, 2014). The activists for such activities welcomed theidea with the hope that it would boost the success in both countries.Similarly, feminist health centers around the United States providedlow-cost abortion services that emphasized the quality of care. Theyalso maintained political involvement in the reproductive rightsmovement. According to research, when the Supreme Court legalizedabortion in 1973 in America, critics such as the antiabortion forcesled by the Catholic Church, initiated mobilization using a variety ofpolitical tactics (Hajek, 2014). These included campaigning, publicrelations, political lobbying, just to mention a few. Theiractivities succeeded in July 1976 when Congress passed the HydeAmendment banning Medicaid funding for abortion unless in cases wherethe mother`s life was endangered. This led to the withdrawal offinancing for unnecessary abortions. These elements brought aboutintensified effects such as harm and discrimination against womenliving in poverty. For instance, in 1977, a woman in Texas died froman illegal abortion conducted in Mexico after the withdrawal offunding from the Medicaid abortions (Hajek, 2014).

Conclusively,these elements indicate that despite legalizing abortion to ensureavailability of the services to all women, there need to be propermeasures aimed at eradicating illegal procedures. The evaluation ofabortion in the 1970s portrays the fact that women faced immensechallenges such as lack of facilities and trained providers,cumbersome legal restrictions, just to mention a few. There existedmixed reactions among the people in Canada who sought abortionprocedures from the United States as it provided quality services.However, the fight for the provision of better services andprotection of women based on the reproduction rights recognized thatunwanted pregnancies were common across all borders (Palmer, 2011).Most importantly, the people of Alberta, especially women requestedthe CBCA organization to continue their services in helping women inneed. Their activities resonated with those of feminists advocatingfor the reproduction rights for all women regardless of theirfinancial and racial status. Additionally, the supporters and clientsof the CBCA organization agreed with their assessment that the crisisof unwanted pregnancy serves as a critical moment in any woman’slife (Palmer, 2011). They propagated that an unwanted pregnancyentails a time when a woman’s aspirations and those of her familyas well as her personal identity and ethics become especially clearto her. When a woman obtains an unwanted pregnancy she bears theburden of deciding the course of her future which may be affectedpositively or adversely. Therefore, the government and other relevantentities should collaborate in seeking out a cross-border abortion asa catalyst to action for many women. In Alberta, these activitieswere coupled with access to information as well as collaborationbetween the United States medical physicians and the Canadianhealthcare system in providing quality abortion services to all women(Palmer, 2011). Nevertheless, these elements occurred after animmense struggle by activists who believed that the Canadiangovernment should implement the activities of the CBCA organizationin providing the appropriate services (Palmer, 2011).


Frank,&nbspG.(2014). The Color of the Unborn: Anti-Abortion and Anti-BussingPolitics in Michigan, United States, 1967-1973.&nbspGender&amp History,&nbsp26(2),351-378. doi:10.1111/1468-0424.12073

Hajek,&nbspA.(2014). Defining Female Subjectivities in Italy: motherhood andabortion in the individual and collective memories of the 1970swomen`s movement in Bologna.&nbspWomen`sHistory Review,&nbsp23(4),543-559. doi:10.1080/09612025.2014.894758

Palmer,&nbspB.(2011). ‘Lonely, tragic, but legally necessary pilgrimages’:Transnational Abortion Travel in the 1970s.&nbspTheCanadian Historical Review,&nbsp92(4),637-664. doi:10.1353/can.2011.0059