Given the crucial role that freedom to control one’s own reproductive health and health service interventions plays in women’s liberty, autonomy, dignity and privacy, and given the crippling impact on women’s liberties that can follow from criminalizing abortion or making access to the procedure unduly limited or complex, and while recognizing the philosophic and ethical nuances explored in earlier BCCLA papers on abortion, the board of the BCCLA is unequivocally of the opinion that there should be no new legislation passed in Canada to criminalize or otherwise restrict obtaining or providing abortion services.
Further, the Association sees ready and unconstrained access to this reproductive health procedure on demand as an important policy goal. The Association recognizes that full democratic participation by women depends upon their being free to control their own bodies. The Association will remain alert for events that offer opportunities to advance these interrelated goals in our public education and litigation work.
On September 20, 2014, BCCLA Board Member Caily DiPuma delivered the following remarks on behalf of the Association at Vancouver’s Reproductive Justice Solidarity Rally:
“Good afternoon! I am so happy to be here today on behalf of the BC Civil Liberties Association. The BCCLA is the oldest and most active civil liberties group in Canada. We do policy and legal advocacy across the country to defend and extend Canadian’s civil rights, liberties and fundamental freedoms. The BCCLA has advocated for an end to criminalization of abortion since 1972. The Association’s position has been – and continues to be – that freedom to control one’s own reproductive health is essential to liberty, autonomy, dignity and privacy. Efforts to limit these liberties by restricting access to abortion and other reproductive services are unconstitutional and illegal.
When the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law criminalizing abortion in 1988, our chief justice at the time said: “Forcing a woman…to carry a foetus to term unless she meets certain criteria unrelated to her own priorities and aspirations, is a profound interference with a woman’s body and thus a violation of her security of the person”. That statement was true when it was made in 1988 and it is true today. And, yet, despite that truth, despite more than 25 years passing since that statement was made, we continue to face threats to our right to control our reproductive choices.
Between 2007 and 2012, there were at least 5 separate attempts by our legislators to pass laws restricting abortion access, 5 separate bills presented as back door attempts to re-open the “abortion debate.” I struggle to think of another issue where there continues to be vigorous political debate in the face of such a clear constitutionally protected right. And – in addition to the threat of restrictive legislation – we continue to face a whole list of practical impediments to delivering reproductive services. We are here today in solidarity with activists in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, who are demanding equal access to a full range of reproductive health care. We are here today because some provinces in this country refuse to comply with the law, instead creating a system of barriers that prevent women from accessing the reproductive health services that they are entitled to under our country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Yesterday morning, I was having a conversation with my mom. When I mentioned that I would be coming here to speak today, she told me about her activism in the early 1970s, about how she believed that at that time that unrestricted access to abortion was one of the most important civil liberties issues and how much she wanted to ensure that her future daughter would have control over choices relating to her body and her health. As my mother was speaking, I thought about how I also felt that access to reproductive choice is among the most compelling civil liberties issues of my time. About how I too worry whether the next generation will have freedom of choice and access to a full range of reproductive services. More than 30 years separate us – but we have the same concerns.
It is events like the one here today that will continue to protect the gains we have made and press forward to a future where the women – regardless of means, or identity, or geographic location –have access to the full range of reproductive choices that they are entitled to under our country’s highest law. Nothing short of that goal will work. And it is my deep hope – and I am sure that it is the hope of all of us here today — that the next generation will not have to worry about the government interfering with their private decisions about their body and their health.”
— Caily DiPuma