When Henry Morgentaler, Canada’s best-known abortion rights advocate, died in 2013, activists and scholars began to reassess the state of abortion in this country. In Abortion, some of the foremost researchers in Canada challenge current thinking by revealing the discrepancy between what people are experiencing on the ground and what people believe the law to be after the 1988 Morgentaler decision.
Grouped into four themes – History, Experience, Politics, and Reproductive Justice – these essays showcase new theoretical frameworks and approaches from law, history, medicine, women’s studies, and political science as they document the diversity of abortion experiences across the country, from those of Indigenous women in the pre-Morgentaler era to a lack of access in the age of so-called decriminalization.
Together, the contributors make a case for shifting the debate from abortion rights to reproductive justice and caution against focusing on “choice” or medicalization without understanding the broader context of why and when people seek out abortions.
This book will be of interest to reproductive rights activists and students and scholars of history, political science, medicine, and law.
Abortion is unique in that it ties together the perspectives of scholars in history, politics, and law, as opposed to other compilations that focus on works from one particular field, echoing the intersectionality of modern day reproductive justice framework.
This timely collection brings to the fore new perspectives and new ways of understanding abortion politics in the post-Morgentaler era, exposing the uneven impacts of abortion policy on diverse groups of women and offering insights on how and why we got here and what we might do to seek change. A must-read for anyone interested in the complex history of abortion politics and policy in Canada.
Shannon Stettner teaches in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Waterloo. Kristin Burnett is an associate professor in the Department of Indigenous Learning and coordinator of the new graduate program in Social Justice Studies at Lakehead University. Travis Hay is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at York University.
Contributors: Katrina Rose Ackerman, Rebecca Beausaert, Lori A. Brown, Frances E. Chapman, Marion Doull, Erika Dyck, Shoshanna Ehrlich, Kelly Gordon, Rachael Johnstone, Tracy Penny Light, Colleen MacQuarrie, Evelyne Morrissette, Beth Palmer, Jen Rinaldi, Laura Salamanca, Paul Saurette, Christabelle Sethna, Caitlin Scott, and Sarah Wiebe.
Introduction / Shannon Stettner, Kristin Burnett, and Travis Hay
Part 1: History
1 Different Histories: Reproduction, Colonialism, and Treaty 7 Communities in Southern Alberta, 1880–1940 / Kristin Burnett
2 Not Guilty but Guilty? Race, Rumour, and Respectability in the 1882 Abortion Trial of Letitia Munson / Rebecca Beausaert
3 Abortion and Birth Control on the Canadian Prairies: Feminists, Catholics, and Family Values in the 1970s / Erika Dyck
Part 2: Experience
4 He Is Still Unwanted: Women’s Assertions of Authority over Abortion in Letters to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada / Shannon Stettner
5 Abortion on Trial: Abortion Tribunals in the 1970s and 1980s / Beth Palmer
6 The Dark, Well-Kept Secret: Abortion Experiences in the Maritime Provinces / Katrina Ackerman
7 When Research Is Personal and Political: Researchers Reflect on the Study of Abortion / Marion Doull, Christabelle Sethna, Evelyne Morrissette, and Caitlin Scott
Part 3: Politics
8 Functionally Inaccessible: Historical Conflicts in Legal and Medical Access to Abortion / Frances E. Chapman and Tracy Penny Light
9 Morgentaler and the Technological Production of Embodiment / Jen Rinaldi
10 Between a Woman and Her Doctor? The Medicalization of Abortion Politics in Canada / Rachael Johnstone
11 Subverting the Constitution: Anti-abortion Policies and Activism in the United States and Canada / Lori Brown, J. Shoshanna Ehrlich, and Colleen MacQuarrie
Part 4: Discourse and Reproductive Justice
12 The Future of Pro-choice Discourse in Canada / Kelly Gordon and Paul Saurette
13 Reproductive Justice in Canada: Exploring Immigrant Women’s Experiences / Laura Salamanca
14 Toxic Matters: Vital and Material Struggles for Environmental Reproductive Justice / Sarah Marie Wiebe
Conclusion / Kristin Burnett and Shannon Stettner
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