The Lethbridge Birth Control and Information Centre, 1974. 542 7th Street South, Lethbridge, Alberta. Photo courtesy of the Galt Museum and Archives, 19901067001.
By Karissa Patton, MA Student, University of Lethbridge
The struggle for reproductive rights and justice are often associated with women’s activisms of the past, specifically the activism of the late 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s, leading to the 1988 Supreme Court decision that fully decriminalized abortion in Canada. Authors such as Catherine Redfern and Kristine Aune have highlighted a post-feminist argument that claims that feminism does not exist anymore or that feminism is no longer needed. This is based on the premise that we have achieved reproductive justice. With several birth control options widely available, the decriminalization of abortion, and sex education required by provincial curricula, those downplaying the relevance of feminism argue that victory was achieved in the fight for reproductive rights. This argument that we live in a “post feminist society” stems from a lack of understanding, or misunderstanding, of feminism and reproductive rights. The misconception that reproductive rights have been achieved is concerning, as it encourages society to ignore the social barriers and the issues of access that remain prevalent today.
Technological and legal strides have been made since the 1960s and 1970s and yet social, economic and political barriers remain, or are reinvented, based on changing political contexts. Today, we are witnessing important similarities with the 1970s in the social barriers to education about sex, birth control, and abortion. Specifically, with the moral panic around youth’s sexuality, we have seen significant retrenchments in the adult control of sex, birth control, and abortion education.
While I use contemporary examples to illuminate a current need for reproductive rights and justice on a national scale, my research focuses on the history of reproductive rights activism in Southern Alberta during the 1960s and 1970s. Therefore, this essay examines one contemporary and one historical case study of adults’ attempts to control youth’s sexuality via youth’s access to sex education as well as birth control and abortion information. [click to continue…]