History Slam 220: Canada’s Abortion History

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By Sean Graham

Last Friday, the United States Supreme Court made its much anticipated decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization case. In the majority opinion, the court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which ruled that the privacy clause in the U.S. Constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion. In the week since, there have been protests across the United States in response. In Canada, there has been similar protests and great concern not only for what this will mean for Americans, but also the future of abortion rights in Canada.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Robyn Schwarz to talk about the history of abortion in Canada. We discuss the legality of abortion in the late 19th century (6:06), how changes in medicine have influenced perceptions of abortion (20:10), and the history of family planning (27:10). We also chat about the lack of attention on this issue by historians (37:13) and the importance of putting abortion into its proper historical context.

For more information, you can visit Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights’ project The 1970 Abortion Caravan: Celebrating 50 Years and Shannon Stettner’s edited collection Without Apology: Writings on Abortion in Canada.

Sean Graham is a historian of Canadian broadcasting, an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University, and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca

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