THOMSON, Ann




Author Tags: Women

Born in Colorado on January 9, 1937, Ann Thomson came to Canada in 1969 where she became active for 20 years in the pro-choice on abortion movement in BC. During that time, she taught in the public schools and was also active in teacher politics, defence of the Irish and Central American revolutions, and was a programmer on Vancouver Co-op Radio. She has also been involved in theatre, notably the Vancouver Fringe Festival.

The struggle for women to gain unfettered and timely access to abortion services in British Columbia -- abortion on demand -- is a long and courageous one. It goes back to a Quebec prison in 1975 when Dr. Henry Morgentaler was thrown naked into a solitary confinement cell and suffered a heart attack. Risking life imprisonment, Morgentaler, an Auschwitz survivor, spent a fortune on lawyers and on opening clinics to serve as an inspiration to the pro-choice movement across Canada. He had begun performing abortions in Montreal after a woman he turned away from his clinic tried to abort herself with a bicycle pump--and died.

"Parliament remained stony to the last," writes Ann Thomson in Winning Choice on Abortion: How British Columbian and Canadian Feminists Won the Battles of the 1970s and 1980s (Trafford, 2004), "and would not alter the 1969 abortion law." The abortion law (allowing for therapeutic abortions only) was ultimately struck down in 1988 by a decision of the Canadian Supreme Court and that year the Everywoman's Health Centre opened in Vancouver. Thomson cites the many individuals who gave their money and time to win the right of women to control their own bodies--including B.C. authors Helen Potrebenko and Cynthia Flood, and bookseller Margo Dunn--and she retrieves the details of various protests, campaigns and initiatives such as the Abortion Caravan to Ottawa in 1970. Spearheaded by 12 women, the Abortion Caravan began as a relatively modest effort to emulate the On To Ottawa Trek of the Depression era and served to galvanize support in communities across the nation. When the caravan finally reached Ottawa, the women who sought unfettered access to abortion succeeded in closing Parliament for almost an hour with their protests. That same year Dr. Robert Makaroff was sentenced to three months in Oakalla prison, fined $15,000 and prevented from resuming his practice.

Ann Thomson believes women might have to return to the barricades again if anti-abortionists continue to gain strength within the fundamentalist Christian movement. With the Bush regime in the White House, and Liberals teetering in Ottawa, Thomson is anxious about neo-conservative politicians who would like to turn back the clock. That's why she fully documented the evolution of the struggle to gain abortion access in B.C. "I think readers will see that the anti-abortionists are less concerned with the 'unborn' than with controlling women's lives as closely as the Taliban in Afghanistan," she writes. "Beyond that, they want to impose an evangelical Christian dictatorship on our multi-cultural, multi-faith Canada." While Thomson' history culminates in a happy ending, it also serves as a wake-up call to all women and men who take access to abortion on demand in Canada for granted.

BOOKS:

Winning Choice on Abortion: How British Columbian and Canadian Feminists Won the Battles of the 1970s and 1980s (Trafford, 2004).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2005] "Women"