The Abortion Caravan

On April 27 in 1970, seventeen women left from the Vancouver Art Gallery in a cavalcade of cars going to Ottawa. They were inspired by the On-to-Ottawa trek of unemployed workers of 1935. Their bold demand was the repeal of all abortion laws – or they would declare war on the government, because women were dying from illegal abortion.

The 17 women stopped in cities across Canada to inform the public and mobilize other women, and the Caravan grew as many others joined. Their slogans were “Abortion is our Right”, “Every Child a Wanted Child” and “We are Furious Women”.

In Ottawa, 400 women assembled for a strategy meeting. They organized marches and demonstrations in Ottawa and at the Prime Minister’s house. On May 11, 1970, 80 women circled the eternal flame outside Parliament shouting slogans, while more than 30 women surreptitiously entered the House of Commons. They chained themselves to seats in the Visitors’ Gallery, then at 3pm took turns to stand up and shout for abortion rights. They succeeded in shutting down Parliament for the first time in Canadian history!

Although it took another 18 years for the Supreme Court to declare Canada’s abortion law to be unconstitutional, the women’s movement never gave up. Today, we continue to fight because some people are still being denied their right to choose.

Joyce Arthur
Executive Director
Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC)

For more on the history of the Abortion Caravan:

And A Call to Action now:

Then and Now: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1970 Abortion Caravan is a series of issue papers exploring abortion rights organizing in Canada from 1970 onward and showcasing the movement’s gains, concerns and demands. Intended as a “virtual Caravan for 2020”, the series begins with the Abortion Caravan Anniversary Primer.  All papers are posted on the Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights website.

Related Organizations

Vancouver Women’s Caucus

Related Issues and Actions Pages

Reproductive Rights and Choice

Related Photo Material

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Margaret Mahood

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Bonnie Beckwoman

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Raised Fists in Protest on Parliament Hill

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Raised Fist Salute!

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Pat Davitt

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Protest Outside the Prime Minister’s Residence

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Protesters with Coffin

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Vancouver Solidarity March

Abortion Caravan (1970) – After Release from House of Commons Protest

Abortion Caravan (1970) – May 9th March in Ottawa

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Burning the Law

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Members Prepare for Guerrilla Theatre

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Stop in Hope, B.C.

Abortion Caravan (1970) – On to Ottawa

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Circling the Centennial Flame

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Heading Off From Vancouver

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Leading the Ottawa March

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Toronto Rally

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Planning Meeting at Ottawa School

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Planning Meeting

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Bus from Montreal

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Ottawa March in Progress

Abortion Caravan (1970) – May 9th Ottawa March

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Montreal Women’s Liberation

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Kingston Women

Abortion Caravan (1970) – March in Ottawa

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Marge Hollibaugh and Dodie Weppler

Vancouver Women’s Caucus Abortion Campaign: Support for Dr. Robert Makaroff

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Volkswagen Van

Abortion Caravan (1970) – May 8 Demonstration in Vancouver

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Margie Taylor

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Cathy Walker

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Colette Malo

Abortion Caravan (1970) – The Women are Coming

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Calgary

Abortion Caravan (1970) – Jackie Larkin