Pro-Choice Press

a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network

Summer 2001 Special Issue

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Province-Wide Coalition Forged!

Province-wide Coalition Forged!

The Pro-Choice Action Network, in partnership with Planned Parenthood of British Columbia, embarks on a ground-breaking sexual and reproductive health-care restructuring consultation project.

“A healthy start in life provides the capacity to develop a positive self- image, make healthy choices, establish satisfying relationships, and cope with life challenges…the very basis of sexual and reproductive health throughout life.” - Health Canada 1999

How It All Started

In February 2001, the Pro-Choice Action Network (Pro-CAN) successfully obtained special project funding to assist in developing an initiative reviewing sexual and reproductive healthcare services in British Columbia.

Earlier this year, Pro-Can contacted Status of Women Canada (SWC) seeking funding on selected initiatives. SWC in turn asked Pro-CAN to consider partnering with Planned Parenthood of British Columbia (PPABC) on a project for which PPABC had approached SWC. Mr. Greg Smith, Executive Director, PPABC, had solicited special project funding from SWC to pursue a multi-agency review of sexual and reproductive healthcare policy and services. However, because PPABC is not a grassroots women's equality organization per se, and Pro-CAN is, SWC pro-actively suggested a collaboration that would allow SWC to provide funding to ensure the full and active participation of women's equality advocates in the PPABC's multi-stakeholder review exercise.

This proposed review on PPABC's part came as a response to the initiatives articulated within the Health Canada document entitled “A Report from Consultations on a Framework for Sexual and Reproductive Health” (see the Health Canada website—or, available by mail from Health Canada publications at 613-954-5995). The Health Canada report is a product of 18 months of investigation and consultations led by Health Canada with other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, and key national non-government agencies. This process evaluated current healthcare services, with the resulting report providing a foundation for provincial responses in the development of future sexual and reproductive healthcare policies, programs, and services.

At SWC’s invitation, Pro-CAN submitted a proposal to collaborate with PPABC on this review initiative. Pro-CAN regarded this as a prime opportunity to demonstrate our skills as leaders in advocacy for sexual and reproductive rights and our ability to link like-minded persons and agencies.

“Services and programs should recognize diversity and aim to remove physical, attitudinal, and psychological barriers.” — Health Canada 1999

Pro-CAN’s Role

Pro-CAN’s proposal, submitted and accepted for funding by Status of Women Canada, included:

  • inviting a diversity of equality-seeking grassroots women’s organizations to the stakeholder’s review
  • assisting these and other organizations in adopting and implementing any proposed changes
  • establishing a working coalition of agencies interested in initiating changes to sexual and reproductive healthcare policies, programs or, services
  • participating in co-authoring a formal report of the evaluative review findings to be submitted to provincial health ministry and federal health departments
  • disseminating the review information to Pro-CAN’s associates and supporters

See how you can participate in the working coalition.

Pro-CAN’s first objective was to hire a coordinator to oversee fulfillment of the initiative requirements. The coordinator, Lisa Adams, was primarily responsible for ensuring a diversity of equality seeking grassroots women’s organizations were represented at the workshop and throughout the coalition building to follow.

In a very short three weeks, Pro-CAN successfully contacted and invited a maximum funded 10 agency representatives from across British Columbia. There were of course many more agencies interested and many more we wish we could have invited. Despite the extreme short notice, Pro-CAN was thrilled to facilitate representation from equality seeking and women’s organizations from Fort Nelson, Port Alberni, Terrace, Surrey and Vancouver.

At the Workshop

The Dunsmuir Lodge in Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island, a beautiful and well appointed facility, was the site of two full days of plenary and breakaway discussion group sessions. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Penny Ballem (BC Women’s Hospital).

The first morning opened with a brief plenary, followed by some large group open discussion, then four smaller focus group discussions. The day ended with a return to the larger group.

At the end of the first day, each small discussion groups’ representative provided feedback on their group process and discussion to the facilitator (Penny Ballem). The second day opened with a large overview summation of each groups’ discussions from the first day. In addition, there was a submission of points for process and discussion clarification during group work.

The second day again ended with a summation of each groups’ discussions to the facilitator and alternate reps. The groups were self-selected, being comprised of individuals interested in discussing principles 1&8, 2&6, 3&7, and 4&5. The principles were so grouped for simplicity and for apparent complementary content.

Eight Principles and Strategic Directions

"Eight principles should guide the actions to maintain, protect, and promote the sexual and reproductive health of all people in Canada." — Health Canada 1999

The following are the eight principles taken directly from “Principles and Strategic Directions” in the Report from Consultations on a Framework for Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Principle 1: All individuals are sexual beings throughout their lives.

Principle 2: Individual autonomy and responsibility should guide all aspects of decision making.

Principle 3: The promotion of sexual and reproductive health and prevention of problems will reap the greatest benefits.

Principle 4: Health interventions should be safe, effective, and evidence-based, and individuals should be fully informed before making decisions.

Principle 5: The simplest and least invasive intervention that is appropriate and effective should be used in delivering health services.

Principle 6: Access to sexual and reproductive health services should be equitable, responsive to diversity, and not limited because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, culture, language, socio-economic status, disability, or geographic location.

Principle 7: Individuals should be protected from diseases and hazardous environments that can adversely affect their sexual and reproductive health.

Principle 8: Families and communities should provide a supportive physical and psycho-social environment that enables all their members to maintain their sexual and reproductive health.

Read Our Joint Report

In July, Planned Parenthood of British Columbia and Pro-Choice Action Network will publish a joint report summarizing discussions and recommendations from the March Workshop. When available, view a copy of this report at:

List of Participants

The following agencies participated in the Workshop on Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare on 27 and 28 March 2001.

  • AIDS Vancouver Island, 1601 Blanshard Street Victoria, BC V8W 2J5
  • Dr. P. Ballem, V.P. Women’s and Family Health Programs, BC Women’s Hospital Room D213, 4500 Oak Street Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1
  • BC Ministry for Children and Families, PO Box 9057 Station Prov Govt., Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
  • BC Ministry of Women’s Equality, PO Box 9056 Station Prov Govt., Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
  • BC Persons with AIDS Society, 1107 Seymour Street Vancouver, BC V6B 5S8
  • BC Teachers Federation, 100 - 550 West 6th Avenue Vancouver, BC V5Z 4P2
  • “Can We Talk” Parent Program, 3884 Marine Avenue Belcarra, BC V3H 4R9
  • Elizabeth Bagshaw Women’s Clinic, 200 - 1177 West Broadway Vancouver, BC V6H 1G3
  • Everywoman’s Health Centre, 2005 E. 44th Avenue Vancouver, BC V5P 1N1
  • First Nations Chiefs Health Committee, 708 - 100 Park Royal South West Vancouver, BC V7T 1A2
  • Fort Nelson Women’s Resource Centre, PO Box 2019 Fort Nelson, BC V0C 1R0
  • Good Company Communications, 525 Carral Street Vancouver, BC V6B 2J8
  • Justice for Girls, 606 - 825 Granville Street Vancouver, BC V6K 1K9
  • Kelowna and District Pro-Choice Society, 1122 Centennial Crescent Kelowna, BC V1Y 6K2
  • McCreary Centre Society, 401 North Esmond Avenue Burnaby, BC V5C 1S4
  • Ministry of Women’s Equality, PO Box 9899 Station Prov Govt., Victoria, BC V8W 9T9
  • Office of the Childrens’ Commissioner, PO Box 9207 Station Prov Govt., Victoria, BC V8W 9J7
  • Pacific Disabled Women’s Network, 766 East Georgia Street Vancouver, BC V6A 2A3
  • Planned Parenthood Association of BC, 201 - 1001 West Broadway Vancouver, BC V6H 1B4
  • Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, PO Box 36116 Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3S9
  • Population and Public Health Branch, BC/Yukon Region Health Canada 440F - 757 West Hastings Street Vancouver, BC V6C 1A1
  • Port Alberni Women’s Resource Centre, 3082 3rd Avenue Port Alberni, BC V9Y 2A5
  • Pro-Choice Action Network, Suite 512 - 1755 Robson Street Vancouver, BC V6G 3B7
  • Progressive Intercultural Community Services, 109 - 12412 82nd Avenue Surrey, BC V3W 3E9
  • Provincial Health Officer for BC, Room 3002 - 1810 Blanshard Street Victoria, BC V8V 1X4
  • Registered Nurses Association of BC, 30 - 4051 Shelbourne Street Victoria, BC V8N 3E5
  • Sexual and Reproductive Health Promotion Unit, Health Canada Jeanne Mance Building A/L 1907A4 Tunney’s Pasture Ottawa ON K1A 1B4
  • Status of Women Canada, 430 - 757 West Hastings Street Vancouver, BC V6C 1A1
  • Sir Winston Churchill School, 7055 Heather Street Vancouver, BC V6P 3P7
  • Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, 211 - 1676 Martin Drive Surrey, BC V4A 6E7
  • South Vancouver Island Family Planning Society, 2170 Mount Newton Cross Road Saanichton, BC V8M 1T8
  • SUCCESS, 28 West Pender Street Vancouver, BC V6B 1R6
  • Surrey-Delta Immigrant Services Society, 1107 - 7330 137th Street Surrey, BC V3W 1A3
  • Terrace Women’s Centre, 4542 Park Avenue Terrace, BC V8G 1V4
  • The Positive Women’s Network, 614 - 1033 Davie Street Vancouver, BC V6E 1M7
  • UBC Students for Choice, AMS, 6138 Student Union Building, UBC, Vancouver BC V7T 1Z1
  • Women’s Health Bureau, BC Ministry of Health 1515 Blanshard Street Victoria, BC V8W 3C8
  • YouthCO AIDS Society, 203 - 319 W. Pender Street Vancouver, BC V5P 1N1

“Social values, attitudes and expectations shape our sense of our own sexuality and our sexual behaviour, as well as our views and choices about reproduction.”

“People's knowledge, attitudes, intentions and skills are key determinants of healthy choices about sex, sexuality and reproduction.”

“Teen pregnancy and abortion rates are lower in countries where there is wide access to sexuality education and contraceptive services.” — Health Canada 1999

Workshop Results

A Personal Review

“I found the workshop to be an excellent opportunity to gain information and insight on reproductive health. I probably would not have read the Framework document with as much interest had it not been for the workshop. The attendants reflected a wide spectrum of interests, and the opportunity to chat with people was very valuable in many regards, ranging from info on Mifepristone trials to buying my next computer! I was particularly pleased that Pro-CAN took the time to make sure that women's groups outside of the Lower Mainland were represented. Thanks for the opportunity to attend.”
— Participant from Fort Nelson Women’s Resource Centre

Sample Recommendations

Here are some examples of the recommendations that workshop participants proposed (read all of them in our joint final report):

  • Attitudinal change in individuals and communities is an important aspect of an enabling environment. The media, in particular the ethnic media, should be used as vehicle for effecting attitudinal change and linking to community programming.
  • Health promotion programs must be targeted to their intended audiences. In this regard, it is recommended that particular attention be given to the needs of immigrant women, and the development of health promotion programming to meet those needs.
  • There is a need for more positively framed educational material about RU-486 and emergency contraception.

First Nations Perspective

A representative from Everywoman’s Health Centre (name withheld upon request) attended the Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare workshop in March. This representative, like many Pro-CAN invitees, attended the workshop wearing “several hats”. She is a committed pro-choice activist with over 25 years experience working for the advancement of women’s issues. Primarily though, she brought her perspective and wisdom as a First Nation lesbian woman. Subsequent to the workshop wrap-up, Pro-CAN sought her insight and evaluation of the workshop outcomes. With her approval, the following is based on a personal conversation shared with the writer in June 2001.

From the outset, the representative (I’ll call her Anna) was clear that her priority in attending the conference was to address issues specific to First Nations persons. Thus her evaluation reflects this perspective.

Anna states she was “not surprised” that she was one of only three First Nations representatives present at the Workshop. She states that it has been her personal experience that “while conferences like this encourage participation and input for First Nations people, our voices are seldom reflected in the drafts or summaries, leaving us to wonder why we waste our time in attending when we have so many pressing issues to deal with in our own community. It is unfortunate that Pro-Can had only a brief two-week period to extend invitations to the workshop. The preliminary draft of the Sexual and Reproductive Workshop is an example of this statement. Discussion on aboriginal health issues fails to appear, yet the First Nations women who were present were vocal.”

For the record, Pro-CAN had only a brief two and one half week period to extend invitations to the Workshop. Pro-CAN contacted eight First Nations agencies to extend invitations. All declined for various reasons. Anna acknowledges that her attendance of the Sexual and Reproductive Health Workshop was possible only through the invitation extended by Pro-CAN. In addition, it is imperative to note the preliminary draft of the March Workshop sustained a subsequent re-write by both Pro-CAN and Planned Parenthood before distribution to contributing individuals, agencies, government ministries, and the general public.

With respect to the formation of a sexual and reproductive health coalition Anna is unequivocal. There must be some fundamental assurances “built into” the coalition mandate from the outset that aboriginal voices will not be silenced, marginalized, or “tokenized” on issues specific to First Nations populations. Most importantly, First Nations populations must be given “full partnership” status from the outset of any strategic planning or coalition foundation.

Pro-CAN supports Anna’s assertion. It is imperative that any consultative process be wholly inclusive of all affected and concerned parties. The Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare coalition can be a process that both addresses the historical abuses of aboriginal persons and provides redress of those abuses by improving policies, programs, and services of a reconfigured healthcare system.

As shown by those attending the March 2001 Workshop, we all learned more about ourselves and our lives when our Aboriginal sisters spoke of theirs. Let’s keep that spirit of connection and learning going. Join the work of the Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare Coalition.

“Those who have less power, who experience economic hardship, who have less access to information and services, and who live in marginalized circumstances tend to be most affected.” — Health Canada 1999

Who Is the Pro-Choice Action Network?

The Pro-Choice Action Network (Pro-CAN) is the oldest and largest pro-choice organization in BC. We formed in 1987 to secure safe, fully funded, high-quality abortion services for women. Formerly known as the BC Coalition for Abortion Clinics, we changed our name in 1998.

As a coalition, we have had the active involvement and support of the labour movement, women’s groups, the United Church, student groups, health care professionals, and social justice groups. In turn, we work in solidarity with such groups to promote women’s rights and social justice.

Since we successfully established Vancouver’s first abortion clinic in 1988, the Everywoman’s Health Centre, the Pro-Choice Action Network has broadened its mandate. We are still primarily a political organization (we do not have charitable status) but are increasingly focused on public education around reproductive rights and health services, as well as support for health care professionals involved in delivering those services.

One of our long-term goals is to help establish a broad-based movement that undertakes political action and public education on sexual and reproductive health issues, especially the right to choice on abortion. We want to work with and support health care workers, women’s groups, pro-choice groups and other groups that are interested in preserving and enhancing sexual and reproductive rights. The recent groundbreaking workshop sponsored by Planned Parenthood and the Pro-Choice Action Network gives us an opportunity to start fulfilling that goal. Please join us!

Some of Our Activities and Accomplishments

  • Since 1987, we have organized and hosted countless rallies, marches, celebrations, vigils, protests, and other events to publicize abortion rights and counteract anti-choice activity.
  • We publish the quarterly newsletter Pro-Choice Press, with 19 issues published so far.
  • We publish fact sheets and other educational materials, and we write articles, letters, and opinion pieces for outside publication.
  • We do public speaking, ranging from small local audiences to large international audiences.
  • We created a website in 1998 (, with over 35,000 hits to date.
  • We act as media spokespersons for all Vancouver abortion clinics, and support clinics and health care providers on safety and security issues.
  • We lobby and liase with law enforcement and government ministries.
  • We participated in the inter-ministerial Abortion Services Working Group to help draft and implement the Access to Abortion Services Act in 1994/95, and we re-started this group in 1998.
  • We were part of the Task Force on Access to Contraception and Abortion Services, which published its report, Realizing Choices, in 1994.


The Pro-Choice Action Network believes that women are responsible moral beings who are fully capable of making decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives without interference from the state or any party. We support women’s right to decide whether and when to bear children, and access to the means to exercise that right, including contraception, abortion, and the social programs and services necessary to ensure the health of themselves and those close to them. We affirm and support a feminist vision of health care, in which women are assisted to make their own choices in a safe, supportive, non-judgemental, and confidential setting.

Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare Coalition

for British Columbia, Canada

If that caught your eye then........

you must be interested in sexual and reproductive healthcare!

If so then............

you’re probably frustrated with current policies and services.

  • Do you want changes?
  • Looking for pro-active work?
  • Want to work on a stimulating new project in your own community?

The work of this coalition will directly address major failings of the current healthcare system.....

  • Never worked in a coalition before?
  • Do you have skills to share from all your other coalition work?

If this appeals to you, then now is the time to sign on and make a difference!

This coalition, sponsored by Pro-Choice Action Network, has a mandate to review current sexual and reproductive healthcare policies, programs, and services in the province of British Columbia.

This coalition is linking government, community, not-for-profit, consumer, service provider, and relevant population representatives (aboriginal, LGBT, senior, ethnic, youth, disabled, etc.) to determine practical collaborative steps necessary to make change

This coalition is just one of many responses to the need to improve the sexual and reproductive health of people in BC.

Joining the Coalition is free! For more information contact:

Pro-Choice Action Network
Suite 512, 1755 Robson St.
Vancouver, BC V6G 3B7
Tel: 604-736-2800
Fax: 604-736-2869

Planned Parenthood BC
#201 – 1001 W. Broadway
Vancouver, BC V6H 4R1
Tel: 604-731-4252
Fax: 604-731-4698

Yes! I / We would like to join the Sexual/Reproductive Health Coalition

In an email message, tell us a little about yourself/your organization and what you would like to do with the Coalition. What projects or programs does your community need? How can the Coalition help you improve existing sexual and reproductive health services?

Please provide your name, organization, address, telephone, fax, and email address.

Thank you!