Proponents of legal abortion have been preparing for this outcome for months. In southern Illinois, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are bracing for an increase in the number of Missouri women seeking care across the state line. Lawmakers in New York, Oregon and California have preemptively appropriated millions of dollars for abortion providers in their states, with New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) tweet in april that her state “will always be a haven for people who need abortion care.” Facebook groups have also filled with messages from individuals eager to accommodate those who need to “visit” their state, no questions asked.
Women who travel for abortions are nothing new. Before 1973 roe deer there were state-to-state travel in power, as well as highly organized transnational networks to guide women across borders.
Mexico, for example, was a major destination for American women needing abortion services from the 1940s through the 1960s, when clinics near the U.S. border in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez operated with little resistance from Mexican police. local. American women of modest means have used referral services to connect them with reliable abortion providers across the southern border, often traveling thousands of miles to access care.
Those who were better off could fly to Europe. In 1970, an abortion referral service, the London Agency Inc. of Springfield, Mass., offered American women transportation, passports, health certificates, hotel rooms and admission to a private hospital in London that could provide an abortion for $1,250.
In the late 1960s, another option for American women to obtain safe abortions abroad emerged – an especially convenient option for women living in the Northeast. In 1968, Canadian abortion practitioner and activist Henry Morgentaler began openly offering abortions in Montreal, although illegal under Canadian law. His clinic received referrals from across Canada and eventually from Abortion Clergy Counseling Service in the United States, a group of Protestant pastors and Jewish rabbis pledged to refer women to doctors for safe abortions. But the clinic has faced ongoing legal challenges. Montreal Police raided the Morgentaler clinic in June 1970 when the boyfriend of a woman traveling from the United States to have an abortion tipped off the FBI in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence for possession of marijuana. The FBI in turn contacts the Montreal authorities.
In 1969, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (father of the current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau) reformed the criminal code to legalize abortion in certain limited circumstances. An abortion would be permitted if a woman could prove that carrying the pregnancy to term would be harmful for physical or psychological reasons – a process that required a referral from a physician and an evaluation by a panel of physicians responsible for determining whether the physical condition or the mother’s psychological mental health would indeed be threatened by the pregnancy. Although American women can still travel north for abortions, these extra bureaucratic steps could be daunting and require additional resources and valuable time. Morgentaler continued to perform abortions without the approval of local committees and repeatedly sued until 1988.
After abortion was decriminalized in New York in 1970, the flow of women across the border reversed direction. The state’s new abortion law allowed women to get an abortion for any reason up to the 24th week of pregnancy, and there were no restrictions based on age or gender. marital status. Significantly for Canadian women and those from across the United States, there was no residency requirement; if you could get to New York, you could get a legal abortion there. About 70 percent of women who had abortions in the state in the first year after the law went into effect did not reside in New York State. In 1970 alone, the state offered abortions to 1,649 Canadian women. This number rose to 6,000 the following year. New York has become the number one destination for legal abortion for women in America and neighboring Canada over the past few years. roe deer was decided in 1973.
In a time before the Internet, women arranged abortions based on information provided by friends and acquaintances, university and college student support groups, and the mainstream press, which in Canada published numerous articles. on women crossing the border to terminate a pregnancy. Canada’s most popular English-language women’s magazine, Chatelaine, ran an advice column in 1972 that read, “New York State is much more humane toward women.” [than Canadian physicians and authorities] and they will accept Canadians without question.
Non-profit and for-profit organizations have sprung up to connect Canadian women to clinics in New York. The Betty Farhood Center was a major abortion referral agency in Montreal, and once New York legalized abortion, it opened branches in Ottawa, Quebec, and Chicoutimi. The agency offered information in English and French and organized trips and referrals to US clinics. Hospitals in western New York have been inundated with inquiries from Canadian women. A Rochester obstetrician said he and his associates receive an average of seven calls a day from doctors in Canada (as well as other US states).
Abortion clinics have sprung up in communities near the border to take advantage of the proximity to the Canadian market. A center in Montreal regularly referred women to a facility in Schuyler Falls, NY (near Plattsburgh, about an hour’s drive south of Montreal), where a converted farmhouse advertised itself as the Plattsburgh clinic. The community of Plattsburgh had a population of approximately 18,500 people in 1970, compared to Montreal’s population of over 2.5 million. The Plattsburgh Clinic eventually opened its own referral agency in Montreal.
The possibility of Canadian women traveling for abortions was so well known that in 1970, the University of Toronto student newspaper created a fake Monopoly game about student life. The game featured a Community Chest card that informed players, “You end up pregnant. If upper class, fly to England for an abortion. Pay $500. If you’re middle class, go to Buffalo and pay $300. If lower class, have the baby. Pay $500 in medical bills, sell your property, and give up.
With the Dobbs decision, the tides of abortion access have turned again. US states are now free to restrict access to abortion, while Canada will remain more open. This will affect Americans living in restrictive states as well as Canadians. Karina Gould, Canadian Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, recognized that Dobbs will negatively affect people in his country who do not live near a major city in Canada and depend on access to abortion in the United States.
But people will always seek abortions, legal or not. History has taught us that making abortion illegal does not eliminate abortions. Limiting access simply pushes people to seek abortions elsewhere, sometimes far from home and across international borders – the lucky ones, at least, who can afford to travel.