a publication of BC's Pro-Choice Action Network
Summer 2001 Special Issue
Table of Contents
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 1999How 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 1999Pro-CAN’s Role
Pro-CAN’s proposal, submitted and accepted for funding by Status of Women Canada, included:
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.
“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 1999Workshop 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.”
Here are some examples of the recommendations that workshop participants proposed (read all of them in our joint final report):
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 1999Who 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
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.
The work of this coalition will directly address major failings of the current healthcare system.....
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:
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.