1969

BIRTH CONTROL BECOMES LEGAL

Birth control is decriminalized in Canada’s Criminal Code. In theory, the legislation gives Canadians the right to prevent pregnancy without engaging in illegal behaviour. In practice, abortion care is not equally accessible across the country. Although abortion is not illegal, access to services is restricted, requiring approval from a panel of community physicians.

1970

INFORMATION IS EMPOWERING

Canada’s abortion caravan captures headlines as 17 women drive a van from Vancouver to Ottawa, rallying for support for reproductive justice, stopping in Winnipeg along the way. In the van a black coffin is filled with coat hangers; each one representing someone who died from an unsafe abortion. On Parliament Hill, 40 women shut down the House of Commons, chaining themselves in the galley in a demand to recognize women’s right to control their own bodies.

 

In Winnipeg, medical students and volunteer physicians organize to help local youth and people passing through the city with medical, transportation, and substance-use issues. They offer services through a drop-in centre called Committee Representing Youth Problems Today (CRYPT).

1971

CRYPT GROWS INTO KLINIC

CRYPT receives project funding from the Manitoba Health Services Commission grant to provide basic medical and counselling services, including a 24-hour crisis line. Named Klinic, the program operated out of 667 Notre Dame Avenue under the Winnipeg General Hospital Outpatient Department

1972

DEFUNDED BUT DETERMINED

The Klinic program is defunded but receives interim funding. From their new location at 567 Broadway, staff negotiates to establish permanent funding. In the fall of 1972, Executive Directors of the newly established Klinic Health Centre at Winnipeg General Outpatient Department were approached by community members laying out the groundwork for a proposed service to make birth control information more available to the public.

1973

PREGNANCY INFORMATION SERVICE

Klinic Community Health establishes permanent funding and forms Pregnancy Information Service, Inc. (PIS). Solely staffed and coordinated by volunteers, PIS offers limited services on weekday evenings and weekend afternoons.

1974

BRANCHING OUT

Through a series of grant funding, PIS expands its services into other areas of health education, advocacy and referral. Four years later, PIS becomes incorporated, gains charitable status and elects its first board of directors.

1981

With the support of Klinic, the board of PIS puts forward the vision of a unique health clinic to provide pro-choice, women-centered medical care, health education, counselling, and advocacy. With a three-year, federal government community development grant, individual donations and community support, WHC opens its doors on May 4, 1981 at 555 Broadway with a staff of three and many volunteers.

1982

MOVING TO MEET DEMAND

The need and demand for Women’s Health Clinic services is immediate and strong, prompting a move to a larger space at 414 Graham Ave, and is fully funded by Manitoba Health.

1983

WINNIPEG’S MORGENTALER CLINIC

Dr. Henry Morgentaler opens a private abortion clinic at 883 Corydon Ave. WHC now offers client information about hospital-based abortion services (covered by Manitoba Health) as well as referrals to Morgentaler’s fee-for-service clinic.

1985

teen drop-in gets its start

WHC establishes Teen Drop-In Clinic for young people aged 13-19 to access birth control information and supplies, and general medical services. 

 

WHC establishes the Birth Control & Unplanned Pregnancy Volunteer Counsellor training program to train volunteers to provide peer-based support and reproductive and sexual health information.

 

Police raid Dr. Morgentaler’s Winnipeg clinic twice, charging him with seven offenses.

1987

WOMEN AND HIV/AIDS

WHC adds HIV/AIDS testing & counselling to its medical services and, recognizing that women’s needs and concerns are largely ignored within the medical system, continues public health advocacy for women-centred approaches to HIV/AIDS education and care.

1988

CANADA DECRIMINALIZES ABORTION

In this historic decision, the Supreme Court of Canada determines that abortion care is health care; the medical procedure to terminate pregnancy gains the same legal status as other surgical procedures.  In practice, access to safe abortion care continues to vary across Canadian communities.

1989

MOTHERHOOD STRESS COUNSELLING PROGRAM

Throughout history, motherhood has also been one of. key points for denying women’s rights and equality, and for discriminating. against them. WHC launches a new peer-counselling  program, offering women-centred information and support to guide mothers of new babies through the early adjustments to parenting.

1997

GOES TO THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA

In response to an government-mandated order for treatment of a pregnant Indigenous woman who struggled with substance use. WHC joins a coalition that gets intervenor status in the “G-Case” and appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada to argue against forced detention and treatment for pregnant women.

 

The same year, Women’s Health Clinic receives the Commonwealth Secretariat Award for Excellence in Women’s Health Practice. 

 

 

2000

MIDWIFERY BECOMES LEGAL IN MANITOBA

On June 1, The Manitoba Legislature proclaims the Midwifery Act, regulating the practice of midwifery, and establishing midwives as primary health care providers. After decades of community and public health advocacy in support of traditional birth practices, legalized midwifery services become available in Manitoba. WHC incorporates midwifery services into its medical program.

 

WHC expands its drop-in Teen Clinic to provide school-based services at Institut collégial Vincent Massey Collegiate in Winnipeg.

2004

JANE’S CLINIC ADVANCES ABORTION CARE

Morgentaler’s private clinic in Winnipeg closes and women in the community organize to purchase the clinic. Renamed Jane’s Clinic, the facility now operates as a community owned, not-for-profit clinic to provide aspiration abortion services.

 

When the Province of Manitoba agrees to cover community-based abortion services, in addition to hospital-based services, the abortion services of Jane’s Clinic amalgamates with the spectrum of medical services at Women’s Health Clinic.

2006

INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES HAVE ALWAYS HAD MIDWIVES

These traditional skills have survived colonialism. In September, University College of the North begins to offer a Baccalaureate Program in Aboriginal Midwifery, with the goal to provide midwifery services in Northern and remote communities in Manitoba.

2011

After decades of community advocacy, WHC opens the first birth centre in Manitoba in partnership with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, offering midwifery-led alternatives to hospital and home birth.

2013

FIGHT FOR REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE

In response to a rally to defund abortion services in Manitoba, WHC organizes a counter-protest at the Manitoba Legislature, recognizing that reproductive rights continue to be at threat.

2014

CELEBRATING CHOICE

WHC hosts Celebrate Choice, an evening of community advocates and speakers, acknowledging 25 years of reproductive choice in Canada.

2015

CHALLENGING ABORTION STIGMA

WHC hosts community event Pro-Choice for Voice: sharing abortion experiences through spoken word.

2016

SHIFTING SEXUAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVES

WHC begins offering Sexual Health Information Facilitator Training (SHiFT), professional development for service providers across Manitoba, focusing on gender- and culturally-diverse audiences.

2017

THE ABORTION PILL COMES TO CANADA

Mifegymiso (medication abortion pill) becomes available in Canada after decades of reproductive choice lobbying. However, costs are not covered equally throughout Canadian provinces and territories, limiting access to the medication.

 

WHC hosts Doula training at the Birth Centre with the Indigenous Doula Collective.

2018

EXPANDING SERVICES

WHC begins to offer medication abortion services as part of its spectrum of reproductive care.

 

WHC develops Pregnancy and Infant Loss: A Guide to Coping with Loss, resources for individuals/families and service providers.

 

Klinic partners with University of Manitoba to provide sexual assault services on campus.

 

WHC co-organizes panel discussion Rights from the Start: Sexual and Reproductive Health in a National Pharmacare Strategy.

2019

UNIVERSAL COVERAGE / UNEQUAL ACCESS

The Province of Manitoba begins to provide universal coverage for Mifegymiso. However, access to the medication remains uneven across many communities due to geographic challenges in care provider training.

2020

PIVOTING WITH THE PANDEMIC

Controlling our own reproductive health is a basic human right (World Health Organization). The global Covid-19 pandemic prompts responsive collaboration among Manitoba’s health care providers to ensure timely access to sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion care.

 

WHC expands access to medication abortion outside of Winnipeg, working with the Northern Regional Health Authority and individual nursing stations to train providers and make medication abortion available in more Manitoba communities.

2021

RECONCILIATION AND A NEW NAME

WHC establishes its Dragonfly Support Program, offering counselling, resources, and volunteer training to support Manitobans experiencing pregnancy and infant loss.

 

In an Indigenous naming ceremony, the Birth Centre receives the gift of a new Spirit name: Ode’imin (ooh-day-min). The name is the Ojibwa word for strawberry, meaning “this is where new life comes from.”

The story of reproductive justice -past, present, and future in Manitoba belongs to many people and organizations. At the core of our advocacy work is our commitment to ensuring that diverse voices – too often absent from histories – are heard.

While Women’s Health Clinic is an important part of this story, we see ourselves as the stewards of it, and not the subject. We invite you to contribute to this growing history – we would love to hear from you to enrich this story that belongs to all Manitobans.

Please contact us at WHC@womenshealthclinic.org

Thank you to Roland Sawatzky, Curator of History, Manitoba Museum for assistance