One of the largest stories to go unreported in British Columbia in 2002 was the total and utter failure of B.C.’s feminist movement to maintain control and direction of the Everywoman’s Health Centre abortuary, due largely to pro-life pressure that never relented.

The move of the abortuary to a new location, which is under the control of the provincial government, was indeed an admission of failure. It was actually British Columbia’s first abortuary closing. Pro-life advocates hope it will not be the last.

Back in 1993, all members of the board of directors of Everywoman’s Health Centre resigned. A plea was sent out on July 21, 1993 for new members to stand for election, as an annual general meeting held on June 9, 1993 found no one willing to stand for election to run the society.

Behind the scenes, a civil war was breaking out among Vancouver’s feminists. Two factions were emerging – one group wanted Everywoman’s to continue in the direction it was going, “within the boundaries of the medical establishment,” while the other viewed the foundation of Everywoman’s as a victory for the feminist movement. Lamenting the direction the leadership of the abortuary was taking them, the latter group wrote in July of 1993:

“EHC is our cIinic, a symbol of the health and strength of the women’s movement. It is our connection with women’s needs and dreams. It can also be the starting point of a renewed struggle to put women’s reproductive health back where it belongs – in our own hands. It is our choice. We can comply with the status quo, or we can ‘run with the wolves.’ United, we can go forward to challenge compliance.”

A motion was made that: 1. The board challenge the authority of the B.C. College of Physicians to impose regulations on the abortuary; specifically: a) the position of medical director be left vacant, and the requirement to have an MD as medical director be questioned; b) the board refuse to purchase expensive and “unnecessary” equipment solely to satisfy accreditation requirements; c) the board reject the demands of the abortuary doctors for more money; d) the board call upon the Ministry of Health to adopt guidelines for the self-regulation of abortuaries, comparable to those being developed for midwifery services, including the right of “service providers” to determine appropriate protocols for the provision of abortion and related “services,” and 2. Regular quarterly meetings of the society be instituted to keep the membership informed and to reactivate a “broad base” in the women’s movement.

A new board was finally elected in the summer of 1993, rejecting the claims of the feminists. It would firmly establish Everywoman’s Health Centre as part of the “medical establishment” once and for all. B.C.’s feminists had lost their battle and their control.

The abortuary continued to operate within the confines of the medical community, with abortionists such as Ellen Wiebe using the facility as part of her numerous “studies” on abortion-related issues.

Despite numerous attempts, the pro-abortion movement seemed to have almost abandoned Everywoman’s to its fate; a fate that was not a “triumph for the women’s movement,” but simply a medical clinic run by the medical community.

The year 2002 would seal its fate. In a major admission of defeat, Everywoman’s Health Centre would close its doors, to reopen within the confines and safety of a government building run by BCBC.

March of 1995 had seen a report by a “Criminal Harassment Unit” submitted to the then-provincial NDP government. While the copy released to the public was heavily censored, pro-lifers were able to obtain a complete, uncensored copy through an anonymous source.

Recommendation three of the report urged that the “B.C. government examine the feasibility of locating abortion clinics within government-owned buildings.” The censoring of this key recommendation was an admission of the effectiveness of pro-life witnessing for life – prayer vigils, constant picketing and sidewalk counselling.

Indeed, one of the “findings” of the censored report also noted that “a number of doctors stated that anti-abortion activity (in British Columbia) caused them to quit (performing abortions) and new ones not to start.” So when word leaked out in the summer of 2002 that Everywoman’s was moving, pro-lifers already knew it was a victory.

Ironically, at a press conference called by feminist leaders to attack pro-life activist and Everywoman’s protester Sissy von Dehn, the feminists were confronted with the leaked information – that Everywoman’s was moving.

Said Campaign Life Coalition B.C.’s John Hof: “Clearly, the heroes in all of this are Sissy von Dehn and the numerous people of good will who braved the elements, physical and verbal abuse for 14 years, all so they could peacefully witness for life.”

He added: “Make no mistake, Everywoman Health Centre’s move to a government building is a total and unequivocal admission of defeat by Vancouver’s feminist movement. What they held up for so long as a standard has been forced to vacate. It is a testimony to the effectiveness of witnessing for life. How many times did they recite the mantra of ‘free-standing abortion clinics?’ Well, they don’t work. They lose too many customers when we are able to offer real alternatives.”

Pro-lifers don’t know for sure, but they suspect a similar move by the Elizabeth Bagshaw abortuary in July 2000, to another building also owned by BCBC, was a result of acceptance of the Criminal Harassment Unit report’s recommendations as well. Reportedly, the landlords at the abortuary’s old location were not interested in renewing the lease for the abortuary.