The woman at the centre of a dramatic forced abortion lawsuit sits down with the Interim

Editor’s note: In mid-November, the Hamilton Spectator reported that Rebecca Davies is suing the Ontario government, alleging abuse – including a forced abortion – while she was a ward of the state at a provincial training school 20 years ago. Interim contributor Deborah James-Josipovic interviewed Rebecca Davies recently at her home in Ajax, Ont.

Rebecca Davies has had a hard life. She’s had an especially hard childhood. When she was 11 years old, her father was brutally murdered, for reasons still unknown to her, and as a result Social Services separated her and her sister from their mother. The children were sent to a “training school” in Hamilton, Ont. Social Services had deemed Rebecca “unmanageable.”

“I think I was a very confused girl at the time of my father’s murder, but that’s to be expected.” she said in a recent interview with The Interim.

What happened during the next five years is truly an unbelievable and heart-wrenching story. Upon her arrival to Grandview, a training school for unmanageable girls, Rebecca started to plan a way to escape. When I asked her where she had planned on going if she would have made it, she answered simply, “Home.”

Rebecca says staff at Grandview abused the girls, physically, verbally, psychologically, and sexually. In her first attempt to escape Rebecca was caught, returned to the school, and put into isolation – “the Hole,” she calls it – for two days.

On the second attempt Rebecca smashed a window after placing a towel over the glass and fled to her older sister’s home. Police found her, however, and she was again taken back to what she refers to as “Hell.”

In her third attempt at freedom she made it, and this time was out for a month before she was caught. But what she didn’t know was that in her time away from school she had become pregnant.

It would be quite awhile before Rebecca would start to face the fact that she was pregnant. She had not menstruated at the time she was supposed to, and in order to hide it from the staff she continued to accept her sanitary items. “The girls in there were always asking for these items because we would use the wrappers to roll tobacco in for cigarettes,” she said.

The staff however soon became suspicious and decided to give Rebecca a urine test. The test came back negative; but three months later, convinced Rebecca must be pregnant, they ordered a blood test. It came back positive.

The staff was frantic, Rebecca says. After all, she tells me, “There were rumors that the male guards had been sexually abusing the girls.”

Rebecca was secretly happy. “Having an abortion never even entered my mind,” she said. “I knew my mother would help me.”

The other girls in the school were excited for her. “They knit and crocheted little things for my baby,” she smiles, “and we all would wonder if it was going to be a girl or a boy.”

Rebecca says, however, that Grandview had other plans. She says they pressured her strongly to abort. They told her that they had spoken to her mother, and her mother was not going to help her, and in fact couldn’t care less about her. Rebecca says they also confiscated all correspondence from her mother, and withheld messages.

When Rebecca still refused to agree to abort her child, they placed her in segregation for twenty-one days to “think it over.” The school contacted her mother and asked her to sign a consent form allowing them to obtain the abortion.

“They told my mother that I wasn’t very far along, and that if she agreed to the abortion they would release me to her care following the procedure,” Rebecca says.

Her mother never actually signed the consent form but she wrote them a letter agreeing to it.

“The thing about it was, I was already five months pregnant, and my mother had no idea,” says Rebecca. “She was deceived.”

The day of the abortion was one that Rebecca recalls with vivid detail.

“I tried to escape again that day, but hours before the abortion was to take place a girl ratted me out.”

The school did not take Rebecca to the hospital that day. They did not take her to a clinic. Instead, Rebecca says, they performed the procedure right in one of the rooms at Grandview.

Rebecca recalls them “strapping me down,” and “something like a tube being inserted.” Then came the grueling eight-hour labor.

When Rebecca asked the nurse what would happen to her baby, she says they told her that the baby “would be born already dead and they would take it to be examined and then thrown in the garbage.” She says she overheard a one doctor muttering that “this could be very dangerous.”

When the baby did arrive it was not dead.

“I looked down and I seen it wriggling.” Rebecca recalls. “I know that baby came out alive, it survived.”

Being only sixteen at the time and feeling like no one was going to care she laid silent.

“The doctors and nurse were acting like there was nothing unusual or wrong going on.” she recounts, “It was so traumatic, all I was thinking was that I wanted that baby.”

Rebecca did ask one thing that day, though. She asked the nurse what the sex of the baby was.

“She was so nice to me she came back and whispered in my ear that I had a boy.” Rebecca looks away, saying, “That was very important to me because it gave me some sort of connection to the baby, it’s hard to explain.”

When Rebecca was finally allowed to see her mother she was angry. She asked her mother “Why did you let them do this? I was five and half months pregnant!” Her mother was astonished.

In spite of the deal Rebecca says was made with her mother, she remained at Grandview and was once again isolated. “They told me I needed to rest.” she says.

But Rebecca couldn’t sleep, and became severely depressed. When she tried to slash her wrists, they bandaged her up and returned her to isolation.

A year later Rebecca earned a pass. She married a friend the first week out, and with that gained her permanent freedom from Grandview.

“I knew if I was married, they’d let me go,” she explains. “He was a good friend trying to help me out.”

Within that year Rebecca became pregnant again, but this time she had a choice, and she made the right one.

“My mother helped me, just like I knew she would have, and I got myself a small apartment and eventually I had another baby. One girl and one boy,” she says, full of pride. “I am now a proud grandmother of two.”

It is nice to see her smile. When I ask her if she ever thinks about the child she lost and if she suffers from depression today, her smile fades.

“That’s why I got a lawyer,” she Rebecca says. “I want them to understand what they did to me. They never even gave me the chance to be a mother.” And then she adds in a quieter voice, “I still think about the baby. I think of how old he would be now.”

Rebecca decided to bring a lawsuit against the government (as she was a ward of the Crown while she was at Grandview) for five years of abuse. She and her lawyer will expose her forced abortion story to the public as well as the justice system.

She could not comment on the particulars of the case, but she told me she has already turned down one compensation package that was offered to her by Grandview.

“They settled with a number of others, including my sister, for a total of 11 million, to be divided between the other victims who have come forward.”

“I’m not really doing this for the money,” she continues. “It’s more about the life they took.”

When she was in her thirties, Rebecca was walking by the window display at the office of Simcoe Voice for Life, in Simcoe, Ont. She spotted the small plastic fetal development models.

“I wanted to know what the size, and how my baby might have looked like when I had the abortion,” she says. “I went in and when I told the lady my story she helped me contact a lawyer, and told me I may be suffering from post-abortion syndrome.”

Rebecca does suffer from post-abortion syndrome. “It’s like an empty hole inside,” she says.

Rebecca’s story is now being heard and people surrounding her assure us they are going to support her fight. We will be following this case closely as well, and hopefully Rebecca can begin to heal, and finally see justice done for her and her lost child.