THE CRIMINALIZATION OF BIRTH CONTROL
Since the beginning of time, women have fought for their right to control their own fertility and reproduction. Efforts were often hindered by restrictive legislation, conservative ideology, and moral rigidity.
During the Industrial Revolution, medical science made significant advances in the field of birth control with the development of the condom, the diaphragm, and the cervical cap. However, in 1892, efforts to establish family planning as a science of its own were thwarted when the Canadian Parliament implemented legislation which prohibited the dissemination of any information or devices relating to birth control. The mere discussion of birth control was judged as “obscene” and as a contributor to family breakdown.
This prohibitive legislation remained a part of the criminal code for nearly a century. During this period some doctors initiated underground birth control services but the information remained inaccessible for the majority of women. The law made birth control an issue of power, marginalizing the reproductive and contraceptive needs of women on the basis of economics, race, social class, and gender.
DE-CRIMINALIZING BIRTH CONTROL
Research on new and improved methods of contraceptives continued despite the illegality of birth control. In the 1950s, researchers developed the birth control pill. The monetary potential of such a drug was recognized, and lobbying efforts began to overturn the 1892 legislation. In 1969, the lobbying efforts proved to be successful and birth control became a legal constitutional right for women.
THE BEGINNING OF THE HALIFAX SEXUAL HEALTH CENTRE
Just weeks after the birth control law was overturned, a concerned group met to talk about the need for an organized family planning clinic in the Metro area. As an outcome of this concern, the Metro Family Planning Association was established in 1970. Its goals were to provide information, referrals, counselling and literature in a comfortable and accessible environment.
The Family Planning Association officially became incorporated in February, 1971, and opened its doors as an information and referral service that same year. Clinic services were added in 1974. The clinic provided what has become a critical service to the Metro area with the provision of comprehensive well-woman health care and information dissemination. As the need for information and services grew, mobile clinics were set up in outlying areas such as Musquodoboit, Sackville, Spryfield, and Preston. These clinics were eventually phased out. In 1993, the Metro Family Planning Association changed its name to Planned Parenthood Metro Clinic and became an affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada (PPFC). In 2006 the name was changed again to Halifax Sexual Health Centre, we are now affiliated to the International Planned Parenthood Federation through our membership with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.