An Unprecedented Demand

A sneak peek at the upcoming feature film Caravan

By Kate Handford

Photo c/o Simon Fraser University Archives, printed in Saturday Night magazine, ca. April 1970

Photo c/o Simon Fraser University Archives, printed in Saturday Night magazine, ca. April 1970

Canada, 1970—An eclectic convoy of women drives across Canada to the capital of Ottawa to make an unprecedented demand: unrestricted access to abortion. Drawing the support of hundreds of Canadian women along their route, the self-proclaimed ‘Abortion Caravan’ eventually smuggled themselves into the Houses of Parliament and disrupted proceedings by proclaiming their manifesto from the gallery. Spurred on by their action, women’s groups and activists continued their efforts, and 18 years later, in 1988, Canada decriminalized abortion. Now, in 2017, Canada remains one of the few countries in the world in which this is the case.

While conducting research for another project, I discovered the story of the Abortion Caravan with my friend and collaborator, filmmaker Prerna Winter. We were inspired by the tenacity and courage of these women, as well as the striking imagery that their journey evoked in our imaginations. Given the continued assault on women’s rights—reproductive and otherwise—across so many countries (most notably in Canada’s neighbor to the south), we feel the time is ripe to share this story. Our upcoming feature, Caravan (currently in development), follows the journey of a young woman (played by myself) in present-day Canada, in the aftermath of an abortion procedure. Along the way, the film traces the larger protest journey made by the Abortion Caravan of 1970. The film is a celebration of the freedom offered to this young woman through the choice she is able to make—and a celebration of every generation of women who have fought, and continue to fight for change. ★

Kate Handford is a Canadian actress based in London. She works across theater and film, often collaborating with filmmaker Prerna Winter to tell stories about womanhood. She has appeared in work at Shakespeare’s Globe, Arcola Theatre, London Short Film Festival, National Theatre Studio, and National Film Board of Canada, among others. 

Prerna Winter is a British filmmaker, currently working closely with Joanna Hogg on her highly anticipated double feature The Souvenir (featuring Robert Pattinson and Tom Burke).