Founding Board of Directors of Women’s Health Clinic – Ellen Kruger, Dr. C. Yuen, Kathryn Edmunds, Linda Taylor, Niki Garson, Paula Gardner, Paula Harris, and Robert Janz

The opening of Women’s Health Clinic forty years ago was truly a trailblazing time for reproductive rights in Manitoba. Since then, thousands of people have walked through the organization’s doors to be met with support, respect and empowering care.

In 1981, contraceptive supplies were very limited and not easily obtained. There was the birth control pill but twenty years after its creation, many doctors were still reluctant to prescribe it; no one could be certain if a request for it would be received without judgment or shame. The growing women’s movement continued to challenge gender-based sexual restraints but unmarried women were even less likely to get the pill. Condoms were available but not always accessible to women. In the event of unplanned pregnancy, finding non-judgmental information about abortion was extremely difficult. Legal but with extreme restrictions and limited access, abortion was only available in few hospitals, requiring the signatures of two doctors and the approval of an abortion committee. From its earliest days, the founders of Women’s Health Clinic aspired to provide abortions at the clinic – a vision that took many years and dedicated work to fulfill.

The women – and a few men – who founded WHC were committed, energetic and determined to challenge the way health care especially reproductive health care was offered in this province.

When the clinic opened there was $30,000 in the bank, two part time doctors, an executive director and a receptionist. Pregnancy Information Service volunteers at Klinic had been offering birth control and abortion counselling for many years in a non-judgmental and caring way, and these volunteers formed a large part of the ongoing resources at Women’s Health Clinic.

Within a very short time, the demand for medical services, counselling, referrals and educational resources were so high, the Clinic had to move to a larger space. The commitment of the community and the advocacy of the women’s movement meant that relatively quickly, governments, foundations and others moved to fund parts of the service.

Today, Women’s Health Clinic has grown into a multi-faceted clinic that provides health services, education and advocacy. It provides reproductive health services including IUD insertion, birth control, abortion services, STI prevention and treatment. It also offers teen clinics and counselling for teens of all genders. Its commitment includes providing free birth control and safer sex supplies which empowers people to have control over their bodies while eliminating cost as a barrier. A Provincial Eating Disorder Prevention and Recovery Program provides individual and group counselling and dietitian services through a non-weight based approach. Pre- and postnatal classes and parenting groups in communities across Winnipeg and low-risk, mid-wife led births at the Birth Centre are also provided which the clinic manages. The clinic continues to advocate for expanded and timely services to all who need them, while sharing skills, tools and information with other providers to empower whole communities.

The values of the founding board, choice, inclusion, social justice, innovation and integrity continue to be at the heart of the work of Women’s Health Clinic.

Image: 

Top Left: Ellen Kruger, Linda Taylor, Paula Harris, Paula Gardner,
Bottom Left: Brenda Brand, Robert Janz, Dr. Kathryn Edmunds, Madame Justice Niki
Garson
Irene Bilan, Dr Yuen, deceased