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Collins, Anne.

Toronto, Lester & Orpen Dennys, c1985. 277pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-88619-060-6. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Barbara Jo May

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

This is a well-researched journalistic account of a very divisive issue, abortion in Canada today. Collins, a freelance writer, has attempted to be objective, but what makes this book more interesting and useful than a news-clipping file is her diary-like style. If the author's voice is sometimes intrusive, it is always honest. The Big Evasion gives the history of the abortion issue in Canada since the early 1960s, but the main part of the work is focused on recent courtroom events such as the attempt to have the fetus considered as a person under the Canadian Charter of Rights and the trial of Dr. Henry Morgentaler and two colleagues in 1984. We are given much information on the kinds of evidence and tactics used in these court cases, as well as a consideration of the implications of the decisions. Dense legal arguments are juxtaposed to first-person stories of women: accounts of the circumstances in which individual women chose to abort or not, and sketches of women who work in an abortion clinic or for a pro-life organization. Activists on both sides of the issue, from Canadian Abortion Rights Action League to Alliance for Life, from REAL Women to feminists active in the reproductive rights movement, are interviewed. However, in her attempt to be objective, Collins has been too inclusive; the reader is overwhelmed by the names of too many individuals and sometimes by quite trivial detail. (For example, do we really care who paid for brunch when Toronto's Committee for the Establishment of Abortion Clinics met with Morgentaler?) The author's own position at the end of the book is pro-choice, but it is important to emphasize that this work is not a polemic; it is a careful consideration of the arguments used by both sides on the abortion question. Collins concludes that the debate will be stalemated as long as we (meaning the public, as much as the policy-makers) continue to see abortion as simply a contest of rights, i.e., the rights of women versus the rights of potential lives. We are evading the larger questions of how we view motherhood and childbearing in this society and the individualís relationship to society.

As an account of important legal events in Canada, The Big Evasion is interesting for the general reader. It is useful also for the student looking for up-to-date information on the politics of abortion in Canada. The book contains an index and some footnotes. Recommended for collections serving adults and young adults.

Barbara Jo May, Toronto, Ont.
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