VANCOUVER – Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Brian Frazer was the first doctor to take his opposition to abortion to the streets of Vancouver.
Frazer stood outside Everywoman's Health Centre with a homemade picket sign stating "doctors against abortion" when Vancouver's first abortion clinic opened in November 1988.
The doctor strongly believed pro-life physicians were the key to changing society's views and ending the practice.
"I am convinced that only doctors can end abortion," Frazer wrote in a letter to Rafe Mair, CJOR radio host. In response, Mair welcomed Frazer to a three-hour radio show Sept. 23, 1981, where they debated the topic with listeners.
"There are no medical reasons whatever for abortions," Frazer said on the air. "I hang my head in shame, because we unfortunately are not speaking out against this as we should."
A doctor since 1948, Frazer had years of experience in obstetrics and gynecology in South Africa and England. But his wife Madeline claimed Frazer's firm pro-life stand made it difficult to find and keep a job.
"He jeopardized his own position and was criticized all the time," Madeleine said. When he moved to Canada, Frazer had to give up his specialization and become a general practitioner when he was prevented from taking a medical exam to practise here, she said.
She praised him for his dedication to picketing outside the abortion clinic, something she said he did almost daily until the day he died, July 26, 1989, from a heart attack while stopped at a red light on the drive home.
A quarter of a century later, pro-life physicians say the scene has changed. "I don't think the ultimate change will come from doctors," said Vancouver family doctor Williard Johnson, pointing instead to a need for a shift in public opinion.
"The single biggest flaw in our society is that we can't see the wrongness of abortion," he said. "We have a long way to go before real revulsion comes about."
Ontario obstetrician and gynecologist Dan Reilly agrees. "Doctors have a huge influence on the debate, but it would take societal change."
Reilly feels the "good works of crisis pregnancy centres" are more effective than sidewalk protests.