Thursday 13 March 2014


Following his arrest in Calgary on October 16, 1954, along with his associates druggist John Dixon and two women, Mrs. Anne Gregor, and Audrey Ekiss, Dr Robert Henry MacLauchlan’s preliminary hearing took place November 1, 2 and 4, 1954 before Magistrate Royal Verne Read. All were charged with conspiring to procure an abortion. The case went before the Alberta Superior Court in mid-January 1955: MacLauchlan got one year in jail plus a $2500 fine; Dixon received a $2500 fine plus one day; the two women, Anne Gregor and Audrey Ekiss received $1000 and one day each.
MacLauchlan served his time in Lethbridge Provincial Jail. Upon his release he came to British Columbia and, as we have reported before, by 1955 he was receiving his mail at 660 Howe Street in Vancouver but living with Margaret Anne “Nan” Cunningham at 912 5th Street in New Westminster. Police at the time suspected he might have been performing abortions in Vancouver. In our search for more information on both MacLauchlan and Cunningham (who later became MacLauchlan’s wife following their arrest for trafficking in narcotics in December 1965), we have received a few tips from New Westminster residents (including former neighbours) and elsewhere.
Now – and this may be Mission Impossible given the very nature of the procedures and the length of time that has elapsed since they were carried out – we would like to hear from some of MacLauchlan’s former patients. 
Although it is hard to quantify the numbers before abortion became legal in Canada in the early 1970s, speaking very approximately the abortion rate since then has tended on average, to be about 15 per 1000 for women aged 15-44. (Source Abortion statistics and other data--Johnston`s Archive at 
However, given the social and religious stigmas attaching to abortion previous to its legalization, it may be possible to safely assume that the rate was perhaps only 1/10 of that figure before the early 1970s. Some calculations are in order: The female population of Canada in 1951 aged 15 to 44 was 22% of the total population. The Alberta population was 940,000 in 1951. If the age and gender breakdown of the Albertan population was similar to that of the Canadian population as a whole, this means that there were approximately 207,000 women aged 15 to 44 in Alberta. Taking Johnston’s ratio (that the abortion rate was 15 per thousand) and plugging it into 207,000 gives us 3100 abortions in Alberta in the early 1970s.
If we return to our starting point -- that abortion rates (i.e. illegal abortions – the only kind possible during MacLauchlan’s era of operation) were 1/10 of the early 1970s figure -- then that may mean there were about 300 abortions annually in Alberta in the 1950s. Since the Pecover sisters have told the authors that every week there were a few girls (let us assume two or three) sneaking up to MacLauchlan’s house, this would put his potential abortion total at about 100 per year. 
The point of all this calculation is to suggest that there may have been a sufficient number of abortions performed in the 1950s in Alberta that there are women still living who were among those seeking that service from MacLauchlan. However, even if that is not the case, there may still be other people – i.e. husbands, fathers, boyfriends, mothers, brothers, sisters – who are aware of these women and their situations. There may be family memories of such events.
And here’s the kicker: we would like to hear of such stories. Not for the names but more for what their teller may remember of Dr MacLauchlan himself – or have heard tell of him. Remember: our valued correspondent, Albertan author Jack Pecover, who knew MacLauchlan personally (though not well), says the consensus of Calgary neighbourhood opinion was that the doctor was fulfilling a valuable community service. If at all possible, we want to know all sides of this rather enigmatic man. We would welcome stories or comments, and all submissions will remain confidential unless the sender desires otherwise. Please use our contact information on the home page of this website.

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