London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
When a pro-life caravan, depicting very graphic images, rolled into London Monday evening (June 25), they were welcomed by shouts of “go home” from opposing pro-choice demonstrators.
As members and supporters of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) walked up to the Youth for Christ Centre to hear a pro-life lecture, members of the Canadian Auto Workers union and concerned citizens banged coat hangers off of metal pans and bowls to demonstrate their displeasure.
“We’re in the midst of our cross-country (tour) called the new abortion caravan,” said Stephanie Gray, executive director of CCBR.
Re-tracing the steps of the old abortion caravan, which took place in 1970, Gray said the new troupe is rising up to try to prevent what they call the killing of the next generation.
“We’re using this tool that was used to bring about great injustice; we’re redeeming it and using it to cause great justice by ending the killing of pre-born children.”
The caravan began in Winnipeg and will end in Ottawa. At each stop, including Thunder Bay, Sudbury, London and Toronto, the CAW has been and will be hosting demonstrations.
Julie White, director of women’s programs for CAW, said the pro-choice demonstration is being done to counter what pro-life legislation will do to women’s reproductive rights.
“It’s in response to motion 3.12 that’s in the house right now that talks about the right of taking away women’s choices,” she said.
Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, added it’s “absolutely disheartening” that pro-choice rallies still have to take place in 2012. She added one third of politicians — Conservative and Liberal, alike — in the House of Commons are in favour of the pro-life movement.
“Politicians have no right to interfere in this issue — this is a health issue between a woman and her doctor and this is a human right for women to have access to safe abortions,” Walker said. “This is more than abortions, this is about women’s equality, fundamentally, and removing women’s rights and taking this back to the days of back-alley abortions if this moves forward.”
Gray argued the CCBR strongly believes in equality, too. She stressed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, everyone has the right to life.
“I feel a responsibility to speak up for those lives aren’t protected, even though they should be,” she said. “My right to swing my arm stops when I hit someone in the nose.
“Correspondingly, because another body is involved, it’s not ethical to end the life of that pre-born child.”
Gray added illegal abortions won’t necessarily gain popularity if the procedure is made illegal.
“You shouldn’t kill people with coat hangers, but our response is you shouldn’t kill them with suction tubes when those seem like better options,” she said. “Abortion won’t make a poor woman rich, it won’t 'unrape' a rape victim and it won’t turn the frog of a boyfriend into a prince. It doesn’t even address the woman’s fundamental problems and it ends up killing her child.”
But not every woman is in a position to have a child, argued Alexandra Fitzgerald, a pro-choice activist and an expectant mother.
“There’s so many different circumstances and it needs to be looked at in that way as opposed to just abortion is wrong,” she said. “That’s such a narrow-minded view.”
She added the decision should fall to the woman as to whether they want the procedure. “If they need to have an abortion, that should be their choice and they should be able to do it as safely as possible.”
The demonstration on Thursday was confrontational with pro-choicers blocking pro-lifers from filming the demonstration by holding signs or standing in front of video cameras. At one point, pro-choice activists swarmed a CCBR truck, stopping it from moving past the rally on Adelaide Street South.
Women weren’t the only ones in either camp. Men supporting both pro-life and pro-choice used the definition of what is a “man” to support their arguments.
Jim Kennedy, with the CAW and United Way, argued that men should support women in their choices.
“We as men, should not be bringing in god damned laws into the house and trying to suppress women,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s very important for us men to stand up, speak out and make sure we’re letting everybody know we’re on the side to support our sisters and their right to dignity, their right to choose, and their right they fought years and years to gain.”
Johnathon Van Maren, communications director with the CCBR, stressed that abortion isn’t a gender-divided issue, but rather a human rights issue. He added the number of abortions performed would decrease if men would support women.
“I believe it’s very much a male’s issue because if males would stand up and be men, defend their own offspring (and) offer the women the support they needed, I believe at minimum half of abortions wouldn’t happen.”