Co-authored by Troy Bordun
Approximately 60 people turned up for the Rally and March for Reproductive Justice at 5p.m. on March 8. While the rally was held on International Women’s Day, it was also a response to the City of Peterborough’s decision to allow anti-choice, pro-life advertisements from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR) on public transit.
A Feb. 25 press release from the City of Peterborough stated their decision to allow these advertisements on the buses. The statement was in response to the CCBR’s request for a “judicial review.” The group requested the review on the basis that the refusal of their advertisement violated their right to freedom of speech.
The rally on March 8 was simultaneously a moment for reproductive rights generally and a direct protest against the city’s decision and the values of the CCBR.
“Any ethics research amateur will confirm that the [pro-life] argument holds no scientific or social evidence. [Pro-life groups] are instead driven by unique religious morals. As the people should respect the presence of religion, religion must respect the people,” Reba Harrison, a Trent student and member of the Peterborough Revolutionary Student Movement, explained.
“The presence of these ads is anti-woman propaganda and Peterborough’s approval of the ads reflects their vision of women’s worth.”
The CCBR is against the destruction of unborn children. They are not only anti-abortion, but also anti-stem cell research and anything that kills, harms, or makes an object out of an unborn child.
One of their beliefs stated on their website is pertinent to the recent approval of the bus ad.
“Imagery is a powerful tool that must be incorporated into […] educational efforts.”
The advertisement itself is a gruesome and graphic image of a fetus in three panels. The first two panels have an image of a growing fetus, with the word “growing” under each. The third panel is a solid red circle with the word “gone” inside it.
Beside the image are the words “Abortion kills children.”
The 60 individuals at the rally were passionate about reproductive rights and fully against the allowance of anti-choice bus advertisements.
“The city shouldn’t allow such violent, graphic images that are anti-women…on fucking public transit,” said Evan Gentle.
Many other participants expressed their concerns over bodily autonomy.
“I don’t think anybody has the right to tell anyone what to do with their own body. And people who have had abortions, or are thinking about that as a choice, shouldn’t be ashamed or made to feel afraid of [having an abortion],” stated one marcher.
Others articulated the inconsistency in the CCBR’s claim that denying their purchase of bus advertising space is a violation of free speech. What the CCBR hadn’t obviously considered is that the ads are potentially triggering and downright violent.
Many also felt this is a giant leap backwards for the otherwise progressive momentum in Peterborough. One marcher remembers demonstrating “in front of the Morgantaler Clinic in support of the doctors that were performing abortions inside that clinic.”
She, among many others, expressed her anxieties about reverting to the anti-choice consciousness of decades long gone.
Numerous participants called on the city to take action against CCBR.
The larger context of the CCBR anti-choice ad, and the decision to allow the ad, speaks to the struggle, still raging, for reproductive rights.
One of the organizers made this appropriate final remark:
“This is an issue that affects everybody and it is something the city needs to take very seriously…. It’s not to be taken lightly.”