Councillor Sarah Doucette (Ward 13, Parkdale-High Park) called for a ban on pro-life protesters using signs with pictures of aborted babies after local residents complained about a recent Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform demonstration.
Doucette called the signs vulgar and lamented that the demonstrators could not be stopped because they were not breaking any laws as long as they do not block traffic or harass passers-by. She said a bylaw is necessary to prevent any further such demonstrations. She told the Toronto Star, “We’re not stopping them from standing on the street, talking to people or handing out flyers, but we’re just stopping them being in people’s faces. You really cannot get away from them. That’s where people are feeling it is harassment.” She said it “is very hard to see these sort of images.”
CCBR witnesses at busy intersections with large signs that organizers say spur conversations. They have been utilized for years in Calgary. CCBR’s Oriyana Hrychyshyn said the images “expose the reality of abortion and what it does to pre-born children.” She also said if people have a problem with the images, they should have a problem with the practice of abortion.
Doucette was joined by a number of Toronto politicians in her campaign against graphic abortion images. NDP MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth) wrote Attorney General Yasir Naqvi to urge the provincial government to file an injunction to prevent the “disturbing anti-abortion images.” Also signing his letter was city councillors Paula Fletcher (Toronto-Danforth) and Mary Fragedakis (Toronto-Danforth) and Toronto District School Board trustee Jennifer Story (Ward 15).
Tabuns told the Toronto Star, “people are horrified,” by the pictures, “they’re traumatized, they’re worried about their children.”
Tabuns said Navqi, who earlier this year announced the government would legislate bubble zones prohibiting pro-life protests near abortuaries, has the responsibility and authority “to protect the community from these grisly, graphic images of chopped up fetuses.” To act, Navqi would have to find the demonstrations are a nuisance or making a disturbance.
CCBR trains interns how to avoid confrontation and engage in dialogue with passers-by.
Tabuns maintained that he is not against freedom of speech and is not asking for “prohibition of the message,” just the images.
CCBR’s community liaison Devorah Gilman said the imagery is a vital part of the message. She also noted that CCBR has distributed hundreds of thousands of flyers with abortion victim imagery to households across the country.
Westminster Chapel senior pastor Rev. Joseph Boot, whose church is in Doucette’s community, supports CCBR’s demonstrations. He told the Star they are educating the public about “the true nature of this hidden atrocity.”
In July, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada issued a statement titled “Take action against aborted fetus images in public!” ARCC’s Joyce Arthur claimed “extremist anti-choice groups have been invading cities across Canada” thus “forcing citizens to view shocking and graphic photos of alleged aborted fetuses.”
ARCC encouraged citizens to complain to their city councilors, mayors, bylaw department, and police to explain their “own personal reaction” against the imagery. It also called upon citizens to demand these activities be prohibited. It also urged complaints be made to Advertising Standards Canada about “inaccurate and misleading” messages and claims about the placards being “harmful to children” and “discriminatory and demeaning to women.”