Anti-abortion protesters affiliated with Ontario-based Show the Truth came to Halifax Friday, toting with them the same upbeat performance they’d just delivered in Fredericton—waving about huge placards plastered with photos of aborted fetuses.
I heard they were on the march to Nova Scotia (a five-day planned excursion to HRM and the Annapolis Valley in the middle of their eastern Canadian tour) early last week, after Fredericton mayor Brad Woodside announced it was time for the protesters to take their grody signs, “get back on their bus and get back to Ontario.”
The news of Show the Truth’s impending arrival made me instantly irritated. But after my pro-choice reflexes took a backseat to figuring out what this group is all about, jeez, you know, I gotta say, I wasn’t upset in the least.
“This is what abortion is,” protester Rosemary Connell told The Chronicle-Herald Friday. “Everyone loves to watch reality television these days. Well, this is reality.”
Well aaaaactually... reports from both the Halifax and Fredericton events raise questions about whether these are really aborted fetuses or later-term miscarriages. Regardless of their pedigree, though, the photos succeeded in one thing: angering pro-choice protesters and stunned passers-by alike.
Some people objected to the questionable authenticity of the photos, others to Show the Truth’s decision to patrol the sidewalk outside the hospital building where abortions take place in Halifax. Others still thought the photos were simply too unpleasant for daytime viewing at busy intersections.
Show the Truth’s signs are graphic, sure. Bloody, too. But no worse to my mind than photos that routinely make the cover of The Globe and Mail. I still can’t get an image from 2004 out of my head of a father carrying the bloodied, half-naked body of his child from the rubble of some god-awful US-perpetrated bomb campaign in Iraq.
Fredericton resident Karen Robertson, who was interviewed by the CBC, expressed outrage at having to explain huge photos of “bloody, dismembered fetuses” to her five-year-old. And I can understand her beef even if I don’t share the sentiment. (I don’t mind entering into those kinds of discussions with my kids.)
Possibly misrepresented photos and inappropriateness aside, consider this: no one goes looking for an abortion. Women don’t seek them out any more than they try to get plantar warts so they can endure the liquid nitrogen treatments to get rid of them.
Given that abortion can be—for many women and girls—the only sane option when they’re faced with an unplanned pregnancy, does it really make much difference what the post-surgical mess looks like? Show the Truth thinks so. I don’t.
No one goes into abortion blind. And that’s thanks to the positive work of sexual health educators and Nova Scotia health care professionals who support choice. When you get an abortion you know what you’re facing, you know what you’re doing, you’re told what to expect. You make an informed decision about your health and, ultimately, your life.
If we expect access to judgment-free, pro-choice health care (which, of course, should include a wealth of information about alternatives to abortion, if that’s the route a woman or girl facing an unplanned pregnancy wants to take), then Show the Truth, with its questionable photos and shock-value tactics, becomes a measly blip on the radar.
Show the Truth’s only weapon is shock. And when education disarms that weapon, their protest manoeuvers fizzle. Plus, Fred- ericton mayor Brad Woodside’s dreams have come true: Those protesters got back on their bus and whizzed back to Ontario.
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