Trigger Warning: conversations and disturbing descriptions of abortion.
Since my arrival at Western University as a first year student, an ongoing issue that has caught my attention is the pro-life advocates and organizations that stand on street corners near campus and put pamphlets in local mailboxes. They have often been seen at the intersections of Western and Sarnia, Oxford and Adelaide, Oxford and Highbury, and the Victoria Hospital. Don’t get me wrong, I would have no problem if they were peacefully spreading their message. However, I believe their graphic and medically-inaccurate signs warrant critique, as do the actions of the advocates attempting to spread their message.
As a third year medical sciences student, I am able to debunk certain erroneous claims made. These signs are only effective in spreading misinformation and triggering abortion-related trauma. I understand their point is shock-value, but at least a sliver of accuracy would have been appreciated. One sign was supposedly depicting a 10-week old blood-soaked fetus being ripped from limb to limb by a metal medical tool. However, from a medical standpoint, this fetus appears far more developed than it would be at 10 weeks. This sign perpetuates their false narrative that a fetus may be conscious and that life begins at conception by presenting a 10 week fetus as an almost fully formed baby. If protestors were to depict what a fetus actually looks like at this time one of their only secular arguments of “abortion is murder” would lose its very limited credibility. Moreover, an abortion at 10-weeks of pregnancy is done via the oral administration of a medicine called mifepristone that suppresses the primary pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG). Following this, patients are given misoprostol which causes the uterine lining to deteriorate, resulting in bleeding and a subsequent loss of pregnancy. For a surgical abortion at 10-weeks, vacuum aspiration is used in which the fetus is removed via suction, taking approximately 5-10 minutes. Both of these methods are far less graphic medical procedures than what is depicted in the pro-life signs which allude to the graphic surgical removal of a fetus with a scalpel. This is not how an abortion is done at 10 weeks. If the medical procedures associated with abortion were common knowledge the negative stigma associated with these procedures would hopefully be diminished. Abortion is not a rash, graphic, nor murderous procedure. It is a calculated and highly medical procedure that is a necessary part of our healthcare system. The pro-life protestors attempt to discredit this fact by spreading misinformation that is not only disturbing, but harmful.
I am not the only one expressing concern about these protesters. I have seen many warnings for those sensitive to these issues posted in Western Facebook groups, with people sharing their experiences and interactions with protestors in the comments. Unfortunately, these warnings do not reach everyone who needs them and people end up having negative encounters with them. For instance, I reached out to one student, who wishes to remain anonymous, who had alluded to repeated unpleasant encounters with the people in question. Upon speaking with her one instance really stood out. She had been approached while waiting at an intersection for the pedestrian light to changand asked about her views on abortion. When she expressed her belief in freedom of choice, despite being raised Christian, the pro-lifer verbally attacked her for wearing leggings, which was equated to going outside naked as it makes men lustful, as that does not supposedly align with Christian values. Protestors also dismissed her faith, claiming that if she was a real Christian, she would know of this sin, as well as being anti-choice. When the light turned and she decided to remove herself from this inappropriate conversation by walking across the street, he grabbed her by the wrist. The combination of the sexualization and non consensual physical contact made her feel uneasy prompting her to reach out to Campus Police. The police stated they could do nothing as these people were not on Western property and they had been peacefully protesting. The fact is, this is not an isolated incident. I encourage you to scroll through the comments when you come across warning posts for these groups on social media. Though be aware of its potentially triggering nature. Although I can understand these interactions to be outside of the jurisdiction of campus police, verbal misogynistic attacks and the use of disturbing and potentially traumatizing images does not sound peaceful to me. Women should not have to feel threatened, be reminded of, or be publicly shamed for what was most likely the most challenging decision they have had to make in their entire life.
Personally, I believe that everyone should have a choice about what to do about their own body. If you decide that you are against abortion for yourself, that is a completely valid choice. I also believe that everyone has a right to share their own opinions. My issue with the pro-life protesters in London is that they choose to, knowingly or not, spread false information intentionally preying on people who are uneducated or uninformed about this issue. I do not believe that you should try to force your own beliefs on other people and attempt to control women’s bodies, especially in a malicious way. Educate yourself, develop an informed opinion, and review your choices.
In the interest of educating yourself on these issues I have listed some facts about abortion below as well as some articles.
Abortion in Canada:
What I feel the pro-lifers fail to recognize when pushing for the illegalization of abortion:
For women who rely on abortion when pregnancy threatens their life they would have this option revoked.
Pregnancy has many complications, some women are told that their child has severe birth defects they can be forced to carry the child to term and deliver a child that may not survive.
Women who have been raped and become pregnant may not have the option to not have their rapist’s child.
With safe abortion practices not being available, the frequency of unsafe abortions will increase which threatens women’s health.
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