Pro choice students and anti-abortionists displayed their clashing views at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus Tuesday afternoon.
A group of anti-abortionists that have named themselves “Expose the Reality” chose the location this week to display large, graphic images of aborted fetuses.
“We’re here today to show the truth of abortion to a demographic we believe needs to see the truth. These students are the demographic most likely to choose abortion, and they are our future policy-makers, politicians, lawyers and social architects,” claimed co-organizer and Kelowna Right to Life Society executive director Marlon Bartram.
“We believe that society greatly believes abortion is just a benign procedure that removes a clump of tissue or a mass of cells and they don’t believe there is a victim involved. We’re here to show that there is a victim involved, a baby.”
While a handful of pro-life demonstrators were on campus with graphic signs, far more students showed up to block their messaging. Messaging some called harmful.
“I’ve seen people get upset at this grossly misinformed signs and this is a place of higher education, not harassment,” said Charlotte Culy, while dressed as a vagina. “I’ve seen people running away crying, I’m seeing them harass people.”
She claims the pro-life group forced their messaging on students that she had previously seen asking the demonstrators to leave them alone.
“They don’t care for the student’s feelings, it’s too much,” added Culy. “They shouldn’t be allowed to come on (campus) with these signs. They can come on and try to engage people, but they are actively trying to upset people and that is wrong.”
She was supported by student Evan Kelly who felt it was important to stand with the women on campus.
“I believe it should be every woman’s choice and freedom to make their decision as they chose too,” said Kelly.
“I don’t think this organization should be on the campus of a learning facility where people come to be safe.”
Sam Penner had just jumped back into the vagina costume Culy had been wearing previously when she spoke to the Capital News.
“These are our own choices, our own bodies, so we should be able to do what we want with it,” said Penner.
Students used large fabric posters to block the imagery of the anti-abortionists, a decision Penner explains was to protect fellow students.
In that regard, Bartram said their right to share their message on campus trumps student’s concerns the imaging could trigger other students who may have been impacted by things like past abortions, miscarriage and fertility issues.
“We have a right to express ourselves on campus,” said Bartram. “All these students are warned ahead of time. So, if they want too, they can avoid this area completely. Our right to express ourselves is paramount to someone else’s right not to be offended.”
The voice of opposition did show up for Bartram and his fellow anti-abortionists though, en masse.
Those who took part in the large group wore costumes depicting sexual organs and held posters that said things like “Mind your own damn uterus” and “If you cut off my reproductive rights can I cut off yours?”
Abortion in Canada is legal at all stages of pregnancy and is governed by the Canada Health Act.
Regulations and accessibility vary between provinces. Prior to 1969, all abortion was illegal in Canada.
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