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Informing choice: the efforts of pro-life activists to change the abortion-on-demand status quo now focus on educating those making the choice.

Summer is normally a time for young adults to travel, gain work experience, relax with the family or sip a brew on the patio. But instead, for one group of determined activists this summer, things are anything but laid-back--they're walking from Vancouver to Ottawa to bring awareness to an issue they say Canada is ignoring: abortion.


Ben Broussard, one of the walkers for Crossroads Pro-Life, completed a similar trek in 2003 across the U.S., and came north from Louisiana to join like-minded Canucks for the inaugural Canadian walk. "I was expecting us to get such negativity, stuff thrown at us and such, but it's totally the opposite. People are very supportive," he says.

While most politicians are loath to approach the topic, pro-lifers seem to be morphing their strategy from political lobbying to awareness and education projects. But even without political action or religious rhetoric, some of their efforts in public spaces have still bred controversy.

Under headings such as "Everyone gets a choice but the victim," the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, another pro-life group based in Calgary, sets up large, graphic visuals of aborted fetuses at high schools and college campuses. Executive Director Stephanie Gray defends the campaign, arguing that the pro-choice movement uses "choice" in an abstract way, whereas she shows the concrete reality of the choice. "We want to reach the culture visually with the reality of what abortion is," she says.

But pro-choice advocates accuse the CCBR of simply being sensationalist. "People like Stephanie Gray don't raise awareness, they raise anxiety," says Celia Posyniak, executive director of Kensington Clinic, an abortion centre also located in Calgary. "She tries to escalate anxiety using misleading information. I think that is practically criminal."

Gray, however, maintains it's the procedure itself that causes anxiety. "If something is so horrifying we can't stand to look at it, perhaps we shouldn't be tolerating it," reads the CCBR's website. In response to claims of misinformation, Gray says her centre is always open to public debate. "If we debate individuals in a public forum, we are more effective, because the crowd can see how illogical they are," she says.

Posyniak sees no merit in Gray's project, saying it's "a waste of money" to talk women out of terminating their pregnancy. She contends that, "Like or it not, it's a safe procedure--one of the most common, and one of the most safe." When pro-life groups point out the procedure might be safe for women, but fatal for the infant, Posyniak complains that such arguments assume the life of a fetus is "more important than the life of a woman. They dehumanize women," she says.

Yet such reasoning is the motivation behind CCBR's Genocide Awareness Project, which juxtaposes images of aborted babies with those of war crimes. "If you look historically at when injustice has occurred, it often occurs where the victims are denied personhood status," Gray argues. "Jews were considered parasites (in Nazi Germany), Tutsis in Rwanda were considered cockroaches," and she considers dehumanizing "the unborn" no different.

Fortunately for pro-choice advocates, Canadian law does make a distinction, allowing for 110,000 abortions last year, according to Statistics Canada. Kensington contributed 3,000 procedures; and with a quarter of all pregnancies in Canada being terminated, Posyniak says the demand is so high that when a woman calls the clinic, she must wait an average of two to three weeks for an appointment. Dr. Stan Iwanicki, an obstetrician at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary, says this is largely the result of failed birth control medication, making abortion the "default contraception." Of 100 women reliant on the pill, six or seven will become pregnant within a year, he says; and for teens, the number is closer to 16. But if the CBC's online contest, "The Great Canadian Wish List," is any indication, abortion has hardly become an accepted inevitability, as both sides of the debate duelled this summer for top spot. This likely affirms activists' suspicions that there is still plenty of emotion left for cross-nation walks and graphic displays to draw on. But real success, pro-lifers say, will come only when people choose to raise their children.
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Title Annotation:ETHICS
Author:McGee, Patrick
Publication:Western Standard
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 30, 2007
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