Graphic anti-abortion displays have no place near schools

Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform targets children

An anti-abortion group in Calgary has decided it is appropriate to take up on public sidewalks and parade graphic displays in front of public school students.

The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform did a tour of sorts last week, visiting at least 12 high schools and setting up poster boards of aborted fetuses in order to win over young supporters.

“Our philosophy is if someone is old enough to have an abortion, they’re old enough to see the aftermath of an abortion,” Stephanie Gray, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, told the National Post. “Many of these young people are having abortions because they haven’t seen what an abortion looks like.”

Of course, that’s beside the point. While the group isn’t technically breaking any laws, the choice to demonstrate outside public high schools is dubious at best. These types of graphic displays have typically been erected on university campuses, where they have already met their fair share of conflict. But whereas the university campus is absolutely a reasonable forum for such a demonstration, the space outside of high school pushes the ethics of public pandering.

First off, nearly all of the students on university campuses are adults. The opposite is true at high schools. The anti-abortion protesters are essentially demonstrating to children, who—unlike university students on sprawling campuses—often can’t take an alternate routes to classes. Plus, those under 16 are required to be there by law, and so, in an ideal (perhaps kinder) world, they shouldn’t have to worry about being barraged with graphic images on their way to ninth-grade geography. University students are on campus by choice, and are often morally self-assured enough to be able to critically absorb and analyze such a demonstration.

It is true that inside high schools, most kids are exposed to other graphic imagery. However, it’s usually accompanied by some sort of context and discussion. High school students learn about drunk driving, the effects of smoking and drugs, and unprotected sex and STIs — but they are usually warned beforehand about graphic images and encouraged to express concerns in a controlled environment.

Holding up a poster of a bloody fetus provides none of the context, and little of the tact required when dealing with sensitive teens. As well, whereas we can pretty much all agree that driving with a six-pack is not a great idea, the ethics of abortion is a little murkier. Graphic imagery is fine for concerns that are more or less universally shared, but trudge through dangerous ethical waters when used in conjunction with more contentious issues.

The issue is not about being pro-choice or pro-life. The issue is about finding an appropriate venue for a morally controversial and graphic demonstration. The sidewalk outside of a public high school is certainly not the right venue.




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Graphic anti-abortion displays have no place near schools

  1. Free speech is free speech.

    • You are only entitled to free speech as against government. This means that government can only censor in limited circumstances. Highschools certainly have a right to censor to protect youth. In fact we censor all the time.

    • No one said otherwise.

  2. I went to a high school (years ago) that would regularly shove this kind of stuff in our faces using posters, videos (that we were REQUIRED to watch – classroom doors locked). It really upset me – not because the images were disgusting – but because all I could think about was that poor person who maybe did have an abortion and felt horrible about it. Is that what these groups want? To make people feel so guilty that they possibly kill themselves too? Awesome. You’re just awesome. Congratulations on being a horrible human being.

    I think we all understand abortion is not a beautiful and wonderful thing without disgusting images – maybe instead of using fear and horror you could actually set-up some counseling services that women wouldn’t be afraid to use. Instead of judging, maybe help could be provided that doesn’t make a woman feel like they are a horrible person and a whore. That would never happen though, so we’ll just continue with people being radically on one side or the other of the abortion debate.

    • I think it is degrading to think teens can not look at pictures of abortion and decide their own conclusions. We hide the negative side of abortion to women thinking they are too emotionally irrational to handle the development of the embryo/fetus.

  3. These people have been encouraged by the recent political climate, as much as they have by visits from stockwell and others who have been declaring “victory” with them at their public anti abortion meetings.

    Luckily, we can pass provincial laws that prevent them from encroaching into a public school zone without attacking their freedoms. The same thing that they have done in Manitoba with other advertisers.

    I honestly get the feeling that Canadians are ignorant of the fact there is an ideological war going on, it’s time to connect the dots.

  4. For me, while it’s not about denying the reality of how sad or gruesome an abortion is, it’s also about looking realistically at the alternative outcome.For pregnant teenagers it is often not about being old enough to decide to abort, it’s about being too young to bring up another being.Today there are so many single parent families or babies being brought into the world who are not getting the nourishment and love they need and deserve. Due to this our world has some very unhappy people (and some fully booked counselors). This is not to say that all young females aren’t good mums, as this is often not the case,but that if someone is still a child carrying their own baggage, how are they going to support a baby as well?

  5. For me, while it’s not about denying the reality of how sad or gruesome an abortion is, it’s also about looking realistically at the alternative outcome.For pregnant teenagers it is often not about being old enough to decide to abort, it’s about being too young to bring up another being.
    Today there are so many single parent families or babies being brought into the world who are not getting the nourishment and love they need and deserve. Due to this our world has some very unhappy people (and some fully booked counselors). This is not to say that all young females aren’t good mums, as this is often not the case,but that if someone is still a child carrying their own baggage how are they going to support a baby as well?
    Maybe the ‘sign holders’ should consider this reality before using their one as a manipulative, guilt-trip.

  6. I think the groups explanation of, ..”if someone is old enough to have an abortion, they’re old enough to see the aftermath of an abortion,” has convinced me that they have a right and good reason to display pictures of abortions to teens. Pictures of abortion will help teens make a more thorough decision based on photographic evidence on whether they could go through with an abortion, or whether adoption is a better option for them. If the pictures are the truth then why would we want to hide them?

  7. If you’re old enough to have an abortion you are old enough to see an abortion.