Pro-choice Awareness Week seeks to support, not shame

By in Sports & Health

Although abortion of some kind has been legal in Canada since 1969, reproductive choice remains a complicated and controversial issue. Through the upcoming Pro-Choice Awareness Week, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Women’s Centre aims to provide information and support to individuals regarding abortion.

According to the USSU website, both the USSU and the USSU Women’s Centre identify themselves as pro-choice. This means that they believe that every individual has a right to choose what happens to their own body — and that includes the decision to terminate a pregnancy. This is a stance that is publically maintained regardless of the current USSU executive or university administration.

Pro-Choice Awareness Week runs from Mar. 13 to  Mar. 17 and will include a variety of features. Volunteers from the Women’s Centre will be present in the Arts Tunnel to promote the awareness Paigesutherlandprochoiceweek and provide information to U of S students.

The main message of Pro-Choice Awareness week remains the same, but each year focuses on one specific area of the movement. Ashley Clouthier, the co-ordinator of the USSU Women’s Centre, explained the central theme of this year’s campaign.

“This year we’re focusing a little more on supporting people who have had abortions rather than shaming, which is a universal problem. It’s not restricted to the pro-choice movement or the anti-choice movement — it’s something that everyone perpetuates,” Clouthier said. “Our big tagline is ‘one in three people will have an abortion at some point in their lifetime.’ So someone you know has had an abortion and will eventually need an abortion, probably. Support, don’t shame.”

Advocating for a contentious issue is not without its challenges, and the pro-choice movement is no exception to this rule.

“It’s a really controversial topic. Very few people sit on the fence when it comes  to reproductive rights and access to abortion, so if we’re really obviously, blatantly declaring ourselves pro-choice, obviously it’s going to rustle some feathers on the other side of the movement, so I think the biggest challenge is just engaging with that side,” Clouthier said.

She stressed, however, that the Women’s Centre and its volunteers aren’t interested in creating more conflict — but rather engaging in intelligent discussion.

“It’s not in our interest to start any fights. We don’t want to upset anybody, we don’t want to come across as being adverse, or bullies or anything like that. I guess the biggest challenge is remaining a positive presence without necessarily fueling the fire that already exists between the two sides of the movement,” Clouthier said.

Clouthier emphasised how the current political climate makes things like Pro-Choice Awareness Week more essential than ever before.

“It’s more important than ever that people are aware of how important it is that people who have an unwanted pregnancy and wish to end that pregnancy have every opportunity to do so, because we can see what’s happening in the United States right now is terrifying. It’s essentially a giant step backwards, for not just women but for reproductive rights in general,” Clouthier said.

For students that are interested in helping advocate for reproductive rights, Clouthier had a number of suggestions, ranging from stopping by the table during the week to doing a simple Google search to learn more about abortion stigma.

Despite the challenges facing the pro-choice movement and reproductive rights, Clouthier remains optimistic that even a few committed individuals can make a huge difference.

“In any small way, we can just stand up and say we’re unapologetically pro-choice, we’ll support you no matter what you need to do — I think that’s helpful.”

Image: Paige Sutherland

  • Guest

    Why stop at abortion? We should support all choices. One out of every three Canadians has admitted to driving while under the influence of alcohol in the past year (according to one survey). That means someone you know has driven impaired, or will drive impaired someday, probably. We need to support, not shame.

    • FleurDeLibre

      False equivalency.

      If you don’t like abortions then I suppose you’re going to wholeheartedly support making oral contraceptives and sex education available to all young women, which is pretty much the only proven strategy to drive down abortions. Right?

    • Guest

      It’s only a false equivalency if you start from the premise that there’s nothing wrong with abortion. Everyone who is pro-life (and, evidently, a lot of people who are pro-choice) rejects this premise. Which is rather interesting, because the coordinator of this year’s campaign said that she wants to engage with the “other side”. I don’t see how you can do that when your campaign not only fails to address the case the “other side” is making, but pretends that it doesn’t even exist. And this is most evident when you replace “abortion” with something everyone agrees is wrong. The argument that we should only say nice things about it because it’s really common falls apart very quickly.

      There is, actually, a lot of evidence that ending public subsidies for abortion can considerably reduce it. Even the Alan Guttmacher Institute (the leading purveyor of the idea that anti-abortion laws don’t work and that throwing lots of condoms and IUDs at the problem is the way to go) has admitted that up to 35% of eligible American women who would have had an abortion carried to term after Medicaid funding was removed. Additionally, a 2004 study on abortion rates in Eastern Europe found that restrictions on abortion can reduce it by up to 25%. And when they have a case they think is heartwrenching enough or it otherwise suits their agenda, abortion advocates admit that making abortion illegal does in fact stop women from having them.

      Can contraception and sex education reduce abortion? Sure, to an extent. Communist Romania is a textbook example of what happens when women have no access to birth control. But diminishing returns come into play. If birth control is already easy to obtain, making it even easier to get isn’t going to make much of a difference (if any). Furthermore, making birth control more available doesn’t necessarily mean more women will use it. Likewise, sex-education programs have had mixed results (at best). So I don’t really think it’s fair to blame pro-lifers for not being enthusiastic enough about them.

    • FleurDeLibre

      It is a false equivalency, because it’s defined in law that there’s nothing wrong with abortion, as compared to drunk driving, which you attempted to compare it to. And I don’t care about whatever logical/Christian arguments you have for the ethics of abortion. You tried to compare it to a crime in the Canadian legal system, which is a misleading fallacy.

      Just gonna go out on a limb here and say that whatever blog posts and biased research from thinktanks with conflicts of interest that you have do not validate your line of thinking. I have my own sources that I could show you, showing the concrete (and significantly large) statistical decreases in abortion rates that contraceptive use and sex ed create, but I imagine that you’re probably going to ignore them, right?

      If you’ve managed to get this far (with what seems to be some semblance of intelligence) while still being pro-life, that likely means you have a major bias that I likely won’t be able to change, so I won’t try too hard. Just remember that the majority of Canada disagrees with you, dude. Cheers.

    • Guest

      Not really sure that helps your case. If anything, it would suggest that the law is wrong and that drunk driving ought to be legalized. After all, the effects of stigmatizing impaired driving are far more severe than those of abortion stigma (at least in Canada). If someone I know has an abortion, people might gossip about her on Facebook. But if she drives drunk, she could also lose her driver’s licence and possibly even go to jail. Support, don’t shame!

      My sources come mostly from peer-reviewed journal articles as well as think tanks and blog posts written by experts on your side of the issue. But if you don’t want to see them, suit yourself.

      I would actually be very interested in seeing whatever sources you have, linking specific policies to clear statistical decreases in abortion rates. If you can identify one such policy, I would at least seriously consider it (as would most pro-life people, I’m sure). That would be a pretty big step up from the usual “zomg y u no support phr33 birth control????!?!?!?!?!111!!!1111!!!!” line usually employed by critics of the pro-life movement. Just avoid posting direct hyperlinks, as your post may get deleted (maybe give me article titles to Google or something). I don’t know how you can assume ahead of time that everyone has a major bias that causes them to ignore all evidence. Psychological projection, maybe?

      The majority of Canadians do not support tax-funded abortion throughout all nine months for any reason at all (including sex-selection).

      Did you just assume my gender?

    • Guest

      I had a reply to this, but it looks like the snowflakes running the site couldn’t handle my comments. Sad!

    • FleurDeLibre

      But yeah, you’re right. Outlawing abortions would decrease abortions (you got me, captain obvious, lol).

      I guess I should’ve said in my first comment that contraceptive and sex ed use is pretty much the only proven strategy to drive down abortions *without infringing on the human rights of women in Canada.* My bad.

    • Guest

      You might laugh, but a lot of prominent abortion proponents deny this. Honesty is a virtue.

    • Guest

      (sources available on request. I didn’t provide any links because this site always seems to delete my comments whenever I do)