LETTER: Banner is discriminatory and offensive

A group of readers thinks city council should now allow the anti-abortion banner on Baker Street.

We are a group of harm reduction and reproductive justice advocates and service providers. We work closely with the peopleof this city who are seeking a wide variety of health care provisions and support, including but not limited to, access toabortion. We recognize this is a contentious issue and one that sits tenderly in the hearts and bodies of many. It is not ourdesire to villainize or shame anyone for their choices. Rather we are writing this letter to advocate for a different approachto this conversation. One that relies less on black and white thinking and more on cooperation and respect.

We feel that the banner pictured above, which hung above Baker St. for a full week in November, runs the risk of alienatingand silencing anyone who has chosen to have an abortion, or anyone who has considered doing so. Abortion is a deeplypersonal choice. Whatever our aims, whether they are to create safer access to abortion, or reduce the number of abortions,shaming people is never a helpful tactic. Shame merely leaves people drowning in fear and hiding in shadows. This isparticularly harmful when what pregnant people often need is non-judgemental support and access to a range of choicesthat allow them to feel empowered, rather than forced.

We urge those with decision making power at city hall to consider whether, as a community, we want to condone this typeof message. Are we a community that wants to shame people? Or do we want to support people to make informed and wellsupported choices, whatever they may be. Many Canadians fought to legalize abortion, and to many people a banner thatopposes this right is experienced as discriminatory and offensive. Considering the nature of this banner’s content, we urge city council to reconsider whether this banner should even be allowed to be displayed so publicly above the town we live in.

No one wants to live in fear of judgement from their community. And we don’t believe anyone needs to, no matter whattheir choices are. Disagreement is a natural part of sharing community.

It’s how we carry that disagreement that defines our character.

We would much prefer, and seek to encourage through our work, a message that encourages safety, access to a wide rangeof choices and ultimately respect for all of human life. We feel this work must include the rights and needs of pregnantpeople facing complex and often challenging choices.

The Reproductive Health Coalition of the Kootenays ANKORS, West Kootenay Women’s Association, The FullSpectrum Abortion and Miscarriage Doula Collective