Protesting on both sides of abortion debate

The University of Manitoba’s Womyn’s Centre held an options fair on Nov. 6 as a counter-protest to the “40 Days for Life ” campaign, which ended on the same day.

The Womyn’s Centre protest took place on the sidewalk outside the Women’s Hospital, adjacent to participants in “40 Days for Life” campaign.

Members of the Womyn’s Centre and public participants held signs with messages: “My choice set me free,” “Abortion? Adoption? Motherhood? The choice is yours,” and “Trust Women.”

Counter-protesters also brought out games like trivia, a race to put condoms on bananas, and “Pin the IUD on the Uterus,” a game to match body parts with their correct names.

Several cars honked and shouted as they passed the counter-protesters, and members of the “40 Days for Life” campaign approached the group to debate their views.

Jen Black, the coordinator for the U of M Womyn’s Centre, said the collective decided to organize the options fair in response to the media coverage around the “40 Days for Life” campaign.

“We were especially concerned [after reading ] the article published about Christ the King School, which planned to give students credit to come to the protest ,” Black explained.

“We have a fundamental disagreement with the protest, and we wanted to make sure that they know we’re here and that Winnipeg knows we’re here too.”

Black said the collective decided to organize an options fair to make known all of the options women have available.

Black said that she thought it would be naïve to try and change the “40 Days for Life” campaigners’ opinions, but she said she wanted them to know that the Womyn’s Centre has a message of their own.

“We’re not letting them take our choice away,” she said.

Black said that the conversations between the “40 Days for Life” protesters and the counter-protesters were fairly cyclical in nature but remained calm.

“I think at the core there are some fundamental differences to overcome within the space of one small conversation,” said Black.

Abortions are not performed on Sundays at the Women’s Hospital, and Black explained that the counter-protest was scheduled for this particular day so as not to increase the crowd women would have to go through to get their procedures.

Ray Eskritt, an options fair organizer, explained that the protesters wanted to show this is still an issue that people care about.

“We’ve got to make sure somebody is out here screaming for help ,” Eskritt said.

Eskritt said the group has received negative reactions to past counter-protest approaches, so instead they organized the options fair to make their counter-protest accessible and controversy free.

“We’re simply asking for the myriad of choices to be represented,” Eskritt said.

The “40 Days for Life” protesters walked in front of the Women’s Hospital holding signs with messages such as “Pray to End Abortion” and “Abortion workers found freedom! You can too.”

Maria Slykerman, the organizer of Winnipeg’s “40 Days for Life” campaign, said she did not oppose the presence of the counter-protesters.

“The sidewalk is open to everybody and we love them all,” she said.

Slykerman said that the end goal of the campaign was to save more babies and prevent men and women from being hurt. She said she did not think the presence of the counter-protest would affect that goal.

“Here we have two different options, blatantly in people’s faces, and people are free to choose either one,” said Alanna Giesbrecht, a “40 Days for Life” campaign participant.

Giesbrecht said she hopes to have a positive effect on men and women coming or going from the Women’s Hospital.

Giesbrecht also said that the end goal of the campaign was to create “as much pro-life awareness as we can.”