‘Ottawa’ Hundreds Protest in Support of Safe Access to Abortion Clinics
On Wednesday evening, hundreds of people gathered at the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street to show their support for abortion rights.
The protest came after those at the Morgentaler abortion clinic on Bank Street had accused authorities of doing little to stop anti-choice demonstrators from constantly harassing and intimidating clients and staff members. The clinic’s director of operations, Shayna Hodson, told the Citizen that incidents such as verbal harassment and being spat on had been happening for years.
Holding up signs of all colours, demonstrators chanted as they walked down Elgin to reach the Ottawa police station around 5:30 p.m.
“I had known that the aggressive and anti-choice protesters on Bank Street had been an issue for years,” says Sydney Holmes, organizer of the protest.
After she posted about it on Facebook, she said her page “blew up”, encouraging her to organize Wednesday’s gathering. “It’s truly amazing to see this many people who are passionate enough about safe access to reproductive health care to actually come out after work to protest.”
People of all ages attended, calling for women to have safe access to services.
“It is a really serious problem; people need to be able to access abortion in this city without having to face people stopping them from getting inside a clinic,” says Megan Rivers-Moore, who decided to bring her five-year-old daughter to the protest.
“I brought her with me because we are always talking at home about how her body is her own and how she can make her own choices about what she wants to do with her body.”
Brett Fortin, a pro-choice protester, said she attended the event in part because she has had people in her family who have had abortions and she had heard about people having a bad experience outside the abortion clinic here in Ottawa.
“It is really inhumane to do something like that,” says Fortin. “I think that it is really important that we all stick together and stand for women’s rights.”
Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney spoke at the demonstration.
“When a woman chooses to access health-care services, she must not be spat on, she must not be yelled at, she must not be followed and intimated, and she must not be assaulted or harassed,” she said.
“Abortion is legal; harassment, intimidation and assault are not.”
McKenney and Mayor Jim Watson submitted an inquiry form Wednesday asking the city clerk and solicitor to provide the council with legally enforceable options to allow the city to ensure that people providing or seeking counselling or medical procedures will be able to provide or access those services free from any threat.
Between three to five anti-abortion protesters stood close to the human rights building where hundreds of pro-choice protesters gathered. Intense verbal exchanges between the two groups lasted for a while.
“I’m against abortion because it is killing a baby inside that body,” says J-P, an anti-abortion protester who would not provide his last name. “The moment it is conceived it has a life. God has created that life.”