Volunteers say they will not be silenced after ‘Abortion is Healthcare’ banner was destroyed in Regina
An abortion rights banner was temporarily removed in Regina after it was vandalized.
The unidentified perpetrator used black spray paint to change the message from “abortion is healthcare” to “abortion is murder.”
Volunteers working with the group behind the banner say they are not being silenced and that the vandalism has only increased their desire to effect change.
“It reminded us how important it is to get this ‘abortion is healthcare’ message out into the public and into the public place,” said Christine Jones, a Regina resident and volunteer with the Abortion is Healthcare Signs Inc. profit organization .
The nonprofit’s mission is to reduce stigma and misinformation surrounding abortion while advocating for better access to the procedure. Billboards and banners are part of this effort.
“[The vandalism] does not deter the cause at all. It just lets us know we need to reach more people to spread our message,” said Jeremy Thomas, another volunteer with the nonprofit.
The banner was destroyed about 10 days after it was raised, which Jones says was disappointing.
“We were very frustrated that we hadn’t had this news for so long and we’re already seeing this level of … threatening behavior.”
She said Canadians need to remember that abortion has been legal for decades.
dr Susan McLellan, a primary care physician in Regina who sits on the nonprofit’s board of directors, said people need to put aside their personal beliefs about abortion because others need safe access to the procedure.
“You can’t ban abortion, you can only ban safe abortion,” McLellan said. “Abortion is a very safe procedure and is widely available. One in three women will require an abortion at some point in her life.”
Although the procedure is common, she said there are still barriers to access in Saskatchewan.
McLellan conducted a research project during her stay that examined the barriers people faced in accessing abortion in Regina. Although the sample size was small, she said it still gives her a better understanding.
She said people were happy with the care they received once in the system, but many had to travel for the procedure, with some living eight hours away. Those who have traveled have faced costs and challenges with childcare or time off from work.
McLellan noted that even some people living near Saskatoon (a city that also offers surgical abortions) had chosen to travel to Regina.
“The hardest thing about Saskatchewan is that Regina is the only place that patients can go to for an abortion themselves,” McLellan said. In Saskatoon, people need a referral, so they have to go through a gatekeeper.
McLellan said expanding clinic hours and self-referral practices, and using telemedicine as part of medical termination (oral medication abortions) are all ways to break down barriers. She said work with telemedicine is already underway at Regina’s clinic.
“I think the medical community really wants to support women with this, and there are a lot of motivated people working to get more access because we recognize how important and life-saving the procedure can be,” McLellan said.
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Members of the nonprofit organization are now working to replace the Regina banner. They are also raising funds to put up more pro-abortion billboards and signage, which may contrast with the anti-abortion signage seen throughout the province.
The group has identified 64 anti-abortion signs in Saskatchewan.
“We’re trying to counteract that,” said Thomas. “There should be an end to the stigma surrounding abortion and abortion health services.”