Just last week, a group of anti-abortion protesters set up on a street corner a few blocks from where I live. They’ve been making appearances at major intersections around downtown Toronto all summer long, toting massive, highly disturbing posters with images of bloodied embryos. It’s too much for even an adult to witness. But it’s not just high-traffic downtown locations they favour— more and more, they’re hanging out in residential neighbourhoods, too. (And don’t even get me started on the graphic flyers they plant in mailboxes—you know kids love to grab the mail, right?)
I’m lucky that I knew the protesters would be there. My Facebook community group monitors their activities so I could keep my kids away until they were gone. But so many others, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, are caught off guard by these shock-value demonstrations.
While these protesters aren’t doing anything illegal, their actions are hurtful—and that’s what they’re going for, I suppose. The intent of these pro-life protests is to upset communities with violent images and disrespectful language. But their message—of the sanctity of life—is delivered with a complete disregard for many other lives. Maybe you’re a woman who’s chosen abortion, or lost a baby, or you’re pregnant. I can’t image the impact these images would have.
Or perhaps, like me, you’re a mom with very small children who don’t understand what these images mean. My kids are two, four and six and have varying degrees of fear of gore. They’re not equipped to deal with a picture of what appears to be a small baby in bloody pieces. It’s my job to shield them from that. I just want to allow them to be naive kids for as long as possible. But, if we lived in a different neighbourhood, or didn’t have the benefit of a social media alert, I would have been forced to confront a subject that my kids certainly aren’t ready for.
I believe that everyone has the right to make the choices that are right for them—which Netflix series to binge on, or whether or not you can emotionally, mentally or physically handle parenthood. What these protesters are doing is taking away my choice to parent my children in a way that is best for them by forcing me to address the issue of abortion with three kids who are barely in school. It’s my duty to teach each of my kids in a way that suits them—discussions around sex, pregnancy and abortion are up to me. I decide the how and the when.
What if I showed up to the protesters’ front door with a bunch of my friends bearing images they might not want their own kids to see? Why do they feel that standing on a street corner with a terrifying poster designed to intimidate and shock is an acceptable way to generate momentum for their cause? I prefer facts over scare tactics. And on the subject of facts, abortion is legal in Canada. Living in Canada means women have the right to decide if having an abortion is right for them, for any reason.
Protesters, believe what you want, shout your message if you like, but don’t do it at the expense of others. Exposing children to confusing, terrifying images takes away my ability to teach them the way I see fit, and to protect them from unnecessary fear and pain.
And isn’t that what every parent should rightfully be able to do?