Rally reflects concerns about abortion access 

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We’re not gonna take it. Mohamed_hassan via Pixabay and Eric Brochu via Flickr, manipulated by Lee Lim

Still controlling what people wear 

“Take my hand, not my life,” the sign read above a picture of a chubby infantile hand reaching out to a delicate feminine hand, in a manner reminiscent of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. It was a sign I passed regularly for two years as I made drives between Calgary and Lethbridge, but I think the casual anti-abortion sloganeering supported by an amateur display of art is a surreal experience that most people on the prairies can relate to. As reported by CTV in August, a Saskatchewan resident, Megan Johnston, started a non-profit in response to her frustration with all the anti-abortion highway signs. She recounted how on one drive across the province she had come across 13 highway signs. Johnston ended up raising a total of $21, 424 on GoFundMe to put up pro-choice highway signs across the province.  

The issues with abortion in the province are not limited to the messaging many of us see while driving; abortion access is also limited in Saskatchewan, which the Carillion’s Gillian Massie reported on previously in June. In short, surgical abortion is only available in Saskatoon and Regina, for up to 12 and 18 weeks, respectively. Pregnant people also commonly face crisis pregnancy centres, which are anti-abortion groups masquerading as health centres. According to a list compiled this October by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, there are two anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers just in Regina.

The deception perpetrated by these centers is viewed as charity by the government, who give the two in Regina tax-exempt status. In my previous conversation with the executive director of Planned Parenthood Regina, we also discussed the difficulties they faced in finding a new location. Planned Parenthood Regina is an organization that does not offer abortions themselves, but works to make sexual healthcare accessible to all. United Nations human rights bodies have decided in the past that access to abortion falls under the human rights to health, privacy, and in some cases freedom from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.

Saskatchewan residents took to the snowy legislature on November 9 to let their representatives know they’re fed up with the state of abortion access in the province. Stephanie, a rally attendee, told the Carillon that their concerns about abortion in Saskatchewan were that “Rules vary from city to city, even doctor to doctor. There needs to be a Reproductive Health Centre within PA [Prince Albert] or a mobile unit that travels around the North. We need doctors that know what care is and isn’t available.” 

The rally was led by Megan Johnston, who was interviewed by Bodie Robinson with the Carillon in September about her ‘abortion is healthcare’ road signs. Johnston made headlines again on November 9, this time national. During the rally, she peacefully entered the building wearing a shirt that said “abortion is healthcare,” when she was told by security that she couldn’t wear the slogan into the building. Johnston ended up turning the shirt inside out so that she could watch the legislature. Outside on the steps, rally-goers showed support with signs showing her slogan, ‘abortion is healthcare.’  

According to a press release by the NDP, Johnston’s Abortion is Healthcare organization was also joined by Planned Parenthood Regina, Saskatoon Sexual Health, Regina Abortion Support Network, other abortion providers, and NDP MLAs. Rally attendee Stephanie confirmed the organizations in attendance and estimated about 100 people were in attendance.  

While the protest was occurring outside, NDP MLA Jennifer Bowes told the legislature that “Platitudes and words of support simply won’t do when Saskatchewan people are consistently denied adequate access to this important service. We need action today.” 

In response to the protest, Paul Merriman, the provincial health minister, told the Regina Leader-Post that the government is considering expanding surgical abortion access to Prince Albert and looking into the discrepancy between abortion access in Saskatoon and Regina. However, Premier Scott Moe has previously stated that he is pro-life.  

Stephanie noted that “No one from the Sask. Party was willing to speak to us.”  

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