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Topless activist protests Quebec’s proposed health legislation

Above watch: Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister at the National Assembly. Caroline Plante has more.

MONTREAL — An activist stormed the National Assembly in Quebec City on Thursday, denouncing the province’s proposed controversial health legislation in an unexpected manner.

Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister on April 30, 2015.
Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister on April 30, 2015. Jean Vincent Verville/Global News

OPINION: Bill 20 will turn every patient in Quebec into a number instead of a person

Dramatically interrupting a news conference held by Quebec’s Minister of Culture and Communications, the protester stood in front of the media next to a bemused Hélène David (MNA for Outremont) for nearly half a minute.

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Shouting in French “Mon utérus. Ma priorité” (my uterus, my choice), she bared her breasts, across which were emblazoned the words “Priorité IVG” — an acronym for “interruption volontaire de grossesse” or voluntary interruption of pregnancy.

READ MOREAbortion access varies widely across Canada

The protester has been identified as Neda Topaloski, a member of the Quebec chapter of Femen, an international feminist movement known for staging topless protests.

She gained entry to the National Assembly by getting media accreditation from the press gallery via a temporary press pass, issued to her as a journalist for Libération Next magazine.

Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister on April 30, 2015.
Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister on April 30, 2015. Jean Vincent Verville/Global News

Topaloski was recently removed from the House of Commons in Ottawa after taking her top off in a protest against Bill C-51 in March.

Femen’s response

“Bill 20 deprives thousands of women of their rights and puts an end to a politic at the very foundation of gender equality.”

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Femen has issued a statement via its Facebook page, criticizing Quebec’s proposed new health legislation: Bill 20.

Concerned that with Bill 20, austerity measures and cuts to healthcare, services for women will be eroded, “enslaving women to a patriarchal economy,” Femen is calling for “free and unconditional access to abortion procedures.”

“We are outraged,” the Femen statement read.

“With Bill 20, the Minister of Health abolishes free access to abortion: the operation loses its medical status of ‘priority,’ which means that the public health system will not be able to provide nearly enough abortions compared to what is needed.

“It is not because Gaétan Barrette doesn’t have a uterus himself that he gets to decide that humans who do are secondary!”

Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister on April 30, 2015.
Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister on April 30, 2015. Jean Vincent Verville/Global News

Will Bill 20 limit access to abortion?

The controversial health bill came under fire last month after it was revealed it may contain measures that could limit access to abortion (read more about that here).

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Women’s groups spoke out after notes for the bill were allegedly leaked, concerned the bill could restrict access to abortion.

Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec's culture minister on April 30, 2015.
Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister on April 30, 2015. Jean Vincent Verville/Global News

Quebec’s Federation of Nurses told Global News that its members were worried.

“We will be watching this extremely closely,” federation spokesperson Nancy Bédard said on March 25.

“There should not be any going back on women’s acquired rights.”

However, Quebec’s Health Minister Gaétan Barrette defended Bill 20, suggesting the proposed legislation would actually lead doctors to perform more services, including abortions.

READ MORE: Quebec’s premier denies limiting access to abortions

Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec's culture minister on April 30, 2015.
Concerned about access to abortion, a topless activist staged a dramatic interruption at a news conference held by Quebec’s culture minister on April 30, 2015. Jean Vincent Verville/Global News