August 9, 2018 6:27 pm

Pro-life billboard causing public controversy in Dartmouth

A pro-life group based out of British Columbia has launched a national billboard campaign that's generated public backlash in Nova Scotia.

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A billboard on one of Dartmouth’s busiest roads is generating public concern over access to abortion in Canada.

“I think it’s trying to foster fear and stigma and I think that kind of message can be really dangerous,” Sarah Baddeley said, the Halifax Chair of Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).

The billboard is part of a national campaign by a pro-life organization called We Need a Law. The group is based out of British Columbia and says they’re trying to raise awareness around “the issue of abortion legislation.”

“We Need a Law, is an advocacy campaign-building support among Canadians and then asking our federal authorities to pass laws that do protect fetal interests,” Mike Schouten said, the director of We Need a Law.

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Legal experts in Nova Scotia say the billboard sends “harmful messaging” and that there haven’t been any criminal laws with respect to abortion in Canada since 1988.

“It’s disappointing to see a sign like that come up because it’s not true that abortion is unregulated in Canada. Fear and stigma can be really significant barriers to access for a lot of people as they make a choice that’s right for them and a billboard like that fosters that fear and stigma by suggesting that abortion somehow exists in a regulatory void, which is not the case,” Baddeley said.

Schouten says the hope of the organization is to push the federal government into creating an abortion law that falls in line with “international standards.”

“Our proposal is that they pass a law similar to democracies such as Germany and Spain and France, that all regulate abortion after the first trimester,” he said.

The advertising company that sold the billboard space to the pro-life organization is called PATTISON Outdoor Advertising.

The president, Randy Otto, says many people have called to complain about the billboard and that all concerns should be directed towards Advertising Standards Canada.

“This social conversation that we’re having in Canada [around abortion] is one that has very, very, very strong opinions on both sides of this matter and we’re very familiar for both.

“We’ve put up ads for both people who have opinions about pro-choice and people who have opinions about pro-life and we’ve tried very hard not to get any more on one side of this than the other because it’s not ours to tell people what their opinions are,” Otto said.

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