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Old East Village residents furious as London City Hall struggles to address anti-abortion flyers

A photo edited to cover disturbing images on a flyer sent to addresses in London, Ont. via Pro-Choice London/Facebook

Several residents in London’s Old East Village are describing their horror, panic, and anger over the distribution of extremely graphic flyers from an anti-abortion group based out of Calgary, Alberta.

The flyers, from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), claim to show images of fetuses at 10 weeks and 20 weeks, and were distributed in Ward 4 last week without any envelopes to cover the graphic images.

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“Yes, our team has been delivering postcards, in partnership with the local group, London Against Abortion,” CCBR eastern outreach director Blaise Alleyne confirmed to Global News.

Area residents have expressed outrage, arguing that there is no reason to expose unsuspecting Londoners, including young children and those managing personal traumas, to such graphic and disturbing images.

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“I had a miscarriage two years ago at 12 weeks,” Old East Village resident Annessa Hamblin told Global News.

“And when you open it up, there is like the pictures of a baby at 10 weeks. So, it’s just very upsetting. Very graphic.”

Read more: 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Why do women still feel guilty?

Another resident, Kelly Taylor, said she had to react quickly to keep her six-year-old son from seeing it when they went to grab the mail.

“I was like, ‘oh, here, hold this for a second’ and then I saw it and I dropped everything and grabbed it back because I didn’t want him to see it,” she said.

“When I actually looked at it like read what it was, I was extremely angry. It bothered me, like the pictures are still in my brain, it bothered me seeing them. I have a niece that had a stillborn baby. And if someone like her would have seen that, it would have been damaging for her. Like it would it would have destroyed her.”

Taylor said she’s heard from others in the community who weren’t able to prevent their children from seeing it.

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“There is a mom that had a six-year-old girl and she was like five months pregnant, so the little kid knew what it was and she saw it,” she said.

“Another mom said it was like a Halloween joke, to kind of pass it off.”

Some residents have also expressed frustration with what they see as a lack of action on behalf of the city in addressing their concerns.

“We’re a pretty quiet neighbourhood as it is and it takes a lot for us to kind of come together and really rally around something,” said Ward 4 resident Elissa Piraino.

“There’s people ready to go down to City Hall right now.”

In a brief statement sent to Global News, the City of London’s head bylaw officer, Orest Katolyk, confirmed that the city does not have any existing bylaws that regulate the distribution of flyers.

“We are aware that a number of Londoners have expressed concern about content recently distributed on flyers.”

Deputy mayor and councillor for Ward 4, Jesse Helmer, said on his website that he’s in the process of speaking with experts on the matter to determine “what can be done at the municipal level to discourage or prohibit advertisers from distributing flyers with such graphic images.”

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“Many residents have contacted me because they or their children have received these unsolicited flyers at their homes. Some have described receiving the flyer as an assault,” he wrote.

“My heart goes out to everyone who has been harmed by the distribution of these flyers.”

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In the meantime, Helmer is encouraging residents to: make a complaint to Ad Standards saying that the advertising goes against the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards; to download, print, sign and mail a Trespass Notice to CCBR; to add your name to a page on his website to show that you support measures to “discourage or prohibit the distribution of advertising that is contrary to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards;” and to make a donation to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

“If the CCBR realizes that its campaign to distribute graphic images generates donations to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, perhaps it will discourage them from distributing such graphic images,” he suggested.

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The CCBR defended the graphic flyers, implying that the ends are worth the means.

“By showing photos of healthy pre-born children before abortion and photos of children who have been decapitated, dismembered or disemboweled by abortion, we aim to make abortion unthinkable in order to save children’s lives and spare women the trauma of abortion,” Alleyne said.

Read more: How abortion rights work in Canada — and whether they could be put at risk (2019)

But area residents strongly disagree.

Hamblin said regardless of anyone’s viewpoints, the flyers are unacceptable.

“I don’t think that’ll help anybody learn anything.”

Piraino said she’s seen anti-abortion posters before, but this action was “way above and beyond.”

“I know that they were trying to do the shock value of it, but just the fact that there have been kids younger than my brothers that could have seen that. And then what if a three year old child went and grabbed that and saw it? Like, I just can’t imagine.”

Read more: Graphic anti-abortion posters spotted in Toronto: As a parent, what can you do? (2018)

Regardless of the mounting anger over the flyers, CCBR shows no signs of changing tactics.

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“So long as the violence against innocent human beings continues, we’ll continue to expose the injustice by reaching the public in London and across Canada with photos of the victims and with a call for human rights for all humans, a call for peace and an end to the killing,” said Alleyne.

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Sask. Court of Appeal upholds decision regarding Prince Albert anti-abortion group, flag – Aug 11, 2020

— with files from Global News’ Kelly Wong.

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