WATCH: Graphic flyers are being left in the mailboxes of Brampton homeowners. Laura Zilke reports
TORONTO – An anti-abortion group is causing controversy in several Greater Toronto Area (GTA) communities by trying to change public opinion on abortion by delivering 250,000 graphic postcards featuring a photo of one Member of Parliament along with an aborted fetus.
The flyers, distributed by The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, an activist group campaigning against Canadian pro-choice laws, shows a photo of what is claimed to be an aborted fetus, along with the face of a Toronto-area Member of Parliament who, the group claims, is responsible for abortion being legal in Canada.
WARNING: Global News has chosen to include a photo of the flyer further down in the article. It may be offensive to some readers.
The group has targeted Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Conservatives Parm Gill (Brampton-Springdale), Bal Gosal (Bramalea-Gore-Malton), Rick Dykstra (St. Catharines) and Michelle Rempel (Calgary Centre-North).
“We were absolutely trying to draw an association between the image of the aborted baby and between that politician because there’s a disconnect in our country between what our politicians do and what those actions have, what impact those actions have in real life,” spokesperson for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, Johnathon Van Maren said. “And that impact of course is the continuance of Canada’s abortion status quo.”
Laws prohibiting abortion were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988. The longest serving politician of those chosen by the group, Stephen Harper, was first elected to office in 1993. During his time as Prime Minister, Harper has so far refused to reopen the debate on abortion.
But the debate was reignited under his tenure as Prime Minister due to a private members bill brought forward by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth which sought to establish a committee to review the Criminal Code section which states a fetus does not become a human being until birth.
The bill was defeated but the pro-life group remains undeterred and is planning to distribute 50,000 of the flyers in each of the ridings in order to change public opinion. And they are hoping people are shocked and disgusted by the image.
“We’re opening a discussion at dinner tables all the way across Canada,” Van Maren said. “Eventually that discussion will reopen at the House of Commons.”
But the group has a lot of minds to change: A 2012 Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by Global News and Postmedia News found on six per cent of Canadians think abortion should not be permitted under any circumstances. 45 per cent of those polled said abortion should be permitted in certain circumstances.
WARNING: The images of the flyer could be found offensive by some readers.
Ethicist Dr. Kerry Bowman wonders how effective the effort to shock people might be. Abortion, he says, is a very important social issue and using potentially offensive photos might offend people rather than educate them.
“Many people already, it seems, and not surprisingly, find it disturbing that these kinds of images would be put into people houses… and potentially being picked up by young children,” Bowman said.
He added that the tendency to shock may expose the weakness of the anti-abortion argument rather than raising awareness for their efforts.
“I also think, this is a very difficult social issue and its important with such a difficult social issue that we remain civil because you know, it seems to me that its more the shock of what they’re doing rather than the strength of their argument,” he said.
And the photo of at least one MP may have come as a shock to him. MP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton, Bal Gosal, said in a statement to Global News that he did not give his permission to use his photo, is not distributing the flyers and is not associated with the group.
“We have made it very clear that the government does not intend to reopen this debate,” he said in the statement.
– With files from Laura Zilke