Pro choice advocates are upset to see public advertising for what they call an “anti-choice” organization on local bus shelters (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Pro-choice advocates angered by pro-life bus shelter ads in downtown Victoria

Advertisements for Birthright Victoria spark outrage from Access Birth Control

Pro choice advocates are upset to see an advertisement for what they call an “anti-choice” agency at the side of a downtown Victoria bus shelter.

AccessBC Campaign for Free Prescription Contraception (AccessBC) caught sight of an ad for Birthright Victoria, a branch of an international crisis pregnancy society which advocates for mothers to pursue parenting skills and adoption rather than abortion.

On the Victoria branch’s website, the agency says abortions “may seem like the simplest way out of an unintended pregnancy, but there are no easy answers. Maybe you don’t want to have an abortion but feel it is your only choice…Birthright can explore the reasons you’re considering abortion with you and possibly offer alternative pregnancy options.”

ALSO READ: Still barriers to abortion access on Vancouver Island

AccessBC chair Teale Phelps Bondaroff was surprised that abortion was mentioned at all, since the mothering agency, Birthright International, avoids the topic altogether.

“When you go to the website of these kinds of organizations, they try to intercept women who are considering abortion,” Phelps Bondaroff said. “Their information is meant to have an unbiased presence, but they’re engaged in motivated counselling.”

ALSO READ: Anti-abortion protesters come to B.C. Legislature

For abortion doula Bree Gardner, who uses the they/them pronoun, this is a major concern.

“Without abortions being a normalized and supported option, we cannot have healthy, accessible, and sustainable families,” they said.

“It is not the only option but it has been proven time and time again that if abortion is made inaccessible, stigmatized, or discouraged, it has generational impact on not only those who can get pregnant, but their future relationships, livelihoods, and ongoing health. That many crisis pregnancy centres prioritize ideology above the health of their communities is quite frankly horrifying and should not be supported on any level.”

BC Transit said that ads on bus shelters are managed by Pattison Outdoor and the local municipality. The City of Victoria said that all third-party advertising, however, runs under Pattison Outdoor management.

READ ALSO: Anti-abortion film screening cancelled after B.C. theatre receives threats

Black Press Media reached out to Pattison Outdoor, which did not respond for comment. However, BC Transit senior communications and engagement advisor Shellene McConnell added in an emailed statement that “Not liking an ad or an ad being controversial are not grounds for removing an ad, according to the Supreme Court of Canada” and that “As with all advertisements on buses, ads are not a reflection of the opinions of BC Transit, its partners or its staff.”

Birthright Victoria was also contacted by Black Press for clarification on its stance, but the organization did not reply for comment.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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