With the provincial election on the horizon, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) has declared Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative (PC) Party to be anti-choice.
The statement, released on Sept. 5, outlined that the PC party has “shown its disregard for reproductive health care in Manitoba, even granting ministerial roles to vocal anti-choice individuals.” This statement refers to former minster Kelvin Goertzen, who spoke at an anti- choice rally.
Other PC MLAs have also publicly vocalized their anti-choice views including James Teitsma, MLA for Radisson, who spoke at the 2019 Winnipeg March for Life, and Ralph Eichler, MLA for Lakeside, who participated in an interview with anti-choice group Campaign Life Coalition.
Paige Mason, president of ARCC outlined the need for the organization’s message to reach voters.
“We thought that their record shows that they’re not willing to even nudge on the issues,” Mason said. “They’ve just seemed to push the issue aside, and we thought that it’s good to make people aware of this especially before the election.”
Two priorities are top of mind for pro-choice activists ahead of the election — buffer zone legislation and universal contraceptive coverage.
As Mason explains, buffer zones are a specific distance in front of all medical facilities where people are not allowed to protest. Multiple other provinces including Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia already have buffer zones with protections reaching up to 150 metres around a medical facility.
According to Mason, a buffer zone is “just meant to protect patients’ privacies [and] health- care workers.”
“It shows that if you want to protest you can go to the legislative building or somewhere else, but not in front of a medical facility,” she said.
Manitoba New Democratic Party MLA Nahanni Fontaine introduced buffer zone legislation on multiple occasions from 2018 to 2021 but each time the legislation was shut down by the PC government.
Mason is concerned that people may not be able to exercise their reproductive rights or access contraceptives amid the current affordability crisis.
“Some person might not be able to choose between groceries and birth control pills,” Mason said.
The Manitoba Liberal and New Democratic parties have committed to universal contraceptive coverage if elected. The Manitoba PCs have yet to commit to contraceptive coverage.
Recently, the abortion debate hit even closer to home for students. On Sept. 14, anti-choice demonstrators set up on campus, displaying graphic imagery.
Kyle Coffey, organizer of the demonstration on campus, said that his group was there “with the message that abortion is a human rights violation.”
When asked about the ARCC’s statements and if the group’s goal is for an abortion ban in Canada, Coffey said he believes the government has a duty to protect all members of “the human family.”
Victoria Romero, a political studies student and vice-president of cultural and social engagement at the U of M racial equity inclusion alliance felt compelled to counter the demonstrators by having her own personal protest.
“It makes me quite upset that there are people who are anywhere, but especially coming to our campus, to force their opinions on others,” said Romero.
When asked about Coffey’s message portraying abortion as a human rights violation, Romero said, “They are actively seeking to take away others’ rights to their own body and their own human rights.”
“However they may see abortion or contraceptives or reproductive health as a moral failing, that doesn’t deter from the fact that they are the ones attacking other people’s human rights.”
With the ARCC’s statement and the Manitoba election fast approaching, Romero noted the importance of not just looking at abortion policies, but other initiatives taken by politicians.
“Regardless of if you see a politician supporting a pro-choice or anti-choice initiative, it is also important to look at if they are supporting childcare initiatives and health-care initiatives and social supports.”