Pro-Choice signs called grass-roots action

ST. PETER’S: A group wanting to re-affirm the reproductive rights of women has put-up two signs here to drive their point home.

Two new “Pro-Choice” signs were erected this summer at each end of the village of St. Peter’s, according to a group of residents who raised money for the signs.

The group’s leader, CJ Carter, recalled that in the first part of 2019, lawmakers in several U.S. states passed bills to end safe and legal abortion. Carter said this was a clear sign that there was a movement in some parts of the United States to penalize doctors who perform abortions, as well as the people who seek them.

“There were pro-choice protests and petitions circulating on social media and it rekindled my own support for the movement,” Carter recalled. “There are many who would like to see abortion access restricted or prohibited in Canada for a variety of reasons. I thought it was time for the pro-choice members of our community to make a statement by adding our own signage.”

Although abortion is legal in Canada, and despite some challenges related to access in some regions, it remains a safe procedure in this country, Carter said. However, she is disturbed that the one national part held a vote at its annual convention last year to reopen the debate on access to abortion, a vote which was narrowly defeated.

“If a woman wishes to seek an abortion, it is no one’s business but her own, which is supported by Canadian law,” Carter noted.

After forming a group of like-minded residents, Carter said their initial goal was to send a message to women about bodily autonomy, but soon education became another priority, so the group set-about learning about the services available locally, such as 811 or those offered by calling 1-833-352-0719.

“This enables women to have access to reliable health information, regardless of whether or not they have a family doctor,“ she noted.

In June 2019, the group established a GoFundMe campaign to erect the signs.

“Once we launched our campaign, it took us less than 10 days to reach our financial goal,” Carter said. “The support from the community was immediate and enthusiastic. That in itself shows how important grassroots action can be.”

A design process began over the fall and winter months with Brad Bowman of Beerad Digital, who donated his time. Carter said the number one message they wanted to get across to the public concerned the health and safety of women. Carter wanted the signs to be bold, calling for the protection of hard-won rights, as well as including an educational component.

“The new signage in St. Peter’s is a response to the concern that has been raised by women across the region who are committed to the protection of our rights and decision making over our own health,” she said

Although the onset of the pandemic delayed the installation of the signs from the spring, after public health restrictions eased, Carter said the group restarted the task of locating prominent roadside locations, then installing the signs.

Carter added that the signs and the group’s efforts have inspired others.

“Since we began, we’ve seen similar efforts emerge in Sydney and had expressions of interest from across the island,” Carter stated. “A couple of signs in St. Peter’s may seem insignificant in the context of the international policy development on women’s rights, but this type of grassroots action is how many of our most cherished social justice and health policies have been begun.”