Duelling abortion-themed bus ads come to Halifax

South House crowd source advertising campaign.

Bus ads have awoken the abortion debate in Halifax. After pro-life ads appeared on buses earlier this month, a pro-choice organization is raising money to advertise on the entire Metro Transit fleet.

Sexual and gender resource centre South House has collected nearly $1,900 toward its $4,000 goal. The group advocates for a person’s right to choose---using “person,” rather than simply “woman,” because some trans people who have abortions do not identify as women. South House wants to offer bus riders a different perspective, says campaign coordinator Allison Sparling. Contributions can be made via gofundme.com/65csh0.

The original pro-life ads by local group Signs For Life show a photo of a baby and read: “Luc was born today but his life began nine months ago.” The ads grace a billboard, buses and bus shelters and cost the organization $10,000.

Stephanie Potter, a member of Signs For Life and mother of five, says the group deliberately steered away from bloody aborted fetus imagery in favour of a more centrist message.

“[That type of imagery] is cruel and it’s cruel to women who might have had an abortion. We’d rather have an open and honest discussion than horrify people.”

Not everyone is on board with baby Luc, however. Saint Mary’s University student Hilary Murphy started a petition demanding HRM remove the pro-life ads.

“Signs For Life are victimizing women who need an abortion for health reasons, women who have been raped, women who want an abortion simply because they are not ready to be a parent,” Murphy wrote.

Potter respects Murphy’s right to free speech, and says anyone should be able to advertise as long as they meet the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

Ads sold on buses must meet these standards and are pre-approved by third-party organizations, HRM spokesperson Janet Bryson says. Before 2009, Metro Transit could have rejected the abortion ads just as it did atheist ads that year. However a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2009 said an ad cannot be rejected simply because someone finds it distasteful.

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