Calgary

'I'm emotionally harmed': Anti-abortion ads on Lethbridge buses traumatic for some residents

Anti-abortion ads appearing on Lethbridge buses and bus stop benches have some residents upset. They want city council to take responsibility for advertising allowed on city property.

City directs complaints about content to Advertising Standards Canada

The same advertisement pictured here also appears on Lethbridge city buses and transit property throughout the southern Alberta city. (Twitter/Kallie Desruisseaux)

Anti-abortion ads appearing on Lethbridge city buses and bus stop benches have some residents upset.

They want city council to take responsibility for advertising allowed on city property.

Kallie Desruisseaux said she saw the ads while driving her son to daycare on Tuesday.

"The whole way I followed one of the buses with the advertisements, and the ad said, 'say no to abortion, pre-born babies feel pain,'" she recalled. "And that really upset me."

Kallie Desruisseaux, pictured here with her son and husband, says the advertisements are triggering for her as she previously underwent an abortion for an ectopic pregnancy, without which she would have died. (Contributed/Kallie Desruisseaux)

Desruisseaux said she's previously had two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, forcing her to have a medical abortion — without which she would have died.

"People will use the word offence. People get offended, but I'm not offended. I'm emotionally harmed, this brings up trauma in my past," she said.

'Set appropriate standards'

In a written response to CBC News, the city said advertising on all Lethbridge Transit property is handled by a third-party contractor.

It says concerns can be emailed to city transit, but issues with content should be taken up with Advertising Standards Canada.

"The City of Lethbridge recognizes that there is a range of values and views in the community about pro- life messaging," reads the statement. "If members of our community feel that the current ads don't meet advertising standards, we encourage them to contact Advertising Standards Canada."

Desruisseaux said she feels the the city is shirking responsibility.

"I'd just really like council to take responsibility for their own property, and what I'd really like council to do is to set appropriate standards for what they're willing to provide a platform for in this community," she said.

'Open dialogue is always really important'

Duane Konynenbelt, president of Lethbridge & District Pro-Life, said the ads are part of an ongoing open debate about abortions. 

"Open dialogue is always really important in this, and that's why we've advertised not just for the last eight weeks but for the last 15 years. And again, we've always done this with love and compassion," he said. "We can't have these open and honest discussions without that being in the public sector."

Konynenbelt said the group's mission is to proclaim the value of human life from conception to natural death. He said they've always advertised and reflected that message in a positive way, protected under Canada's charter.

Desruisseaux said that for her, this isn't about what you believe when it comes to anti-abortion or pro-choice issues. 

"It's not about pro or against the topic itself. It's about causing harm to people and bringing up this trauma," she said.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson