Nfld. & Labrador

As abortion under threat, pro-choice protesters far outnumber anti-abortion in St. John's

Demonstrators gathered in St. John's on Thursday to add their voices to the current abortion debate, with U.S. lawmakers and Ontario MPPs vowing to ban it — and two candidates in the N.L. election who ran with anti-abortion views.

Demonstrators on each side have very differing views of changing political tide in U.S., Ontario

Pro-choice protester Alex Cho says everyone deserves reproductive rights. (John Pike/CBC)

As anti-abortion views gain political steam in the U.S. and Ontario, protesters gathered outside the Confederation Building in St. John's on Thursday to champion their beliefs on the issue. 

Pro-choice protesters outnumbered their anti-abortion counterparts, with roughly 100 people advocating to protect reproductive rights compared with roughly 10 people advocating to eliminate them. 

"It's just ridiculous that we still need to do this kind of thing today, to let the world know that we won't go backwards, only forwards," said Magyn Long.

The Memorial University student and volunteer at Planned Parenthood held a sign with an image of a coat hanger, used by women to terminate unwanted pregnancies where access to safe abortions is not available.

Pro-choice protester Magyn Long attends a duelling protest next to anti-abortion protesters in St. John's on Wednesday. (John Pike/CBC)

Long said this province is not immune to the change in political climate around abortions in other parts of North America. 

"It could happen here tomorrow. We just wanna stand here and let those 10 protesters that are here know that they're not welcome here and they're not the majority," she said. 

Two Progressive Conservative candidates in the recent provincial election were anti-abortion, with PC leader Ches Crosbie dismissing Michael Normore from the party for those beliefs. 

'We should all support human rights'

Memorial University medical student Stephanie Malone said it's important to fight against a "backwards way of thinking." 

"I think that if everyone were to become educated about it, and maybe learn a bit more why it's a necessary part of our health-care system, and why banning it would lead to so many more bad health-care implications, I think that everybody would see that it's necessary," said Malone. 

Another volunteer at Planned Parenthood in St. John's, Alex Cho, said it's important for men like him to add their voices as well. 

"We should all support human rights," said Cho. 

Former NDP MHA Gerry Rogers said it's critical to protect reproductive rights, and offer women across the province more access to health services. 

"When we see what's happened in the last provincial election, where there were candidates who were anti-choice, and we cannot, we cannot afford to lose any of the rights that were so hard fought for," she said. 

'Tide is changing a bit'

Ed Metcalfe said he's one of the few protesters often found outside a clinic that offers abortions on LeMarchant Road in St. John's, and he doesn't understand why the crowd there is so small. 

"When you go to church, all your friends, they're all pro-life, yet they don't want to march, they don't want to carry the signs," said Metcalfe.

"But it's going to change. We've had six new people here today that we haven't had before, and they're all students, so that was great."

Ed Metcalfe is a pro-life protester who says people will eventually understand 'murdering babies is not the best way to handle pregnancy.' (John Pike/CBC)

Although Metcalfe doesn't see anything changing in Canada as long as Justin Trudeau is prime minister, he feels it's important to vocalize anti-abortion beliefs. 

"I think the tide is changing a bit towards pro-life. In the states now, Alabama, four or five more states have banned abortion, and it's slowly changing," said Metcalfe.

"Eventually it will change and people will come to their senses and know that murdering babies is not the best way to handle pregnancy." 

Colette Flemming was at the March for Life in Ottawa on May 8, and said she was encouraged by the number of young people there. She said the protest in St. John's was in solidarity.

"I take courage from the fact that maybe what's happening — is it south of the border? — certainly will come into Canada," said Flemming. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Zach Goudie and Marie-Isabelle Rochon