Pro-choice group protests religious organization in front of HSC Women’s Hospital

By Riva Billows

Anne Wyman, 30, and her cousin Jen Wyman, 35, hold their handmade signs. This was Jen Wyman’s first protest. RIVA BILLOWS

On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, Cody Gabrielson spent four hours walking up and down Notre Dame Avenue in protest of 40 Days for Life, a campaign that seeks to “end… abortion in our city – and beyond.” The counter-protest was organized by the Action Against Anti-Choice Coalition (AAACC) and took place outside of HSC Women’s Hospital.

Gabrielson, 33, who was once part of the pro-life movement, said studying Human Rights at the University of Manitoba helped him develop a strong stance against abortion abolition attempts.

“The religious extremism… is unacceptable,” said Gabrielson, who was invited to the counter-protest over Facebook.

Cody Gabrielson, 33, outside of HSC Women’s Hospital. Gabrielson says religious extremism is “bad, bad, bad” in the pro-life movement. RIVA BILLOWS

40 Days for Life claims to be the largest internationally coordinated pro-life movement in history. In Winnipeg, it’s been coordinated by Maria Slykerman, 77, for the past nine years.

From September 26 to November 4, members of 40 Days for Life spent 12 hours a day praying on the sidewalk in front of HSC Women’s Hospital. Slykerman said the AAACC counter-protests have taken a toll.

“It’s getting more difficult, because the people on the sidewalks are apathetic,” said Slykerman. “They don’t know what’s going on.”

While the 40 days ended last week, Slykerman will continue her pro-life efforts as the Manitoban President of the Campaign Life Coalition, a political lobbyist organization with socially conservative values.

From last month’s “Abortion: Is it a Woman’s Right?” debate at New Life Sanctuary to anti-abortion protests at the University of Manitoba, Meredith Harley, 20, says there’s been an increase of pro-life rallies in the last few months. Harley, who helped organize the counter-protest, said the political climate in the U.S adds fuel to the fire

“There’s been an allowance,” said Harley. “If the most powerful person in the world can say this, then they feel like they can too.”

Meredith Harley, 20, one of the organizers of the counter-protest, said the AAACC believes that “it’s not anyone’s place to tell anyone else what they can and can’t do with their body.” RIVA BILLOWS

Harley is also the secretary of the University of Manitoba Student Action Network – Revolutionary Student Movement (UMSAN-RSM), which founded the AAACC. In recent weeks, UMSAN-RSM has put pressure on the University of Manitoba to adopt a pro-choice stance.

On November 5, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union passed a motion that officially supported reproductive autonomy, an act that Harley says is validating.

UMSAN-RSM will continue to put pressure on the University of Manitoba in the hopes they come out with a similar statement.