Pro-life rally attracts hundreds of people to Alberta legislature grounds

WATCH ABOVE: A large pro-life rally was held in downtown Edmonton on Thursday. As Fletcher Kent reports, this year's March for Life exposed some deep political divisions.

Hundreds of pro-life demonstrators converged at the grounds of the Alberta legislature on Thursday to voice their opinion on an issue that has increasingly come up in Alberta politics of late, whether during the recent election campaign or in legislative debates before that.

“We’re having a peaceful demo in support of the sanctity of life,” said Mary Hunt, who helped organize the March for Life rally.

“Life is a gift of God and that we should cherish it and protect it.”

Hundreds of pro-life demonstrators converged at the grounds of the Alberta legislature on Thursday.

Hundreds of pro-life demonstrators converged at the grounds of the Alberta legislature on Thursday.

Global News

Protesters eventually left the legislative grounds to march through parts of downtown Edmonton.

Among those in attendance, were the UCP’s MLA-elect for Peace River, who tweeted his gratitude for all the pro-life demonstrators who showed up. Dan Williams said he hoped that the “Alberta media report fairly on the March for Life today.”

Dozens of counter-protesters were also in attendance, including Kathy Dawson, who describes herself as an “Alberta Handmaid,” or part of a group of people who speak out against Premier Jason Kenney and his UCP government.

“I’m concerned now because the current government has a number of anti-choice MLAs,” she said. “Reproductive choice is critical in empowerment of women.

“If we can’t control our bodies and have say over them, then we have no rights.”

The Alberta Handmaids, a group of people who speak out against Premier Jason Kenney and his UCP government, showed up to a counter-protest during the March for Life rally at the Alberta legislature on Thursday.

The Alberta Handmaids, a group of people who speak out against Premier Jason Kenney and his UCP government, showed up to a counter-protest during the March for Life rally at the Alberta legislature on Thursday.

Global News

During the recent election campaign, the NDP said it believed a UCP government would put women’s rights, including access to abortion, in jeopardy, citing Kenney’s history of voting pro-life as an MP.

READ MORE: UCP candidate in central Alberta under fire over homophobic, anti-abortion comments

Watch below: (From April 2019) There are calls for Mark Smith, the UCP candidate Drayton Valley-Devon, to be fired after he gave a sermon in 2013 saying media portrayals of LGBTQ love as “good love” are problematic. Albert Delitala explains.

In 2012, Kenney went against then-prime minister Stephen Harper and supported a motion to set up a committee to study whether a fetus is a human being before the moment of birth. The motion was defeated by a vote of 203 to 91.

Kenney has said he never spoke about the issue as an MP or proposed a motion or bill about abortion.

READ MORE: Alberta Election Fact Check: NDP claims Kenney’s trying to restrict access to abortion

Watch below: (From March 14, 2019) The NDP says “a woman’s right to choose is in sudden and real peril in Alberta” thanks to Jason Kenney. Is this true? Would access to abortion be limited under a UCP government? Emily Mertz has our latest Fact Check segment.

Sarah Hoffman, the MLA-elect for Edmonton-Glenora, was one of the counter-protesters at Thursday’s rally.

“I’m here because I’m unapologetically pro-choice,” she said. “I respect women and their bodily autonomy.

“The fact that we have a status of women minister who wouldn’t stand up for those women I think is incredibly troubling.”

READ MORE: Alberta government looks to include schools in abortion protest buffer zones

Leela Aheer, who was recently named Alberta’s minister of status of women, was part of a UCP caucus that walked out of legislative debates a total of 14 times as the NDP was working to pass its bill creating no-protest zones around abortion clinics. That bill eventually became law.

READ MORE: Alberta buffer zone law tested in Calgary as anti-abortion group calls new rules anti-free speech

Watch below: (From September 2018) A demonstration outside Calgary’s northwest abortion clinic was held on Saturday. It was one of the first protests since the NDP government created zones to protect staff and clients from harassment. But as Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, pro-life groups are calling the law redundant and a political stunt.

Kenney has said he will not legislate on abortion even though UCP members passed a resolution at a party convention last year that some people on both sides of the debate said could do just that.

Abortion became legal across Canada in 1988, when the Supreme Court struck down abortion prohibition as unconstitutional.

Christine Myatt, a spokesperson with the premier’s office, issued a statement about the event.

“Albertans have a right to express their views, which is what happened at the legislature today,” the statement read. “Albertans also have a diversity of views on this issue and each is entitled to his or her own opinion, but the premier has been clear that he will not revisit the matter.”

–With files from Global News’ Emily Mertz and The Canadian Press’ Dean Bennett

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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