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.”
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.”
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.
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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.
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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.”
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.
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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
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