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Kingstonians rally in support of reproductive rights

Organizers of a reproductive rights rally at City Hall on Sunday, Jun. 26, 2022. L-R: Shannon Beckstead, Cate Patterson, Izzy Myers-Tung, Maya Cowan. Photo by Garrett Elliott.

Update (Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2022):
Following MPP Ted Hsu publicly addressing his stance on women’s rights to access medical treatments, including abortion, the rally previously scheduled to take place on Thursday, Jun. 30, 2022, outside MPP Hsu’s office has been relocated.

“As an Ontario Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament, I commit to protect equality for women in ALL aspects of health care and to protect the right of women to make their own choices about abortion free of discrimination and coercion,” Hsu wrote as part of a three-part post on Twitter on the morning of Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2022.

That same day, those organizers behind the ongoing rallies in support of reproductive rights have chosen to relocate the Thursday, Jun. 30 rally to take place out front of Kingston City Hall from 1 to 5 p.m.

Original article:

Following the United States Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade on Friday, Jun. 24, 2022, ending the Constitutional protection of abortion in the country, over 40 demonstrators took to the steps of Kingston’s City Hall two days later to voice their support for reproductive rights and for access to abortion.

“We are very horrified about the reversal of Roe v. Wade in the States and just felt like we had to do something,” said Cate Patterson, one of the organizers of Sunday’s event. “We just wanted to get our message out there that we’re not going to go back, and that abortion is healthcare.”

Patterson said she is concerned about the potential for a similar reversal of abortion protections in Canada, noting that a majority of Conservative Party MPs are currently anti-choice. “We feel like it could happen here. You know, when you’ve got 1/3 of current sitting MPs [who] are anti-choice… that’s scary.” Patterson was referring to a recent report by Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, that found 73 per cent of Conservative MPs are anti-choice.

Those participating in Sunday’s event saw it as an opportunity to stand up for abortion rights in Canada and around the world, a message Patterson said resonated with members of the community. “I think that there is a majority in Canada that does support choice. And I’m hoping that we can maintain that.”

Given the rise of anti-choice protests in recent years, often including graphic language and imagery (one such group of demonstrators were seen at busy intersections in Kingston the day before the Supreme Court ruling, on Thursday, Jun. 23, 2022), Patterson noted how important events like Sunday’s rally are in terms of raising awareness for the cause. “That’s one thing that we were concerned about is, you know, seeing that increase [in anti-abortion messaging] and wanting to make our voices heard, as well… I think that we needed to get out there and just be seen.”

While the issue of abortion is often framed as a matter of choice and bodily autonomy, Patterson pointed to additional negative effects which could arise if access to abortion were ever to be outlawed or restricted in Canada. “[The] economic and emotional fallout from forced birth is something that’s very concerning, and disproportionately will affect the poor and racialized and marginalized communities. And we don’t want to see that happen.”

The group has another demonstration planned for Thursday, Jun. 30, 2022, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., outside the office of MP Mark Gerretsen at 841 Princess Street. Patterson noted that they had hoped to rally at newly elected MPP Ted Hsu’s office, but he has yet to set up an official public office. “We’re going to Mark’s [office], and we are concerned about Ted Hsu’s record because he stated that he [was] anti-abortion in the past. So, we want to know where our leaders stand.”

Hsu’s stance on abortion has been the subject of much speculation. During last month’s provincial election campaign, the then-candidate for Kingston and the Islands was asked in a tweet to confirm his stance on the issue, pointing to a previous blog post where he stated “I shall support a woman’s right to choose.” At the same time, however, Hsu said “as the father of two beautiful daughters I have a deep value for life.”

“It is dangerous for anyone with a uterus to have a representative who neither personally believes in nor fully understands abortion,” local advocates stated on the event page for Thursday’s demonstration. “We demand that Ted Hsu go on record to openly denounce what is happening in the USA, and commit to understanding and protecting reproductive rights for all.”

While members of the public are encouraged to join the event on Thursday, supporters can also sign an online petition, which “[calls] on Kingston representatives at ALL levels of government to commit to protecting reproductive healthcare rights.” The group is also encouraging people to leave hangers outside Kingston City Hall, as many have been doing since Friday — a symbolic gesture that draws attention to the historic and dangerous use of wire hangers to perform non-medically-supported abortions.

Hangers left by pro-choice advocates outside Kingston City Hall. Photo by Cate Patterson.
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