Two sides of the abortion issue take to the streets

Almost 30 years ago, Marie Clarke had an abortion, and it's something she says she regrets to this day. "I thought I would be able to get on with my life," said the sign-language instructor from Kelowna, B.C.

Almost 30 years ago, Marie Clarke had an abortion, and it’s something she says she regrets to this day.

“I thought I would be able to get on with my life,” said the sign-language instructor from Kelowna, B.C. “I don’t think people realize the impact that an abortion has on a person.”

Clarke was one of about 35 people who marched through downtown Whitehorse to protest legalized abortions on Thursday.

But they weren’t the only ones who took to the streets. A pro-choice demonstration was held at the same time.

“Whenever people attack the right to choose, we’ll be there,” said Ketsia Houde, the executive director of the women’s group Les Essentielles, which helped organize the pro-choice rally.

“Making abortions illegal will compromise women’s health,” she said. “Women should have control over their own bodies.”

About 50 pro-choice supporters, brandishing coat hangers, knitting needles and placards, stood in vigil in front of the Elijah Smith Building in downtown Whitehorse.

Meanwhile, the pro-life camp, numbering only a few more than 35 people, rallied at the Log Church a few blocks away.

The two demonstrations met when the pro-lifers marched towards the government building.

It was a subdued showdown.

Other than a few pro-choice demonstrators clacking their knitting needles as their opponents passed by, there wasn’t much confrontation to speak of.

Thursday was the National March For Life Day. Thousands of people turned out at demonstrations across the country.

This year was particularly meaningful, as the debate over abortions was recently opened up in the House of Commons.

Last month, Stephen Woodworth, a Conservative MP from southern Ontario, introduced a motion that called for a parliamentary committee to discuss the definition of a human being.

For pro-lifers it was seen as a chance to advance their cause. For the Conservative government is was a political football no one wanted to touch.

When MP’s in the house had a chance to debate the motion, Gordon O’Connor, the government whip, called it an infringement on women’s rights.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also denounced the motion.

Canada is the only developed country without laws governing abortions.

Up until 1968, they were illegal. It was then that the Liberals, under Pierre Elliot Trudeau, introduced Bill C-150.

The amendment to the Criminal Code legalized abortions, provided that a committee of doctors agreed the procedure was necessary for the physical or mental well-being of the mother.

That law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1988 as unconstitutional.

Another decision the next year affirmed that a fetus has no legal status as a person under Canadian law.

A Progressive Conservative government in the 1980s made two attempts to pass an abortion law, but both died in the Senate.

It’s a situation that suits Julianna Scramstad just fine.

The program co-ordinator for the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, who also helped organize the pro-choice demonstration, sees the reopening of the abortion debate as an affront against women’s rights.

“A person is a person only when they leave a woman’s body,” she said. “That’s how it needs to be, frankly.”

But Edna Lorenzen, who helped organize the pro-life march, disagrees.

A staunch Catholic, Lorenzen is steadfast in her belief that abortion is wrong. Even in the case of rape.

“Many wonderful children can come out of rape cases,” she said. But mothers in such cases need a lot of support, she added.

Lorenzen wasn’t the only one that expressed that opinion.

“I think having an abortion can double the trauma,” said Clarke.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

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