“Women Do Regret Abortion,” read signage at a speaking and outreach event held outside the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) Student Union Building (SUB) on March 21. Hosted by student group Youth Protecting Youth (YPY), about 10 people handed out leaflets to passing students and other pedestrians, stopping to chat with some, while three women and one man took turns at a microphone telling stories about abortions they regret.
“I want to spread the message that there is hope and there is healing if you are hurting after an abortion,” said speaker Dale Barr, an Ontario woman who had an abortion at age 16.
The UVSS has a “pro-choice” stand written into its policies and has previously censured and revoked club privileges from YPY under a clubs and course unions harassment policy, after students complained about YPY posters and events.
“I like to see that people have their right to free speech,” said fourth-year Social Sciences student Rachel Wever, in passing by the event, “but my personal belief is that women have the right to a free and safe abortion if they so desire.”
Wever said that at previous YPY-hosted events, counter demonstrators set up nearby. However, no abortion rights advocates showed up at this event.
“This, I think, is a lot less threatening,” said Wever. “It’s important to realize that there is a difficult side to having an abortion. You have to really think it through if you’re going to make that choice, but I definitely think it needs to be available for people, because otherwise it’s even more dangerous.”
One speaker held a thick card sign in front of him reading, “I regret lost fatherhood.” The women speakers held “I regret my abortion” signs. The speakers told of their abortions and undesirable events in their lives after. Some said they were told things about abortion that weren’t true in their cases, such as that there would be no adverse effects.
One woman called out as she walked past, “When I was a pregnant woman, I needed support and an abortion, but I’m sorry [you regret yours].”
YPY members and former president Anastasia Pierce, who is now the western campus co-ordinator for National Campus Life Network (NCLN), stood by, with further materials on a table under a UVSS tent with the society tagline “Run by students, for students.” The event was booked by YPY, with additional organizational efforts through Pierce, NCLN, and the “Silent No More Awareness” campaign.
Elizabeth Sutcliffe, in her speech, said her fiancé’s way of supporting her in their unexpected pregnancy was to leave it up to her choice. She, however, felt very alone in making the decision by herself.
“They want to share their stories so other men and women won’t go through the same things they experienced,” says Pierce.
Responding to the Martlet by email, UVSS Chairperson Kelsey Mech said that the UVSS has received some written complaints and will initiate a complaints process. Mech also wrote the following:
We aim to create a community on campus where all views and opinions are welcomed. All groups with clubs status, which YPY has, are able to access UVSS resources to support their events. The UVSS does not prevent any expression of ideology, values or beliefs unless complaints are brought forward by individual members. That all being said, we do take any complaints very seriously because we believe in creating a campus that is safe for everyone.