File photo: Students advocating for pro-choice at a demonstration outside Sidney Smith Hall. Nathan Chan/THE VARSITY

On a quiet Friday afternoon, drivers on St. George street honked in support of the pro-choice view as they read a sign asking them to “honk for choice.” A pro-choice demonstration on December 4 garnered much attention from passers-by, including honks, cheers, and stares.

Despite the chilly weather, participants showed their support for bodily autonomy by peacefully protesting against anti-choicers with self-made signs in addition to signs provided by Planned Parenthood. The demonstration began at noon with approximately nine participants, eventually growing to 15, with individuals coming and going as time passed.

Some of the signs read “choice is ours,” “choice is yours,” “freedom is choice,” and “information not sensation.” Demonstrators also brought information on sexual education, the truth about abortion myths, where to get free condoms, and how to contact Planned Parenthood.

Teodora Pasca, a second-year criminology and ethics, society and law student, and Emily Posteraro, a third-year biodiversity and conservation biology student, are co-founders of Students For Choice, organized the protest.

“I personally noticed frequent pro-life protests on campus this year, and was surprised that there was no collective effort to counterprotest,” said Pasca. “I think it’s extremely important to speak up against anti-choice dialogue, given that many women under a variety of circumstances are still fighting for reproductive rights, including access to abortion services. We also wanted to express support and compassion for women who, having undergone difficult experiences, may have felt shamed or degraded walking by anti-choice protests on campus,” she added.

At around 2:00 pm, pro-life campaigners assembled a line along St. George street, holding large signs approximately three feet in height. These signs were graphic and depicted a mutilated fetus within the womb, an aborted fetus in a gloved hand, and an ultrasound of a fetus at 10 weeks.

Posteraro said that she felt that the pro-life demonstrators employed shock tactics when promoting their views on campus and held up a sign saying, “Dear Students For Life: SHAME on your SHOCK TACTICS.” Students For Life did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

The two groups eventually interacted. Although Pasca did not personally engage with the pro-life protesters, she said that she had spoken with them in the past. “[The] dialogue has for the most part been respectful,” she said. Pasca however, also said that the two sides may have irreconcilable differences. “I feel it is extremely difficult for two groups who feel so strongly on either side of this issue to really come to any sort of agreement.”

Pasca explained that she was pleased with the demonstration and that it engaged students whom she had never met before. “[Individuals] were encouraged to participate in any way they wanted to or felt comfortable. As a result, quite a few students who I had never personally met showed up to help, which I was very grateful for,” she said.

“When dealing with such a sensitive issue, I think it is important to make a statement of solidarity that comes directly from the community, which includes involving students of all genders and backgrounds, and encouraging dialogue and sharing if they feel safe doing so,” she stated.

Pasca said that she would encourage any students who are pro-choice to come out to future demonstrations. “[This] is an extremely important issue that we can no longer keep quiet about,” she said.

Disclosure: Teodora Pasca is an associate comment editor for The Varsity.

With files from Iris Robin

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