(LifeSiteNews) — City councilors in London, Ontario, have passed a motion to consider banning all images of unborn children from public property.
On Tuesday, December 5, councilors Hadleigh McAlister and Sam Trosow brought this motion to the city’s Community and Protective Services Committee to expand the controversial 2022 bylaw that bans all images of fetuses from being openly delivered to private homes. The new motion seeks to ban pro-life demonstrations on sidewalks with so-called “graphic images,” meaning any images of unborn children, either whole or dismembered.
During the meeting, Councilor Trosow recognized that both the 2022 bylaw and the newly proposed motion violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“[The bylaw] created a burden on freedom of expression and indeed constituted a violation of section 2b of the Charter… There is no dispute of that,” he said.
“It was a content-based measure, and it limited otherwise permissible speech.”
Despite this admission, the councilor attempted to justify this infringement by citing Section 1 of the Charter, commonly known as the Reasonable Limits clause.
The five councilors of the committee, Jerry Pribil, Elizabeth Peloza, David Ferreira, Sam Trosow, and Hadleigh McAlister all unanimously voted in favor of the motion. The motion calls for a public participation meeting on the proposed bylaw amendment as well as city staff to generate a report for the committee on the subject.
London is only one of a series of Canadian cities that have restricted free speech for pro-life activists. Blaise Alleyne of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform told LifeSiteNews that Toronto, Calgary, and St. Catharines have all implemented their own restrictions on delivering photographs of aborted remains of children to homes.
Alleyne said that this new motion, however, would be the first of its kind. “No city has passed any legislation that restricts pro-life signs on the sidewalks,” he said. “It would just be such a brazen violation of the Charter”
Involved in the pro-life movement for over 18 years, Alleyne said the use of photographs of aborted fetuses is a powerful tool to bring attention and change minds.
“It brings the individual victim of injustice who can’t speak for [himself or herself] into the conversations… The photos of abortion victims make it clear that abortion isn’t just about a what, but about a who.”
Alleyne said it is not uncommon for the use of these photographs to have immediate and direct results.
“We’ve heard people cancel their abortion appointments because they see photos of abortion victims and what abortion would be doing to their child.”
He called attention to the peculiar definition that London City Council used for “graphic images” which states: “‘Graphic Image’ means an image or photograph showing, or purporting to show, a fetus or any part of a fetus.” The expression “fetus,” derived from the Latin word denoting offspring, is often used to hide the humanity of the unborn child.
“It is so clearly singling out the pro-life message,” Alleyne said. “Like it’s trying to hide the victims of abortion.”
Maria McCann, the president of London Against Abortion, told LifeSiteNews that the motion would cause a massive change in how pro-lifers practice activism.
“It really seeks to silence an entire side of a massive conversation that our culture is having,” she said. “I think of all the really wonderful respectful conversations I’ve been able to have with countless Londoners doing outreach with London Against Abortion, and these include many interactions with people who did not agree with me on this issue.”
The group has already been affected by the previous ban on “graphic image” flyers, which caused them to change to street outreach.
“The last thing our society need is more attempts at preventing civil discourse… if we just silence entire sides that’s just the majority acting authoritarian,” McCann said.
She expressed concerns of how sweeping the proposed ban could be due to imprecise wording. She noted that things like bumper stickers could fall under the ban.
McCann observed that laws of this nature could be used to target other movements, like protests for peace in Ukraine and the Middle East.
“I would encourage people, even if they disagree with us on abortion, they absolutely should speak out against this proposal for the sake of protecting their own right to speak up about issues important to them.”
McCann repeatedly called for civil discourse regarding abortion, especially since she has faced violence from people that do not agree with her pro-life views.
“I think that decision to inflict violence, in some ways, that is the fruit of initiatives that seek to silence people,” she said. “Because if you can’t silence someone legally than why not silence them with force?”
Residents of London, Ontario, are asked to email and, especially, to call their local city councilor expressing concern with this motion. Contact information for all the councilors can be found here.