TORONTO, May 3, 2013 ( – Eight months after setting up a new office in Toronto, the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform is making a strong impact in Canada’s largest city with a new outreach to high school students.

The activist group has won some high-profile media attention in recent months for their ‘Choice’ Chain demonstrations outside Toronto-area high schools after the story broke last month of a man and woman wanted by police for spitting on the activists and assaulting them with hot coffee.

‘Choice’ Chain uses large graphic signs to expose the injustice of abortion. The signs display full color images of babies destroyed by abortion with the word “CHOICE?” written across the top in bold.

Six or more ‘Choice’ Chain team members peacefully stand on public sidewalks near the high schools during lunch hour to challenge students’ preconceptions about abortion. Operating five days a week since February, the group has hit over fifty Toronto-area high schools.

Toronto’s NOW Magazine ran two stories (here and here) on CCBR’s activism last month, calling the group's work “eccentrically fascinating”.


They have been interviewed on CBC’s The Current, and the Globe and Mail ran a piece slamming the group’s tactics as “brazen”.

The Globe and Mail’s Caroline Alphonso quoted parents and teens who were not pleased that a group would confront high school students with a message about abortion.

“I think it’s inappropriate,” said one parent. “If you want to make a point, then I think you should be approaching people who are in a position to be making those kind of decisions. I don’t think my 16-year-old daughter is.”

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said an 18 year-old boy. “They’re at a high school. They’re showing pictures of dead fetuses right on the corner… I think all women should have a choice.”

But pro-life activist Stephanie Gray, CCBR’s executive director, told that high school teens need to hear the truth about abortion just as much as anyone else.

“We’re communicating facts which are relevant to a generation of young people that are finding themselves or their peers in unplanned pregnancy circumstances where they may be considering abortion.”

“Far from this being inappropriate, it’s most certainly appropriate because some of these kids are being driven to abortion clinics by their parents, by social workers, by friends. This information is very relevant because it’s reaching people at a time where they may be making the wrong choice and they need the right facts to dissuade them from making a deadly decision,” she said.

The following real dialogue between a high school student and a ‘Choice’ Chain activist captured by CBC’s The Current reveals how the dialogue tactic works:

Pro-Lifer: If I want to stand here and swing my arm, I have a right to do that, right?

Student: Sure.

Pro-Lifer: But what if I swing my arm to the point of hitting your friend in the face, would you agree with me that would be wrong?

Student: Ok, Yeah.

Pro-Lifer: It sounds like what you and I can agree on is if I do something with my body that hurts someone else’s body, you and I would agree I shouldn’t be allowed to do that. So, the question is, is this [pointing to a graphic image of an aborted baby] the woman’s body or is this the baby’s body?

Some do not agree with the CCRB’s method of reaching out to young people. Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics at the University of Toronto, told the Globe and Mail that the group targets “vulnerable students,” using “manipulative language and advertising techniques to recruit.”

But Gray said that there is nothing manipulative in what ‘Choice’ Chain does.

“It’s easy to throw that label around, but back up that claim with evidence. Abortion advocates can’t back up the claim with evidence because the reality is that we are very Socratic with the kids. We ask them questions, we communicate the facts.”

‘Choice’ Chain activists maintain that only the honest facts presented in a peaceful, caring manner will change hearts about abortion.

“Time and again we’re talking to young people who are saying: ‘I never thought of it that way’. We’re seeing 180s happening,” Gray said.

Paul Saurette, associate professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Political Studies, told CBC’s Matt Galloway on The Current that pro-life groups like the CCBR have an appeal with young people that the pro-abortion movement lacks.


“[They are] much younger, very sophisticated about their communication strategies, and using a variety of different approaches which frame the issue of anti-abortion much more closely with progressive or traditionally progressive values, issues, and narratives.”

“The lesson for the pro-choice movement is that it needs to think seriously about reengaging,” he said.

Regarding the criticism of recruitment, Gray said that ‘Choice’ Chain’s presence near high schools is not only about changing hearts on the issue of abortion.

“We’re absolutely there to recruit as well as change minds,” she said. “I don’t hear anyone complaining about people who want to recruit young teenagers to anti-bullying campaigns,” adding that the abortion procedure itself is an “act of bullying of the youngest of our kind.”

“We need to build a culture that is selfless instead of selfish. A culture that is made up of people who are self-interested is a culture that leads to all kinds of human rights violations and depravity. And so by encouraging young people to embrace the pro-life message, we’re really building up a culture where people, starting at the young ages, are really being more other focused than self-focused,” she said.

After the school year ends in June, ‘Choice’ Chain will bring its signboards and pro-life message to the busy downtown intersections of Toronto. The group is also planning a postcard campaign to deliver the truth about abortion right to people’s front doors. 


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