To the residents of Nelson, Mayor Deb Kozak, and Nelson City Council,
We are a group of harm reduction and reproductive justice advocates and service providers. We work closely with the people of this city who are seeking a wide variety of health care provisions and support, including but not limited to, access to abortion. We recognize this is a contentious issue and one that sits tenderly in the hearts and bodies of many. It is not our desire to villainize or shame anyone for their choices. Rather we are writing this letter to advocate for a different approach to this conversation. One that relies less on black and white thinking and more on cooperation and respect.
We feel that the banner pictured above, which hung above Baker street for a full week in November, runs the risk of alienating and silencing anyone who has chosen to have an abortion, or anyone who has considered doing so. Abortion is a deeply personal choice. Whatever our aims, whether they are to create safer access to abortion, or reduce the number of abortions that are happening, shaming people is never a helpful tactic. Shame merely leaves people drowning in fear and hiding in shadows. This is particularly harmful when what pregnant people often need is non-judgemental support and access to a range of choices that allow them to feel empowered, rather than forced.
We urge you, especially those of you with decision making power at City Hall, to consider whether, as a community, we want to condone this type of message. Are we a community that wants to shame people? Or do we want to support people to make informed and well supported choices, whatever they may be. Many Canadians fought to legalize abortion, and to many people a banner that opposes this right is experienced as discriminatory and offensive. Considering the nature of this banner’s content, we urge you to reconsider whether this banner should even be allowed to be displayed so publicly above the town we live in.
No one wants to live in fear of judgement from their community. And we don’t believe anyone needs to, no matter what their choices are. Disagreement is a natural part of sharing community.
It’s how we carry that disagreement that defines our character.
We would much prefer, and seek to encourage through our work, a message that encourages safety, access to a wide range of choices and ultimately respect for all of human life. We feel this work must include the rights and needs of pregnant people facing complex and often challenging choices.
The Reproductive Health Coalition of the Kootenays
West Kootenay Women’s Association
Tansy Collective: Full Spectrum Abortion and Miscarriage Doulas
Members of the Reproductive Health Coalition want to make this letter available widely, both so our words are on public record, but also so that other communities can copy the letter and use it as a template to instigate similar discussions. Please feel free to share our words and engage in dialogue.
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