Saturday, 25 February 2017

"I Regret My Abortion": Controversial Bus Ad

After working a long day, ideally, I make my way home with as much ease and as little frustration as possible through rush hour traffic.  There's the inevitable driver who chooses not to use their turning signal, the frequent start and stops, and the non-stop red lights.  It's all very predictable.

The other day, however, there was something different.  As my fiancée and I made our way home from work, a City of Regina transit bus turned onto Winnipeg Street in front of us.  Typical enough.  What was unusual, though, was the advertisement screaming out at us.

"What the hell is that?" I asked her, as though I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Now, I would like to preface with saying that I am not one who is easily offended, and it takes a lot to shock me.  But when I saw the ad on the rear end of the bus in front of me, I couldn't help but pause for a moment and simply think, "Really?"

"I Regret My Abortion."  That's what the ad before me on the rear end of a City of Regina transit bus read in rather bold black letters, the face of an emotional and solemn looking woman next to the phrase.

City of Regina transit bus en route on Winnipeg Street North in Regina, SK

Ad featured on City of Regina bus also located on above noted website

The ad by Regina Pro Life, an anti-abortion organization, though supposedly quoting a woman named Shawna, has placed the ad on the City of Regina bus to seemingly tell woman that they'll regret their abortion, too.  It's all very pathetic, if you ask me.

It's not the message from the ad on the city-owned bus that shocked me, though it was certainly a surprise to see so suddenly on my commute home from work.  I understand that the opinion of some differs from others.  I understand that there are sides that are taken when it comes to serious social issues like abortion.  And I understand that not everyone is going to have the same beliefs as I.  But how this ad can be placed on a city bus and literally put in front of me and figuratively shoved down my throat I don't understand.  The time I spend at work is political enough, so when I'm simply driving home at the end of the day, I'd rather not be bombarded with ads as tasteless as this.

For full transparency sake, I would declare myself to support the pro-choice belief, if you hadn't already pieced this together.  I completely, whole heartedly, 100% believe in a woman's right to choose what she does with her own body, and I will defend this until I'm blue in the face.  At the same time, while I certainly don't agree with them, I respect the opinions of others that are pro-life.  However, no other group or person, man or woman, should have a say in what a woman chooses to do when it comes to her own body, particularly when it has to do with such an important, life altering decision.

What shocked me about the ad on the city owned bus, to an extent, but more so what bothered me, was the placement of the ad.  No, no, not the fact that it was on the rear end of the transit bus.  It was the fact that it was on the bus to begin with.  Radio stations and restaurants.  Those are the types of things that should be advertised on the sides of transit buses, not questionable and controversial ads that judge the choices of others.

The City of Regina's transit system boasts being Saskatchewan's longest-operating transit system.  The service began in 1911, and now, more than a century later, the City of Regina declares its transit system to support inclusiveness.  And to that I ask, what's inclusive about supporting the judgement, shaming, and contempt of a gender that makes up more than half the population of the city?  While, of course, not all women have or will ever have an abortion during their lifetime, thousands upon thousands of women have had or will have an abortion.  How can a city's government make the choice to support this type of insensitive and disparaging criticism?

When did it become okay for a municipal government to show such bias?  I know that individual politicians have their own opinions and that they're often elected based on their stance on certain issues, and that certain political parties lean a certain way.  But as a governing body in a municipality, it is said municipality's responsibility to ensure the wellbeing of its citizens rather than supporting such disparaging messages.  As a citizen of Canada and a member of a particular community, individuals should be free from non-consenting exposure to ridiculous and malicious messaging on the a city bus that many of them pay taxes to help fund and operate.

As a Canadian, I am a massive supporter of our country's constitution, in particular the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  And while the Charter outlines in section 2(b) that all peoples have the right to freedom of expression, the ad on the bus is not it.  This is simply an organization's attack on women who choose to make their own decisions and who do so with the hope and expectation that they will not be shamed or ridiculed for making this decision.  The organization that placed the ad certainly has the right to hold such beliefs and to declare these beliefs; however, how the City of Regina can support such messages is beyond me.  There's something not right here.

So, with the anti-abortion ad being plastered on presumably more than just one bus, either the City of Regina has taken sides on the particularly polarizing issue of abortion by willingly placing the pictured ad on their buses, or money really does talk.  And if that's the case, the money is speaking massive volumes.

Aidan Sisk
aidansisk.com

Another shot of the City of Regina transit bus and its controversial ad