A judge in Alberta, Canada, upheld the decision by the City of Grande Prairie to ban a pro-life banner from its buses because they might cause "psychological harm" to women who have obtained an abortion in the past.
The advertisement showed images of a baby at seven weeks and at 16 weeks gestation. Next to images is an empty circular frame representing abortion. The images included the captions: "growing," "growing," and "gone." The banner also contained the message, "Abortion kills children," along with website address of the advertiser, the Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR).
Justice C.S. Anderson noted that the website contained messages such as "Now is the time to put an end to the slaughter. Now is the time to look evil in the face and say, enough. Now is the time to join together, and lend our voices to those who had theirs brutally taken from them."
"These are strong statements that vilify women who have chosen, for their own reasons, to have an abortion; they are not merely informative and educational," the judge remarked, as reported by Life Site News.
Anderson said that the city "reasonably" balanced the free speech rights of the advertiser with the policy of providing a "safe and welcoming" space for passengers and passersby.
Carol Crosson, legal counsel for CCBR, said that the decision leaves virtually all free speech unprotected. She said that CCBR is considering an appeal.
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Joyce Arthur of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada hailed Anderson's decision and said that the ruling should encourage other communities to reject such advertisements.
The same banner is expected to be displayed on buses in the City of Peterborough in March this year. CCBR took the city to court last year after it rejected the advertisement due to concerns that it would affect ridership on its buses, according to the Peterborough Examiner.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice stated that the decision infringed upon CCBR's freedom of expression while noting in its ruling that the city had agreed to run the advertisement.
Alan Barber, an associate city solicitor for Peterborough, noted that the city had no policy outlining standards that advertisers need to meet when CCBR first submitted the banner.