By Jane Cawthorne and Joyce Arthur
June 9, 2012
(Check it out! There will be pro-choice
counter protests in Winnipeg and six locations in Ontario:
(Check it out! There will be pro-choice counter protests in Winnipeg and six locations in Ontario: www.caw.ca/en/11272.htmThanks Canadian Auto Workers union!)
The so called "new abortion caravan," an anti-choice display of fetus pornography—dubbed the “Crapavan” by pro-choicers—is making its way across Canada trying desperately to make a point. What that point is, exactly, isn't for us to guess, but the shocking blood and guts photos of alleged aborted fetuses are sparking outcries against the Crapavan and spontaneous counter demonstrations from people who have sometimes never been active in the pro-choice movement before. (If you must, you can look at the Crapavan’s website here, it’s a project of the grossly misnamed Canadian Centre for Bioethical Research – CCBR).
The spontaneous grassroots response to the Crapavan so far is quite incredible (Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto), and the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) wants to support local actions. This article offers a few ideas for dealing with the Crapavan if it is coming to your city (schedule). ARCC’s intent is to protect the safety of pro-choice demonstrators and prepare you for the onslaught of crazy you will meet if you choose to engage.
The Real Abortion Caravan
The real Abortion Caravan was part of second wave feminist efforts to decriminalize abortion. In 1970, a group of revolutionary women traveled from Vancouver to Ottawa, infiltrated Parliament, and closed it down for the first time in history – all to protest the new abortion law that was written to protect doctors, not help women access abortion.
The new anti-choice version of this event bears no resemblance to it whatsoever, as explained in this CBC podcast interview with Margo Dunn, an original pioneering Caravaner who is of course horrified at this appropriation of one of the most revered and successful activist events in Canadian history. (Here and here are historical accounts of the Caravan if you want to learn more about the genuine article.)
The Counterfeit Version
The Crapavan has its origins in what pro-choice activists in Calgary have dubbed the "Fetus-mobile," a large panel van plastered with images of blood and gore that drives around the city. The organizer's stated goal is to shock passers-by, hopefully into agreeing with their extremist stance against abortion. They don't just want abortion decriminalized; they want it made "unthinkable." The group's leader, Stephanie Grey, recently endorsed the idea of jailing women for life for having an abortion, or maybe just declaring them clinically insane.
Calgary pro-choice activists have a long history with this group since Calgary is their home base. "Sometimes we engage and sometimes we don't," says a member of the local pro-choice coalition. "We often argue about whether to bother. Feeding the trolls is to be avoided here, just as it is on the Internet."
The Calgary Pro-Choice Coalition produced a comic book about them, believing such a response was the only logical way to react to their ridiculous and offensive tactics. The comic provides background information, including common public negative reaction to the display. Even Calgary's Bishop Henry has denounced this group's tactics, and Gray herself has had to work hard to defend her tactics from rebukes in her own movement.
CCBR is the same group responsible for the similarly extreme Genocide Awareness Project that shows up on Canadian university campuses from time to time (offensively comparing abortion to genocide), and sometimes across the street from public schools. Recently at the University of British Columbia, a GAP display inspired one student to strip naked in protest, making a statement about her body being hers, for her to use as she wished. The student put her own body on the line to protest. Whether or not it was effective or wise was discussed at the time, but it does tell us that GAP-type displays inspire people to take radical action. In another example, at the counter protest in Vancouver last week, there were conflicting reports about a cyclist who allegedly damaged the CCBR van's mirror while passing by, perhaps accidentally but likely in anger. Counter protesters can act to prevent situations like this from escalating.
What to Do?
ARCC is delighted to see counter protests rise up against the
Crapavan, we have some suggestions to help your protest be as
effective and risk-free as possible. Remember, you will not change their minds
about abortion, so if this is your goal, don't bother.
Be prepared for the following:
Stay safe, and be proud for standing up for human rights. Don’t forget all of the resources available for you at ARCC. Happy protesting!
Please email us if you need advice or support for your action: firstname.lastname@example.org