London-based coalition trying to stop graphic anti-abortion pamphlets

Katie Dean, founder of the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition, speaks outside of London City Hall, October 28, 2020. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

A group of Londoners tired of graphic anti-abortion flyers and signs being placed in mailboxes and displayed on street corners is calling on politicians to put restrictions on the use of such imagery.

The newly formed Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition on Wednesday officially launched its campaign to protect people from pamphlets like the ones being distributed by Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform (CCBR).

The pamphlets, stuffed into mailboxes across the city, include images of what CCBR claim to be aborted fetuses.

Samantha Baron, who recently suffered a miscarriage, received one of these flyers in the mail. She said the image looked similar to the daughter she had lost and were so traumatizing she could not function for the remainder of that day.

Samantha Baron speaks at the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition campaign launch outside of London City Hall, October 28, 2020. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

Samantha Baron

“As parents trying to protect our children, we don’t want graphic images like these in our mailboxes or on our streets,” said Baron. “Women should not have to be harassed on our own streets about abortion. It is our right what we feel is right for our own bodies.”

The young mother shared her story with the small crowd who had assembled outside of London City Hall as part of the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition’s campaign launch. Everyone in attendance wore facing coverings in accordance with public health rules.

Coalition Co-Founder Katie Dean said her organization isn’t saying anti-abortion groups don’t have a right to express themselves, but that the use of such graphic and disturbing images should be subject to restrictions.

“CCBR are not following the no flyer rule on mailboxes. If you have a no-trespass sign, too bad. They are still going to put a pamphlet in your mailbox. They have taped them to doors. One man told me, he had his screen door closed and they opened it and threw one on his floor right beside his child’s playroom,” said Dean. “There is no filter here. That is a huge problem. People are upset.”

The coalition has been visiting neighbourhoods where the pamphlets have been delivered to slap a “viewer discretion ” warning on them. They have also started going to intersections where CCBR volunteers are displaying graphic images and blocking their placards with warning signs.

Dean would like to see pamphlets such as the ones from CCBR required to be in envelopes with a viewer’s discretion warning on the front.

A sign the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition uses to block graphic images on the streets. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

A sign the Viewer Discretion Legislation Coalition uses to block graphic placards.

“These are bloody and gory images… You have to give a warning and that is what we are looking for,” said Dean. “Give a warning to people when they are opening their mail. Put it into an envelope that says ‘viewer discretion.’ That way it isn’t taking away their freedom of expressing whatever they want. That is one option.”

The coalition is also calling on London city councillors to craft a bylaw that prohibits anyone from distributing pamphlets or displaying placards that contain graphic images.

They are calling on Londoners to write to their city councillor in support of the idea. A prewritten letter only requiring a signature can be found on the coalition website

NDP MPP Terence Kernaghan has also launched an online petition asking for a provincial injunction against CCBR or legislation to prohibit the use of graphic and disturbing images on flyers and placards.