sensible speech

Judge bans anti-abortion ads on public buses due to concerns about psychological harm

AP

A Canadian judge says an anti-abortion group cannot put their ads up on public buses in the city of Grande Prairie, Alberta because they might cause “psychological harm to women who have had an abortion.” The offending ad contains pictures of fetuses and reads, “Abortion kills children. End the killing.” (Due to the nature of the ad, I’m not going to post a picture, but if you’re curious, you’re can find it here.)

The ruling comes after the anti-abortion group called the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform appealed the city’s decision not to run the ads. Judge C. S. Anderson explained the decision against the ads also had to do with how it might impact young people.

“They may not be familiar with the word abortion, but they can read and understand that ‘something’ kills children,” the judge wrote. “Expression of this kind may lead to emotional responses from the various people who make use of public transit and other users of the road, creating a hostile and uncomfortable environment.”

The anti-abortion group is unsurprisingly criticizing the ruling, citing free speech concerns. “If government can tell its citizens what’s upsetting and what isn’t upsetting in their speech, then democracy is threatened and, indeed, progress is threatened,” the legal counsel for the group reportedly said. That might sound like a nice argument, but progress is actually threatened when women can’t go out in public without being confronted and criticized for the choices they make about their reproductive health.

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