OTTAWA — Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators descended on Parliament Hill Thursday, as a leaked U.S. Supreme Court decision brings renewed attention to the issue on both sides of the border.
"How about that Roe v. Wade decision? Are you stoked? I am," said Jeff Gunnarson, national president of anti-abortion group Canadian Life Coalition.
Gunnarson spoke to the crowd, referencing the leaked draft decision to overturn the landmark case in the U.S. on abortion rights.
"They're not. They're nervous," he said, gesturing to the dozens of abortion rights advocates who counter-protested at the margins of the rally.
James Schadenberg said while he would have come out to the rally regardless, he hopes the leaked decision will bring encourage Canada's politicians to bring a law to prevent abortion and "protect the right to life."
Fellow anti-abortion protester Valerie Luetke said the situations in Canada and the U.S. are "certainly different."
“They're trying to strike down the Roe v. Wade abortion law in the States. But here we don't have a law, so we're trying to build a law. So it's definitely different circumstances."
Anti-abortion demonstrators held signs that said "I regret my abortion," and "love life, choose life."
Meanwhile, counter-demonstrators carried placards reading "abortion is health care" and "keep your laws off my body."
Jaisie Walker, executive director for Planned Parenthood Ottawa, said her organization wanted to make sure its presence was extra powerful this year.
"Our goal for the day is to build solidarity amongst the folks who come here today," said Walker, adding her group was there to share information and "support reproductive justice."
Attendees in religious attire were present at the March for Life rally and many speakers made references to Christianity.
"Life is very important. It's a gift from God, the life we have," said Gaetana Nicola, who said she has been coming to the annual rally for a long time.
Ottawa police advised those travelling downtown Thursday to expect traffic disruptions, and notify they would carry out rolling road closures ahead of the demonstration.
Vehicles are still not allowed on Wellington Street between Bank Street and Elgin Street, after the “Freedom Convoy” protest that gridlocked downtown Ottawa for several weeks in February.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press