The Belleville, Ont., chapter of the Knights of Columbus has erected a monument "in memory of all victims of abortion" at a local cemetery.
According to the Catholic fraternal organization's Facebook page, the gravestone-like monument at St. James Cemetery was erected Nov. 2. Inscribed with the phrases "life is sacred" and "unborn lives matter," as well as a quotation from the Bible, the polished black stone also bears an image of a fetus in the womb.
CBC reached out to the Knights of Columbus Belleville council but did not receive a reply. A Facebook photo showing a group of men and boys posing beside the gravestone has received more than 1,000 comments, both for and against the gesture.
CBC also reached out to the cemetery, which is operated by three Catholic parishes in the eastern Ontario: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Joseph and Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. Cemetery administrators did not want to comment other than to confirm the monument exists.
Heather Tapp, executive director of the Belleville Pregnancy and Family Care Centre, a non-profit Christian organization that works with pregnant women and women who have had abortions, said her organization had no role in the monument, but she supports the initiative.
"For these women [who have had an abortion] this monument may be a source of comfort or a place where they could go to express their grief and loss," Tapp wrote in an email.
But Elissa Robertson, co-ordinator for the local women's advocacy group Warrior Women of Quinte, called the very idea of such a monument in a cemetery "ghoulish."
Grief is already really complicated, but when you're going to visit a headstone the last thing you want is to be shamed for making the best decision you can about your own body. - Elissa Robertson, Warrior Women of Quinte
"Grief is already really complicated, but when you're going to visit a headstone the last thing you want is to be shamed for making the best decision you can about your own body," Robertson said.
She characterized the monument as an attack on women's reproductive rights.
"Many women in our community have had abortions. They're not monsters or demons. They're not bad people," Robertson said.
Warrior Women of Quinte is organizing a rally on Saturday to protest the monument. Robertson said she hopes that will foster a discussion about the values her community wants to embody.