London ‘graphic image’ bylaw targets pro-life advertising

20/02/2024 / Abortion 

The City of London will decide this week whether to enact a new bylaw that forbids showing “an image or photograph showing, or purporting to show, a fetus or any part of a fetus” in any public spaces in the city. This bylaw does not address graphic imagery of any other kind and is overly broad in encompassing all ultrasound images of pre-born children. 

This bylaw was proposed mainly in response to sidewalk displays featuring images of aborted pre-born children. We Need a Law never uses graphic imagery, but we do frequently use ultrasound images of pre-born children in the womb on advertising like flyers and bus ads. These images would also be captured by the new bylaw. 

ARPA Canada, We Need a Law’s parent organization, has just launched a legal challenge against a similar graphic images bylaw in St. Catharines, Ontario. That bylaw specifically targets flyers delivered to houses, requiring an opaque envelope and content warning on any flyer with an image of a pre-born child. London already has a similar bylaw, which could be impacted by the court decision in St. Catharines. Yet the City of London is considering expanding restrictions on pro-life expression to public spaces more generally. 

With these bylaws, cities claim to be targeting graphic images. But pictures of victims of war or natural disasters, or of animal cruelty, or any other graphic images are not covered by these bylaws. Instead, they specifically target pro-life materials. They are broadly written so as to capture not just graphic images of abortion victims, but as much pro-life advertising as possible, including standard ultrasound images. New parents often hang such pictures proudly on their fridge – it is likely that no one in London or anywhere else in Canada considers an ultrasound picture to be a graphic image that people need to be shielded from.  

These unnecessary and poorly considered laws are a direct infringement on freedom of expression. They target pro-life groups and do nothing to actually protect children or others from graphic content.  

Deanna Ronson, a board member with the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, believes the bylaw is a justified infringement on rights because pro-life groups should not be allowed to imply that pre-born children are human beings worthy of protection. CTV News quotes her as saying, “A person’s rights end where they start infringing on someone else’s [rights], and harming someone else.”  

We agree – but sharing the pro-life message does neither of those things. Awareness needs to be raised that these smallest humans need protection from what our law currently allows, which is abortion at any stage of pregnancy, for any reason. The pro-life movement cannot be silenced, and the pro-abortion movement should stop insisting they are the only ones with a right to speak. 

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