Pro-choice supporters gathered at the intersection of Highway 16 and Main Street on Mar. 7. (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Pro-choice supporters stage counterprotest against pro-life vigil

The event was in response to a 40-day pro-life vigil currently being held in Smithers

Around 80 pro-choice supporters gathered at the intersection of Highway 16 and Main Street on Mar. 7 to show their support for a woman’s right to choose.

The group was also there to show their opposition to the Smithers 40 Days of Life Vigil taking place at the same location throughout March and part of April.

Supporters at the intersection held signs with slogans such as “My body, my choice” and “Honk for access to safe healthcare” as they encouraged drivers to show their support as they passed by.

Participants at the event who spoke with The Interior News said they were there to stand up for a woman’s right to choose and felt it was important with a 40-day consecutive pro-life rally that there was representation for the other side.

The counterprotest was organized by local business owner Amy Brandstetter who, in a Feb. 29 video posted to her business’s Facebook page, said she wanted to put together the event because she believes all women have the right to bodily autonomy.

“What is happening right now is so disgusting, it is shameful and it is terrible,” said Brandstetter of the pro-life vigil which began on Feb. 26 and runs until April 5.

Brandstetter said the whole core of the pro-choice movement is that it gives women the power to make the decision for themselves.

“You can be pro-life,” said Brandstetter.

“If you get pregnant you can decide I would never have an abortion and you can carry through that pregnancy regardless if that child were to be born with major ailments, regardless [of] if it would take your life to follow through.”

But the Smithers entrepreneur said she draws the line at the point where people start making decisions on the behalf of others, adding she feels tactics used by people within the pro-life movement go against what the Bible preaches.

“That bullying and that shaming and that level of judgement is not looked down upon as some sort of favour that you are doing,” she said. “It is shameful, it is terrible and it goes against the very Bible that you use to justify your actions with.”

Organizers with the Smithers 40 Days of Life Vigil told The Interior News they did not have their volunteers out on Saturday while the counterprotest was taking place.

“We have been taking part in this peaceful and prayerful vigil because we believe that all human life is precious and deserves dignity and care,” said event organizers Jessica Vandergaag and Brigitte Kloosterman in a joint email statement.

“It is out of this same desire to promote love and care that we decided to not hold the vigil in public on Saturday, out of concern for the safety and well-being of our volunteers and the public.”

The group said they are thankful the majority of people who have approached them have been respectful in conversation.

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