PAN Calgary exists to equalize the abortion rights debate
U of C Club aims to counter-protest triggering pro-life signage on campus
By Sydney Fritz, Staff Writer
The pro-life vs. pro-choice debate has been causing a stir on campuses across Canada for a long time. But Pro Choice Activist Network Calgary (PAN Calgary) has made the choice-side of the debate far more visible on the University of Calgary (U of C) campus.
PAN Calgary is a rising activist group that campaigns for reproductive and sexual health rights of women across Canada, in partnership with the women’s studies and Feminism club at the U of C.
“The group was founded in response to the increased presence of anti-choice demonstrators [at the U of C], “ says PAN Calgary founder Claire Hickie.
Hickie says the group, “is dedicated to dispelling myths and misinformation about abortion and sexual health.”
Part of this is done, she explains, by showing up where there are “anti-choice demonstrators” with their own pro-choice signage.
Hickie utilizes the PAN Facebook group to connect pro-choice activists and supporters. This helps to mobilize group demonstrations or “counter protests” as she calls them, and provide support for people who have negative reactions to some of the more graphic pro-life displays.
She says they do so, “to show students and community members that they are not alone and to show that there is support for the Pro-Choice movement on campus.”
“While counter-protesting we will also check in with any individuals who seem upset or triggered by the displays and need immediate support or help and will walk with them to get peer support…depending on their preference,” says Hickie.
In some cases PAN Calgary Members provide information to those looking to make a report to campus security if they are “causing security issues” such as blocking entrances, or causing emotional harm with a display.
The main group PAN Calgary aims to offset is associated with the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP).
According to their website, GAP provides visual displays “which graphically compare the victims of abortion to other atrocities, such as Jews in the Holocaust or African-Americans during the Civil Rights struggle in the US.” The GAP website says this is done to stimulate “dialogue among students and others who ordinarily ignore the abortion debate” and to “humanize the pre-born and dehumanize abortion.”
Currently, PAN Calgary is most active at the U of C, however the group is looking to expand to MRU.
In March PAN Calgary group is hosting a Pro-Choice Activist Volunteer Training on the U of C campus. This event will be open to university students and anyone looking to learn how to start similar events on campus.
“We encourage open discussion on issues such as sexual health and abortion, but strongly believe that graphic displays meant to trigger and upset students and other passersby are not an ethical or effective way to stimulate respectful and healthy debate,” says Hickie.
“We will continue to advocate on behalf of the rights and well-being of Canadian women and individuals of other genders who require access to abortion and other sexual health services.”