By Greg Price
For Dr. Jillian Demontigny, it was time that women’s voices for reproductive rights were being heard.
Demontigny is helping organize a pro-choice rally on Sunday which will coincide with Taber Pro-Life’s Life Chain on the same day.
“Women’s rights are very important to me, particularly when it comes to health, access to health care, and mental health. Over the years, I have always had a strong sense of discomfort with the trailer ads that I drive by whenever I enter and leave our community,” said Demontigny in an e-mail interview with The Times, as Demontigny was away on a medical conference in the United States. “I have driven by the Life Chain demonstrations a couple of times, and I always feel this overwhelming mix of vicarious guilt, indignation and a desire to shield other women from having to drive by the same. It is like having someone shout in your face you don’t matter, you aren’t free, you are just a woman. So this year I have been doing a little more advocacy in our community on behalf of sexual and reproductive rights, and a natural progression of that is this pro-choice demonstration.”
While the pro-choice and pro-life movements are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, Demontigny hopes the pro-choice and pro-life demonstrations can remain peaceful and respectful. It is a sentiment echoed by pro-life supporters who issued a Letter to the Editor in this week’s Taber Times. Pro-choice supporters will be meeting on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the corner of 50th Street and 48th Avenue. The pro-choice demonstration is expected to go until 3 p.m. along 50th Street. The pro-life Life Chain will be going from 2 – 3 p.m. on Sunday as well along 50th Street.
“I hope this rally is seen as a peaceful show of support for women. I hope to demonstrate that Taber is not made up of only one viewpoint on this subject. I am pro-choice, and I live here, this is my home. And I hope at least one person in Taber feels their rights are safer, by seeing our rally posters,” said Demontigny. “What do pro-life and pro-choice agree on? I don’t really know. I think there is a great opportunity for bridge building. I target my practice to helping girls and women prevent unwanted pregnancies. Sexual health education needs to be universal to all young people. Contraception comes in many forms and there is a big variability in effectiveness, and I try to make sure every patient I see has a method that matches her needs. I would love to work with pro-life in expanding on these two services. They have a lot of resources and passion, and I think this would be a very positive way to reduce abortions.”
There has not been an organized pro-choice rally in Taber in recent memory, but Demontigny adds feedback for her rally has been mostly positive leading up to the event.
“Feedback on social media has been really good. I got 31 likes and seven posts in support. Three friends posted concerns and their feelings against abortion,” said Demontigny late last week in her correspondence. “I received some pushback from a colleague. And there was one community member who wrote me a letter about their pro-life and religious belief. All discussion is healthy.”
As far as the recent controversy that has swirled around town council’s decision to leave park benches in the cemetery that have the Pro-Life inscription put on them in big letters, Demontigny noted there is no place for such a highly-politicized issue in the venue. Demontigny also takes issue with youth being pulled into such a heated debate be it pro-life or pro-choice.
“Get rid of the benches in the Taber cemetery. It is not an appropriate setting for advertising or a political slogan. The crosses on the outside of the cemetery are historic and should be OK to stay. People have complained, those benches have caused offence and should be removed or modified,” said Demontigny.
“I think there is a time to start talking about sexual health with children. I am not ready to talk about puberty or reproduction with my kids, who are under age 10. When they ask questions, we talk about it. They haven’t asked me about the pro-life billboards yet, but they are learning to read and it will come up. I don’t think it is appropriate for my kids to participate in an event if they don’t understand what it means. No one should ever use images of human remains to push their agenda. I don’t show images of women who have died from illegal abortion. If they choose to demonstrate in the future, either pro-life or pro-choice, I hope that they have the courage and the understanding to do so with their entire selves.”