RE: Respect for Life Day

Dear Mayor Watson

I am writing as a concerned citizen. The issue that I wish to draw to your attention is the declaration of an Ottawa “Respect for Life Day” that coincides with the largest annual Canadian anti-choice action, the Ottawa March for Life, happening Thursday May 12th. At this juncture, I would like to remind you that under Canadian law women have the right to autonomy over their bodies and their choice to employ a range of reproductive management strategies including abortion. I in no way am accusing you or your office of taking a political stance on the issue, but I do have concern for the type of message your declaration will send.

Declaring a “Respect for Life Day” continues to frame the debate on the terms of those who advocate the criminalization of abortion. By naming the debate pro-life vs. pro-choice, the debate is misrepresented. Pro-life is a personal choice that only pregnant women can make. When moral systems of belief are imposed on others in attempt to limit or influence the choices pregnant women make, the debate is no longer about respecting life and is more accurately described as anti-choice. Further demonstrating the failure of the pro-life rhetoric is that there are initiatives and people who are characterized by both pro-choice and pro-life. For example, a woman may be pro-life, but dedicated to creating better social services so that women with unintentional pregnancies may be prepared to bear and raise a child. The woman in this case would have respect for another woman’s choice but still be dedicated to creating circumstances where more women can choose to carry out unintended pregnancies.

The actions organized for the May 12 March for Life are not pro-life, they are definitively anti-choice. They invoke imagery of murder and genocide to arouse feelings guilt and shame among those who do not share their ideology.  This march is not established out of genuine concern for struggling pregnant mothers and speaking to their needs; it pushes a conservative and criminalizing political agenda that undermines women’s equality.  The declaration of a “Respect for Life Day” privileges the rhetoric of those who seek inequality and a recession of the feminist movement.

Mayor Watson, you are in an office that creates public discourse for Ottawa, our nation’s capital and one of our largest urban centres.  It is inappropriate that such an office would pander to the inaccurate and nefarious rhetoric of respect for life.  I strongly encourage you to retract May 12th’s designation as “Respect for Life Day”, and equally I invite you to join the pro-choice presence at the March for Life; this presence is dedicated to sex and body positive feminist action toward equality.  For more information please see or feel free to contact me personally, and I will ensure you are directed to the right place.

I hope you take appropriate action on this matter and resolution is reached quickly.