SFRJ-TO: Opposition to Use of Graphic Anti-Choice Images At the University

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Students for Reproductive Justice - Toronto (SFRJ-TO) condemns the usage of graphic anti-choice images on post-secondary campuses.

We are especially alarmed by the recent increase in related demonstrations across U of T campuses. This tactic not only inconveniences, frustrates, and upsets members of our community, but it does so by design: a spokesperson for one anti-choice organization which uses graphic images in their demonstrations has publicly stated that they are displayed with the intention of causing psychological harm.

As of January 16th, 2019, graphic images have been used in heavily trafficked campus areas and events at least seven times this academic year alone; this includes the UTSU Orientation Clubs Fair, the UTSU Orientation Street Festival, the interior of Sidney Smith (in addition to videos), and directly outside of Robarts Library. Furthermore, six out of seven of these demonstrations have been conducted without the prior notification or approval of relevant UofT event organizers and space management.

SFRJ-TO opposes anti-choice tactics that proliferate shame, fear, and misinformation, but these are not the only grounds upon which we call students, student groups, and allies to action. In 2016, anti-choice activity was discussed in public forums and publications on campus, including the Varsity. The director of news and media relations at U of T responded at this time by citing the University's Policy on the Recognition of Campus Groups, which includes a commitment to not censoring certain beliefs or student groups. We acknowledge how and why it is not University policy to monitor or review the activity of student groups in the “normal course of events."

SFRJ-TO believes that the crux of this issue is not a difference of opinion, but rather a willful misinterpretation and abuse of freedoms that have enabled the harassment of recognized minority groups.

To support this, we also look to the U of T Policy on the Recognition of Campus Groups. It outlines the expectation that voluntary organizations “move about the University and … use its facilities in any reasonable way, … [and] distribute on campus, in a responsible way, published material provided that it is not unlawful.” Moreover, the University’s Statement on Freedom of Speech outlines the institution’s commitment to defending “a prerequisite freedom of speech and expression.”

Simultaneously, the website of the Office of the Vice-Provost of Students clarifies that while “you are, for the most part, free to express your opinions, no matter how controversial, there is a point at which the right to free speech is limited. You are not entitled to target individuals with vexatious comments based on human rights grounds. If you do so, and your conduct is known to be unwelcome, this is defined as “discriminatory harassment” and is an offence under the University’s Code of Student Conduct.” The University’s Statement on Human Rights clearly states that the University "acts within its purview to prevent or remedy discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation" and other historically significant identities.

The repeated display and distribution of upsetting anti-choice materials on campus is not reasonable, responsible, or normal student group behaviour. Furthermore, harassment on the basis of one’s exercising of reproductive rights is recognized by various institutions as constituting gender-based violence. This means that the aforementioned anti-choice tactics are acts of “discriminatory harassment,” which the University has a responsibility to respond to and prevent.

Anti-choice tactics include misrepresenting and stigmatizing abortion, which is a medically safe and common procedure. As a consequence, graphic images displayed by anti-choice groups are weaponized, and they deter students from freely accessing facilities that students have a right to access. These facilities include buildings such as Sid Smith and Robarts, but also notably include many general and reproductive health-specific resources.

We therefore seek to hold the University accountable regarding its failure to operate in accordance with aforementioned policies, and its resulting failure to ensure a reasonably accessible learning environment for all of its students.

SFRJ-TO believes that one key solution for said failures is the creation of “buffer” or “access” zones which would cover public* areas of the University. Buffer zones have historically been established around facilities that provide abortions; anti-choice activity is prohibited within them, and they have been a successful measure for protecting individuals accessing or providing related services from anti-choice coercion, misinformation, and trauma.

In summary, we ask that students, student groups, and allies:

1. Urge the University to conduct a transparent investigation - with the direct involvement and leadership of various students - into the deleterious effects of graphic anti-choice signage on students and other members of our community, and
2. Support the implementation of buffer zones at the University.

If you would like to provide feedback (including concerns, comments, and testimonies) on the aforementioned issues, please contact us at

Students for Reproductive Justice - Toronto


*Re: ‘public’ areas—if this buffer zone is implemented, recognized pro-life student groups would still be permitted to pursue reasonable student activities in more private areas of the University (e.g. formally booked classrooms)