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Successful crowd-sourcing puts pro-choice ads on HRM buses

South House and Halifax Sexual Health Center raise money to counter pro-life "misinformation" campaign

by Miles Howe

Successful crowd-sourcing puts pro-choice ads on HRM buses

K'JIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – Starting Monday, March 24th, pro-choice advertisements will appear on every bus in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The South House and the Halifax Sexual Health Centre coordinated the successful fundraising campaign – which saw the advertisement fee of over $4000 raised – in response to pro-life, anti-abortion advertisements that have been prevalent on Metro Transit buses and shelters for some time.

“A couple months back we noticed that there were a lot of anti-choice ads that had gone up with a lot of misinformation and unscientific claims,” says Jude Ashburn, outreach coordinator at South House. “We made the call and asked how much it would cost to run our own ads, with a focus on re-education around the words 'pro-choice' and what it means to actually value hard-won rights in basic health care.”

Taking the pro-life/pro-choice debate to the public transit system is within the 'advocacy advertising' guidelines of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, says Sherry Kirwin, a manager at Pattison Outdoor Advertising, the company responsible for handling advertising contracts for Metro Transit busses and ferries.

“We can't say no to someone if they want to advertise, because then you're interfering with their free speech,” says Kirwin.

To Ashburn, the pro-life ads aboard Metro Transit busses are targeting a group of people, specifically the majority of transit riders bound by economic necessity to ride the bus.

“I feel like it's a very specific group of folks who are going to be shamed by that type of misinformation,” says Ashburn. “It's very important to reaffirm peoples' rights and understand that access to abortion is a basic human healthcare right. Those [pro-life] ads target the working poor, so it can be eight in the morning and you're going to your job and that's what you see.”

The pro-choice ads will run for one month starting Monday.

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Great news. Given the big money backing of bigotry that has given anti-choice groups something of an ipso facto stranglehold on the medium (bus ads . . . but also billboards and other "mass" popular media), this is heartening.
At the same time, it makes me wonder (and this is absolutely not a dig!) if there are other ways of reaching transit riders for four grand a month.

I've been interested in transit as a site for organizing in the context of increasingly small, fractured workplaces, neighbourhood displacement, etc. How is it to be done?

Anyway, again, congrats.

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