Court Rules City Can Censor Pro-Life Bus Ads: “They’d Create a Hostile and Uncomfortable Environment”

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jan 5, 2017   |   7:31PM   |   Edmonton, Canada

A Canadian pro-life organization is battling against an Alberta city’s decision to reject its ads on transit buses this month after the city claimed the ads would hurt women.

On Dec. 22, a judge dismissed the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform’s lawsuit, ruling that the City of Grande Prairie’s actions were “reasonable,” the Edmonton Journal reports.

The ad from the CCBR showed images of unborn babies at seven weeks and 16 weeks and of a blood smear, according to the report. The ad read “Growing … Growing … Gone. Abortion kills children” and listed the organization’s website.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice C.S. Anderson ruled that the city’s actions did not infringe on the group’s freedom of speech.

“I find the ad is likely to cause psychological harm to women who have had an abortion or who are considering an abortion. It is also likely to cause fear and confusion among children who may not fully understand what the ad is trying to express … (This ad may cause emotional reactions that could) create a hostile and uncomfortable environment,” Anderson wrote in the ruling.

Carol Crosson, a barrister and solicitor with Crosson Constitutional Law, which represents the pro-life organization in the case, said they plan to appeal the ruling.

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“The decision represents a radical departure from the Supreme Court’s consistent rulings which hold that protection for free speech is broad and especially serves to protect minority and controversial viewpoints,” Crosson told LifeNews. “The Court has stated in past that ‘the view of the majority has no need of constitutional protection, it is tolerated in any event.’ The consequence of this ruling is that government can decide what messages are upsetting and what messages are not, becoming the arbiter of acceptable speech. That should be a concern to all of us.”

Here’s more from the Edmonton Journal:

In its filing, CCBR was not looking for monetary damages. Rather it only wanted the right to put the ad on city buses. The city has maintained the position that it was only rejecting this particular ad and should CCBR wish to submit another ad it may do so, but the advertisement must comply with the city’s advertising policy that ads that are “reasonably deemed by the city to be immoral, vulgar, disreputable, misleading or offensive to the general public” are not allowed.

In the United States, a pro-life pregnancy center in Indiana faced a similar court battle when the Fort Wayne city bus system tried to censor its ads in 2013. The courts eventually sided with the Women’s Health Link in June 2016, ruling that it was unconstitutional for the city bus system to reject the ad.

The Indiana organization’s 11-by-17-inch ad showed a smiling woman’s face and the words “You are not alone” and “Free resources for women seeking health care” with the organization’s website and telephone number, according to court documents.

The city rejected the ad twice, claiming the pregnancy center’s website discussed “controversial issues.”