A few dozen people gathered outside Guzzo’s Marché Central location Friday to protest “Unplanned,” the anti-abortion film currently screening at five locations across the province.
Some call the Christian-produced film anti-abortion propaganda. Guzzo is the only company screening it in the province.
The protest was organized by La Riposte féministe, a collective that fights for bodily autonomy and reproductive rights, according to its Facebook page. Protesters carried signs that read “Don’t touch our ovaries.”
In an interview with La Presse canadienne, a member of the collective said she disagreed with Guzzo’s owner referencing freedom of speech to defend his decision to show the film.
“This movie presents itself as though it’s neutral information on abortion, when really, it’s a a bunch of lies trying to drive fear and guilt,” said Sonia Palato, citing an example of a bloody abortion scene during which a character howls of pain while undergoing a procedure.
“To use people’s emotions as an instrument is not part of a democratic debate,” Palato said. “It’s manipulation. When you’re a film broadcaster, you have a responsibility to take on the message you’re passing along, and hiding behind freedom of expression is not facing up to your responsibilities.”
Cineplex also decided to screen the film and has been showing it since Friday in 14 of its Canadian locations, none of which are in Quebec. Earlier this week, Cineplex president Ellis Jacob said the decision wasn’t made lightly.
“I understand and can appreciate the concerns about the film, but it is up to each of us to decide whether or not we want to see it. In Canada, we have that option, and I think it is an important thing to remember,” he wrote.
La Riposte feministe distributed pamphlets accusing Guzzo and Cineplex of making “profit on the back of the sexual and reproductive health of cis women, trans men and non-binary people and queers,” in a context in which their bodily autonomy is under attack.
Anti-abortion groups are more active than most believe in Canada, reportedly galvanized by recent advances in their movement in the United States.
Campagne Québec-Vie, an anti-abortion group in the province, says on its website that it has “fought hard” to bring this film to Canada, hoping to get people behind its cause by showing “various tragic or unsavoury aspects of abortion.”
Unplanned was inspired by Abby Johnson, a former director of a family-planning clinic who became a leading figure in the pro-life movement.
For Palato, the debate should not focus on the legitimacy of abortion, but its accessibility. She is urging people to voice their opposition by boycotting Guzzo.