Protesters on wheels ride from Manitoba legislature to alert public about lack of abortion access

More than 100 people on bicycles and skates took to the streets of Winnipeg Thursday to protest for greater protection of women’s abortion rights in Canada, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade two months ago.

Justeen Barnes, founder of Ride 4 Rights, which organized the event, said they thought it was important to do something because they were shocked by the situation in the U.S. and wanted to show solidarity with those affected. 

“This just shouldn’t be happening at this time, in this world right now,” Barnes said. 

Barnes said they also gathered to highlight that although abortion in Canada is legal, it’s not necessarily accessible for those in rural communities. 

“As much as here in Canada we have a choice, that choice is only urban, it’s not rural,” Barnes said. 

Riders leave the Manitoba legislative grounds and head toward the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. A placard reads, “Parenthood should be a choice!” (Justin Fraser/CBC)

“Yes, we have a choice but where does that choice take you?” she asked. 

Placards in the crowd echoed Barnes’ sentiments. One woman carried a sign that read “equal reproductive health care access,” and another’s sign said “abortion is health care.” 

Taking a positive approach

The protest started with a gathering at the Manitoba Legislative Building in downtown Winnipeg.  From there, cyclists rode to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. 

The organizers called the event a “Bike Jam,” signifying a desire to keep things light despite the weight of the issues. 

“I want this to be a memory of impact rather than you walk away and you kind of feel that trigger, that trauma with you. I want this to make you feel that you did something in a good way rather than make you feel defeated,” Barnes said. 

Music on loudspeakers blended with a steady chorus of laughter to create a festive affair matching the theme. 

Elizabeth Mitchell said she was glad to support the issue when she heard it would take the form of a jam, as reproductive rights are “a joyful thing.” 

Elizabeth Mitchell and Dayna Steinfeld said they think reproductive rights should not just be fought for and protected but also celebrated. (Andrew Wildes/CBC)

“Reproductive rights are human rights … they should be celebrated,” she said. 

Dayna Steinfeld, sitting on her bicycle beside Mitchell, agreed. 

“Reproductive rights are freedom, they’re health care, they’re something that are important to all of us as humans regardless of gender and that’s something that we should be proud of and celebrate,” Steinfeld said. 

For attendees who wanted to donate to the cause, Barnes said all money raised will go to the Women’s Health Clinic in Winnipeg. 

Barnes said she hopes the impact will help people in rural Manitoba as well. 

“It’s really up to them what they do with it but I’m hoping that it’ll cause some type of funnel effect where that money is implemented into transportation or other facilities in more rural areas,” Barnes said. 

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