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This article was published 6/11/2011 (3559 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As one woman held up a cardboard sign with "choose masturbation" etched in bold pink letters, another woman clutched her rosary and quietly uttered a prayer as she walked by.
Both women were outside Health Sciences Centre Women's Hospital on Sunday where dozens of pro-life and pro-choice activists converged on the sidewalk to take very opposing stands on abortion.
It was the final day of Campaign Life Coalition's 40 days for Life anti-abortion rally, and the day pro-choice activists from the University of Manitoba's Womyn's Centre organized their own rally at the same location.
It didn't take long before a respectful, though heated, debate emerged.
Pro-life activists wore white signs with a photo of a fetus that urged bypassers to 'pray to end abortion' or 'regret your abortion.'
Pro-choice activists carried colourful, handmade signs that defended a woman's right to choose. Some pro-choice activists played a game of pin the contraception on the womb, and brought bananas for a quick-draw condom rolling contest.
Louise LaRocque and Geoff Bergen stood to face one another as they squared off over conception, world population growth and the outcomes of unplanned pregnancy. LaRocque said anti-abortion protestors have walked up and down the sidewalk every day for 40 days, and are not here to fight, but to save a life.
Bergen said he believes that life does not begin at conception.
Though neither LaRocque nor Bergen changed their position, both agreed it was an emotional topic.
"It is a heated issue," Bergen said.
The anti-abortion rally recently sparked criticism after Christ the King School principal David Hood said he hoped to make the protests an official school activity for students and parents as early as next year. He said students who partake in the vigils could count the time outside the hospital towards their required community service time.
Hood was placed on paid leave for nine days, the school declared that abortion vigils would not be part of the school's activities and his comments prompted the Archdiocese of St. Boniface to ask its schools to consult with communities on how to teach students in an age-appropriate manner about the church's beliefs on respect for life.
Svitlana Maluzynsky said the incident prompted her to participate in the pro-choice rally. She said there are a variety of reasons a woman may choose abortion and that it's unfair to involve children in a debate that they don't fully understand.
Several children wore pro-life signs on their chest and marched back and forth in front of the Women's Hospital.
Pro-choice rally organizer Ray Eskritt said both sides want the best outcome for everybody, but they fundamentally disagree on how to achieve that.
"We seem to be sliding very backwards very quickly," Eskritt said. "So we can't let an opportunity for discussion slip by us."