In the wake of the abortion bans introduced in the United States over the past month in states like Alabama, Missouri and Georgia, a spotlight has been cast on how the growing strength of the anti-choice movement could impact abortion laws in Canada.

Disturbingly, the American anti-choice lobby isn’t satisfied with banning abortions in the United States — they are also actively working to criminalize abortion in Canada.  

The last few years have seen an increase in pro-life protests on Canadian university campuses, leading to questions of where exactly these groups are getting their funding from and who they’re tied to. It turns out that one of the main organizations backing anti-abortion protestors on campuses, the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), is a product of American anti-choice extremists.

The CCBR was founded in 2001, with a mission to “expose the hidden injustice of abortion and create a public discussion concerning the rights and personhood of the pre-born.” It’s been a leader in rallying the anti-choice movement in Canada and spreading often gruesome propaganda, including massive posters with graphic images of dismembered fetuses in high-traffic areas of university campuses. The CCBR also promotes “crisis pregnancy centres” and allegedly uses unsolicited photos of counter-protestors to make them seem like anti-choice supporters. Its so-called “Genocide Awareness Project” compares abortion to the Holocaust, slavery in the American South, and the Cambodian killing fields.

While the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform operates in Canada, many of these tactics are imported from the US-based Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR), an American anti-choice lobby group created in 1990 by Gregg Cunningham, who still leads it today. Both the CCBR and the CBR use simple taglines to convey their message – “End the Killing” for the CCBR, and “Abortion No” for the CBR.

The American CBR appears to be a well-funded organization, offering jobs and internships at their offices in 12 different states. They have lawyers, a marketing team, and an extensive online store offering everything from posters to DVDs to bumper stickers.

Its leader, Gregg Cunningham, is a former two-term Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives where he introduced legislation which ended public funding for abortion, and served in the first Reagan administration as an appointee in the Department of Education.

The specifics of the CCBR’s and CBR’s relationship are unclear, as both groups have little transparency regarding their funding. We do know, however, that Gregg Cunningham has been working to export American anti-abortion tactics to allied organizations abroad and that the CCBR has enthusiastically embraced the playbook the CBR has used to win abortion bans in the United States.

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