Laura Klassen holds out a sparkly papier-mache tube representing “the magical birth canal,” while an assistant lifts a baby in front of the tube and moves it from one end to the other. Klassen tells viewers, “Observe: not a person, not a person, not a person.” As the baby reaches the end of the “canal” she yells enthusiastically (and sarcastically), “Coming out the other end — a person! Human rights! Congratulations! You now have value.”
Klassen, 33, is part of a burgeoning movement of anti-abortion influencers in Canada that’s changing its messaging to capture a younger, more liberal audience. Despite polls showing that 77% of Canadians support abortion, Klassen and others like her are starting to gain popularity both domestically and internationally.
The “magical birth canal” video has 1 million views across platforms, and was replicated scene-for-scene last year by Argentinian anti-abortion activists as part of their campaign against a bill that would have legalized abortion in their country. Others have been recreated by activists in Germany and Puerto Rico.
Klassen started filming her videos about four years ago, shortly after she founded a non-profit organization that prides itself as being “pro-woman, pro-baby and pro-life.”
The Toronto-based organization, CHOICE42, has pioneered a young and edgy approach to anti-abortion messaging. In most of her short and catchy videos, Klassen dons a pink wig, fun outfits and props, and uses satire to get her message across instead of espousing religious beliefs or using traditional anti-abortion rhetoric.
“We started them because we wanted to engage our culture. We didn’t just want to be preaching to the choir of people who are pro-life in Canada. We really wanted to reach the other side,” Klassen told VICE News.
Kelly Gorden, a professor at McGill University who has been studying the anti-abortion movement in Canada for the last decade, said that in recent years the anti-abortion movement has begun to employ messaging that was once traditionally associated with the movement for abortion rights — specifically, presenting their position as female-friendly, even feminist, through using subtle framing.
“What has happened in Canada is this traditional brand as religious, male-led, anti-woman doesn’t resonate with the Canadian public or the Canadian electorate. This has sort of pushed the movement to attempt to rebrand itself both in the way that it looks — by grounding, very smart, very telegenic young women,” Kelly Gorden told VICE News.
While the activists are still focused on fetal right to life arguments, that’s no longer dominant, Gorden said. “Rather, they are using more pro-women framing for arguments that we’ve called the ‘abortion harms women’ arguments.”
Klassen said she’s been able to use her platform to inspire other young people who are pro-life but were afraid to speak up because “it’s not politically correct.”
“I am seeing a lot of people they’ll tell me they’ll be like, because you’re so bold now. I’m bold, too.”
Cover: Laura Klassen, Founder, and Director of CHOICE42, on-set in her Toronto studio. (VICE News)