P.E.I.’s abortion debate has spilled into a regional campaign aimed at recognizing youth ambassadors for change.
Kandace Hagen, one of the founding members of the group P.E.I. Reproductive Rights Organization (PRRO), has been lobbying the province to make changes to its abortion policies.
She was recently accepted as a finalist for the Active 8 Campaign, an initiative of the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation (ACIC) trying to promote youth leaders working for change in their communities and the world.
She is one of only two Islanders chosen as a finalist for this competition and is currently in second place with more than 300 pledges. The winner receives $1,000 for his or her campaign.
But not everyone is supportive of Hagen’s bid.
On Monday, an email penned by P.E.I. pro-life activist Ann Marie Tomlins was sent to multiple people, encouraging them to stop Hagen from winning this competition by voting for the other frontrunner in the race.
“Kandace Hagen, who is trying to improve access to abortion in P.E.I. is in second place. Tara Brinston is in first place. Please have all the youth you know sign in and vote for TARA BRINSTON. We want to make sure that Kandace doesn’t win this award for youth leadership. The vote is close so please send this to all the youth and youth groups you know,” the email said.
Tomlins said she was not speaking on behalf of the P.E.I. Right To Life Association, of which she is spokesperson, but she was exercising her right to encourage pro-life youth to express their opinions through this contest.
“It is important to note that it is not Kandace personally that I oppose, but rather, what she is promoting,” Tomlins wrote in an email to The Guardian.
“I simply exercised my right to pass the information on and encourage pro-life-minded youth to vote as well.”
Hagen said she is frustrated the abortion debate has been brought into the Active 8 competition.
“Reproductive rights and justice is one of the issues that the ACIC is working towards so not only is it going against me and what I’m trying to promote, but really it’s hurting the campaign as a whole and what they represent as an organization.”
Hagen noted she was only narrowly behind Brinston until Tuesday when votes for Brinston jumped ahead by almost 100.
“(Brinston) could, of course, have gathered those pledges herself, but I did think it was kind of interesting that on the same day
the message went out there was such a huge jump in votes.”