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A Topless Feminist Hijacked a Press Conference Hosted by Quebec's Culture Minister

"My uterus, my priority," said the protester, who is rallying against a proposed bill that would limit the number of abortions doctors can perform and cause abortions to no longer be considered a "priority procedure" in Quebec.

Screencap via VICE DU JOUR

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

A topless FEMEN protester stole the spotlight from Quebec's culture minister Thursday when she burst into a press conference with her breasts bared, shouting slogans about access to abortion.

As the cameras rolled, demonstrator Neda Topaloski yelled "Mon utérus, ma priorité" (my uterus, my priority), and flipped up her dress to reveal white underwear painted red to symbolize unsafe abortion.


Topaloski, who faces criminal charges for flashing her breasts for FEMEN at Montreal's Grand Prix last year, told VICE on Friday she believes a bill proposed by health minister Gaétan Barrette is threatening access to abortion in Quebec, where abortion rates far outstrip other areas of the western world.

"The minister doesn't have a uterus, and he has decided for the whole population of Quebec that the uterus is not a priority," Topaloski told VICE.

A government document leaked to newspaper Le Devoir in March said under the proposed Bill 20, abortion would no longer be considered a priority procedure, and the number of abortions each doctor could perform each year would be limited to 504.

This, plus a new proposed minimum patient quota for all doctors, led groups including the Quebec Federation of Nurses and the director of community clinic Centre de Santé des Femmes to question how Quebec's approximately 25,000 abortions per year could possibly be performed.

Related: FEMEN: Sexism in Paris

In a Facebook post, FEMEN says abortion would lose its priority medical status, "which means that the public health system will not be able to provide nearly enough abortions compared to what is needed."

After the controversy erupted in March, Barrette was quick to double the abortion limit to 1,008. The minister and Quebec's premierthen kicked into damage control mode, sayingthe bill would in fact allow doctors to perform more abortions.


Their words failed to halt Topaloski's topless outcry.

"My point yesterday," she told VICE Friday, "was to take one subject like abortion that is at the very foundation of male and female gender equality in Canada, in Quebec, and it is the first thing that puts us as equal people—having equal rights to our bodies, all of it. So that is being threatened by this law and I wanted to protest it because of that."

FEMEN, a feminist group that started in the Ukraine in 2008, has become internationally notorious for its female activists flashing their chests as a political statement. The group hijacks the news strategically by inserting the female body into the centre of debate, Topaloski explained.

However, some of the media coverage of her protest focused on security at the press conference. She gained access to the event using a press pass, but wouldn't say how she obtained the pass.

"The coverage always tries to avoid the important questions about women's rights we bring up in the public space," Topaloski said. "…But yesterday was a great success because the protest was understood clearly by everyone."

She said she joined the group a year and a half ago because she saw the activists unapologetically speaking out against a system of oppression without using violence.

Police told Topaloski to expect charges as a result of Thursday's protest.

FEMEN also staged a protest in Paris on Friday, upping the controversy of their bare-breasted schtick with Nazi salutes.

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