GAP director Gregg Cunningham warns conference participants
that Canada is in denial

As the Canadian pro-life movement marks its 32nd year protecting human life from conception to natural death, 145 Albertans gathered May 4 at King’s University College, Edmonton, for the Life 2001 Conference to consider a new way of doing things.

Keynote speaker Gregg Cunningham, of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform in California, who helped end tax-funded abortion in Pennsylvania and Colorado, challenged participants: “What we have been doing in our fight for life isn’t working. Each year more babies are killed. Each year less and less people are concerned about it. Something has to change.”

Mr. Cunningham dared to call the three-decade struggle over abortion “war.” Drawing a line in the sand, he said, “I’m about division. Everywhere I go I make people uncomfortable. Some even get up and walk out. Those who stay still have a hope of seeing victory.”

Without apologies, Mr. Cunningham went straight to the point: “What we need to stop the killing, is dramatic social reform on a scale never before embraced by pro-life forces. Our culture is in denial about justice, and the only way we will usher in change is by forcing people to look at what they don’t want to see. We tug at their curiosity and surprise them when they least expect to be confronted with the reality of what happens in abortion.”

Mr. Cunningham advocates use of graphic pictures in his Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), often mounted as mobile billboards driven on public roadways catching the general public off guard with their shocking reality. Mr. Cunningham explains, “GAP works in this way: Most folks won’t choose to look at graphic pictures, but once they do, they will never get the images out of their minds. Those images work on their consciences. Hearts are changed. We will not be liked, but we will win.”

According to Mr. Cunningham social reform will involve: drama, to get the public’s attention; confrontation, for the purpose of jarring or shocking people out of their complacency; a willingness to use pictures which humanize the victims and show the horror of killing; and a willingness to face persecution because people won’t like having their sensibilities raised.

Citing recent polls in the U.S. which indicate the public’s rejection of the “choice” argument when informed of the cruelty partial-birth abortion inflicts on babies in their mothers wombs, Mr. Cunningham said the cruelty of suction abortion must be made just as real to this same public. He argues the use of pictures of aborted babies to tell the truth about the killing will bring success, much like Africa’s racial injustice pictures spurred the anti-apartheid movement on to victory, and the pictures of children working long hours in sweatshops brought changes to child-labour laws around the world.

“The numbers of abortions will not change until people see the reality that suction abortion is as evil as partial-birth abortion,” he said. The key is identifying what the uncommitted 60 per cent of people in the middle of the abortion debate need to know to move them into pro-life or pro-abortion viewpoints. “Allowing them to sit comfortably on the fence is not an option, Mr. Cunningham explained.

The movement spends most of its time, energy and money trying to win the late-term or partial-birth abortion debate, which involves only one per cent of the babies that are being killed, while losing 90 per cent of babies who are killed in suction abortions, which most people do not believe are all that bad.

While Mr. Cunningham commended supporters for their sacrifices in educational endeavors and crisis pregnancy work, he emphatically pointed out that these are not enough to bring an end to the slaughter of thousands of unborn children each day in North America. Categories of pro-life activism and their drawbacks were identified: crisis pregnancy and post-abortion support which take the most manpower but do not turn the tide in the battle; political activity which takes the most money but for the most part doesn’t produce pro-life laws; education, which only works with people who have a functioning conscience, a characteristic most of society does not possess; and economic boycotts, which are having an impact, but require the participation of enormous numbers of people to effect change.

“Most women going into abortion facilities have their minds made up to abort. Some can be persuaded otherwise, but not most. Women don’t want help through a pregnancy, they want help out of it,” Mr. Cunningham insisted. “Abortion advocates offer women what they already believe they want.”

“None of these things can be accomplished if you are only playing at this,” warned Mr. Cunningham. “Pro-life groups tend to be run by part-time amateur volunteers, when what we need is full-time paid professional staff. We need to make contributions in time and money in a sacrificial way. We work in pro-life work after we have secured our lifestyle. Conservatives primarily think of their own families, lives and churches. They don’t really want to hear about this other stuff.”

Holding up an unwelcome mirror for many, Mr. Cunningham said, “Too many of us in the pro-life movement are offended by the pictures which make real the horror, and we are afraid of persecution. We worry about what people will think of us. We think we have to be liked to be effective.” True reformers must invite and accept persecution. Ultimately, it will come down to a contest of wills. Future generations will ask us, “What did you do, not what did you think…”

Father Erik Riechers, director of Pallottine Faith Enrichment Centre of Red Deer, Alberta, had set the tone of the conference on the first day with enthusiastic hard words of truth. “We will not talk of abortion because we want social peace. People are more interested in agendas of personal fulfillment, which drive the culture of death. They do not want their sense of peace disturbed.”

He pointed out that society is taken with a disposal mentality, which it is willing to apply to human life. “This mentality is driven by convenience and appeal,” he said, “Which is OK if you are talking about what you own and possess, but is not acceptable if you are applying it to whom you love and cherish.”

Fr. Reichers encouraged, “Never waiver, never pretend to be neutral about what is close to your heart.”