CHARLOTTETOWN – A May 29 public meeting organized by Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) attracted a dozen pro-choice activists, and 70 pro-life supporters of various faiths.

In a joint project with the Women’s Network and the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women, CARAL had brought in Kathleen Howes to convince Island Catholics they can support abortion with a clear conscience.

Howes is the founder of the Toronto branch of Catholics for Free Choice, a pro-choice group that supports same-sex marriages and ordination of women, and opposes many key Catholic beliefs.

“I am a practising Catholic,” she said, and then indicated that she does not accept the Church’s teachings on abortion and contraception.

Her remarks included a sweeping dismissal of the documented long-term harmful effects of abortion, distortions of history and theology, and derogatory statements about the Magisterium (Church teaching authority) and the Vatican.

Howes said that what is conceived is indeed a child, but goes on to say that the rightness or wrongness of ending its life depends on the circumstances. “The mother’s rights are more important that the child’s,” she said.

“We can look at Scripture, we can look at Christ. We don’t have to look to the church to make a decision on whether or not to have an abortion,” she said.

The pro-lifers were quiet, attentive, and anything but convinced. following the presentation, they challenged a number of her statements and claims.

“You quote Angus Reid and other polls as justifying abortion. But the Church does not determine its teachings by opinion polls. They are not adequate to measure the truth,” said one listener.

“Many admire the Catholic Church for its strong stand against abortion. Every other voice can be heard today. People should let the Church continue making its voice heard, instead of cutting it away from inside,” said another.

“Anyone is free to believe whatever they want, but in fact, to be Catholic In practice, does involve accepting Church teachings,” another pointed out.

“Surely the best way to love my friend is not to expose her to all the dangers and trouble that would follow an abortion,” protested Jennifer Broderick, a youth pro-life leader. Howes dismissed the notion of post-abortion syndrome and other consequences.

In thanking the speaker, CARAL representative J’Nan Brown provoked the only catcalls of the evening by saying to the clearly pro-life audience, “I hope you will open your hearts and your minds and realize that abortion can be a healthy choice, a caring choice, a healing choice.”

“Clearly, these women need prayers,” was one listener’s reaction.

“I am pleased that our members realized this is yet another episode in the renewed effort to bring abortion to this province,” said Right To Life President Vincent McIntyre. He was referring to Planned Parenthood’s on-going campaign to return to PEI.

The logo for PEI Right to Life includes the words Life Sanctuary, to proclaim that this province has been officially abortion free since 1986.