It is gratifying for the Toronto Right to Life Association to note the generally favorable reception speakers receive at schools throughout southern Ontario.

For an organization whose main thrust is educating the community about respect for live issues, a receptive younger audience is of prime importance.

“Many of the students we speak to are open to the pro-life message,” said Toronto Right to Life president June Scandiffo.  “They are justice oriented and they hate hypocrisy.  When we present the right to life message in terms of human rights and social justice, the students become more receptive.”

She also said the work of the Ontario Students for Life (OSF) bodes well for the future.

Promising outlook

Scandiffio believes that despite some rocky moments on the pro-life front recent years, the outlook is promising.  “We haven’t let all the setbacks get us down,” she said.  “The younger generation seems to be more aware of the pro-life message and they don’t readily accept the pro-abortion rhetoric at face value.”

Members of the Right to Life Association speakers’ bureau also noted the open attitude to the pro-life message on the today’s students.

On some occasions, their reaction is mixed, but for the most part the students are willing to listen to our presentations,” said speakers’ bureau member Kathy Nelson. “The media often presents pro-life people as terrible fanatics, so it’s even more important for us to have a presence in the schools.”

Despite this sense of optimism, Scandiffio believes the “culture of death” that has evolved over the last 25 years will not be easily overturned. It will require patience, effort and a constant focus on the ideals that have sustained the Right to Life association over the last two and a half decades.

Scandiffio, a 22 year veteran of pro-life volunteering, succeeded Laura McArthur as Right to Life president in 1992. McArthur served as president since 1975, and her death in 1992 was a tremendous loss to the organization.

Scandiffio shared an anecdote which reveals the respect and admiration for McArthur, even among pro-abortion advocates. When two Canadian Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) officials learned of McArthur’s battle with cancer, they put aside their ideological differences and sent her flowers and get-well wishes.

Today Scandiffio heads up an organization with an impressive history of education and research.  The reference centre at its central Toronto office features an array of material on pro-life related topics. This educational and research dimension has driven Right to Life since its inception in 1971. The association is especially proud of a thick information booklet which features material on abortion, euthanasia, invitro fertilization and related topics. The booklet is updated continually and is made available free of charge to schools.

The Right to Life Association also received a tremendous boost from its core of supporters and volunteers.  There is only one staff position at the association. Fundraising come primarily through annual Christmas card sales, although with occasional financial assistance from Knights of Columbus councils. As well, the ShareLife organization provides a small grant for renting office space.

“We simply could not survive without the aid of our members and volunteers,” Scandiffio said.

Expanding role

Now on the eve of its 25th anniversary, the association is looking to the future with an eye to expanding on the educational role.

Priorities for Scandiffio include furthering the educational effort in Toronto area schools. In addition to reaching students in the Grades 7-12 range, the association would like to make more presentations to teachers. Related priorities include increasing the association’s speakers’ bureau and allocating resources for additional radio and television advertising.

While abortion has been the central theme in the Right to Life program, Scandiffio said the time has come to focus on new reproductive technologies, and especially assisted suicide.

“People have so many misconceptions about euthanasia,” Scandiffio said. “There are a number of spin-offs to this issue that make it easy for people to lose sight of what is really at stake.”

The Toronto Right to Life Association celebrates its 25th anniversary with a November 17th luncheon at the Thornhill Country Club. The group is using the occasion to present two new annual awards. The first, in honor of Right to Life founding president Gwen Landolt, recognizes pro-life leadership. The second, named after past president Laura McArthur, awards outstanding youth leadership and initiative.

Gwen Landolt has been selected recipient of the award bearing her name, which Kathleen Ross, immediate past president of Ontario Students for Life, will receive the Laura McArthur award.