Eight hundred high school students flocked to the inaugural Campaign Life Coalition youth banquet May 13 to celebrate the gift of human life and hear a powerful testimony from pro-life activist and abortion survivor Melissa Ohden.

MC John-Henry Westen holds up a pro-life tee shirt.

The event balanced reflection and energy, as the crowd moved from laughter, courtesy of master of ceremonies John-Henry Westen, to exuberant praise led by the Gethsemane Ministries band, to captivation at Ohden’s heart-rending tale. The youth banquet, which was separated from the adult Rose Dinner for the first time this year, was part of the events surrounding the annual National March for Life on Parliament Hill.

Ohden delivered the keynote address, sharing her story about living as one who had been slated for death at the request of her own mother and father. “I couldn’t help but be so moved by all of you today,” she said, choking back tears. “To see 12,500 people marching for children just like me inspired me and made me feel so loved.”

Ohden is a victim of an attempted saline infusion abortion, which involves injecting a saline and salt solution into the amniotic fluid to scald the child to death within the mother’s womb. Doctors then induce labor to remove the child’s body. In Ohden’s case, however, she was still alive after being delivered, so the medical staff left her aside to die.  But then “by the grace of God,” she said, she began making small movements and grunts. In response the medical personnel stepped in to save her life.

Ohden revealed how she has faced discrimination from pro-abortion advocates who believe she should have died. She said that doctors and nurses have told her that they don’t understand why the medical professionals intervened to save her life. “You were a liability,” they said.

Member of Parliament Rod Bruinooge, chair of the Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, also made an impromptu stop at the youth banquet. “I was asked to speak on the (adult) side but then I saw you guys in here,” he said, “and I thought ‘I gotta come to this side. This is where the action is’.”

Bruinooge, who recently tabled a bill to protect women from coercive abortions, explained that he had originally served as secretary of Indian Affairs, but left in order to dedicate more time to pro-life politics. “The unborn in this country are so important to our future,” he said. He pointed to the large crowd of youth before him as an example of the incredible growth of the pro-life movement in recent years. “You are the future, and I look forward to being there with you when we eventually beat abortion,” he said.

Towards the end of the evening John-Henry Westen, co-founder and editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews, led an interactive quiz using audience response technology called Data on the Spot (DOTS) to educate them on pro-life issues. The technology allowed the attendees to give immediate responses to multiple choice questions through individual clickers at their table. The technology gauges the pro-life knowledge of the participants. Westen then analyzed the answers and educated the crowd about pro-life issues following each response.

Alissa Golob, head of CLC Youth, described the event as “an enormous success.”  “Seeing so many young people gives the pro-life movement hope and life,” she said.  “They are the future of Canada – they are the ones who are going to eradicate the fate their predecessors chose for the unborn.”