Students continue to make inroads to greater respect for human life and the protection of the unborn from the moment of conception.

Observers at the annual Ontario Students for Life conference Oct. 23-25 at St. Mary’s High School in Woodstock were struck by the enthusiasm of student pro-lifers. The event attracted nearly 300 students from North Bay, Stratford, Toronto, Windsor, London, and several other communities throughout the province.

OSFL is a network of Ontario’s pro-life secondary-school students. Established in 1989, it is one of an increasing number of high school and university groups working to foster the pro-life view among students. It is the successor to the Canadian Youth Pro-Life Organization, which spearheaded student pro-life efforts in the 1980s.

OSFL president Ed Abbey said students at the 1998 conference were encouraged to take on a more active role in convincing their peers of the right-to-life position. He said the conference not only helped reinforce students’ commitment to life issues, it also helped the organization expand its network of high school pro-life representatives.

Among the key speakers at this year’s conference were ultrasound expert Shari Richard of Illinois; Justin Barrett, an official with Youth Defence, one of Ireland’s leading pro-life organizations; pro-life lawyer Paul Vandervet of Brantford; Alliance for Life Ontario executive director Jakki Jeffs; and chastity educator Lorraine Scott of London.

Jakki Jeffs said she came away impressed with young people’s commitment to justice for the unborn. Mrs. Jeffs says most students have little understanding of the true nature of abortion, and that they are horrified by a simple explanation of the facts.

“Today’s young people are beginning to see that abortion is a violent response to the problem of unwanted pregnancy,” Jeffs said, “They want a more human response to the issue.”

She told students they must “reject the message” of the abortion-contraception culture, and that snuffing out the life of the unborn child is nothing more than a lifestyle choice. She also said that those advocating freedom of choice are more interested in promoting abortion than in offering women in crisis pregnancies information about alternatives.

Kathleen Ross, former president of Ontario Students for Life, attended the October conference as an observer. She noted students’ enthusiasm and commitment, and said young people are well suited to foster pro-life thinking among their peers.

“Obviously, we want students to become more active, but we also want them to incorporate (pro-life) attitudes in their personal outlook,” Ross told The Interim. “They can play a key part in counteracting the death culture by showing support and understanding to their friends who might be facing crisis pregnancies.”

OSFL treasurer Ada Wong, 20, said a major challenge facing student pro-lifers is translating information and awareness into action.

“I think one of the dominant messages is to react and respond to the pro-life call,” Wong said. “It doesn’t matter how much we know about all these life issues, if we don’t spread the word and make use of this knowledge that we have, then we are only contributing to the problem. Inactivity is a step backward.”

A second-year health studies student at the University of Waterloo, Wong also sees a growing inter-faith dimension to pro-life work. “There are no boundaries in the movement,” Wong said. “There are Catholics and Protestants and it is a sign that being pro-life is not a religious matter, but a human life matter. The movement should not be a homogenous group, but all people should be part of the movement.”
(With files from Emily Wong.)

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