One of the keynote speakers at this fall’s Creating a Culture of Life international pro-life conference in Toronto will be one of the world’s longest serving and distinguished pro-life leaders, Dr. Jack Willke. He is perhaps best known for authoring with his wife Barbara the vital resource book Handbook on Abortion, which has been renamed Love Them Both in its latest edition.

Over several decades, the Willkes have been regarded internationally as renowned experts in the fields of human sexuality and abortion. They have written 10 books and their various writings have been translated into 28 languages. They have spoken in more than 65 countries.

Dr. Jack Willke, who served as a physician in Cincinatti, Oh., is a former president of the U.S. National Right to Life Committee, as well as a former president of Ohio Right to Life. Apart from being the current president of the International Right to Life Federation, he currently hosts a daily radio commentary called Life Issues.

The Interim: Can you tell us about recent developments you’ve been dealing with at the International Right to Life Federation?

Dr. Willke: There’s always something going on. This year, we had the Belgian parliament finalize the legalization of euthanasia in that small country. They have followed the example of the Netherlands, and their law, if anything, is more radical than the Netherlands’ law … It’s an ongoing tragedy. There are not too many other nations that are going to follow this, we think, but we simply don’t know.

Switzerland recently voted to officially legalize abortion. There had been abortion on request in Switzerland for 15 or more years, but it had been winked at. Now, they’ve finally voted and made it an official statute …

We had quite a dustup in Ireland … Mrs. Willke and I were privileged to have spent three weeks over there for the referendum, campaigning all over the country. The referendum … wasn’t the best that we thought, but there it was – it was either that or allow abortions … In terms of international intrigue and controversy, that’s been the most interesting thing that’s happened this year.

We’ve had this whole business of cloning kicking around. Certainly, your country, my country and other nations are plain just legislating in different directions. Enough of them are saying absolutely no to any cloning …

The stem cell thing continues to send out new information, literally every month … What also is going on now are investigations into adult stem cells … We’ve found out in the last few years that there are adult stem cells literally in every organ of the body. No one’s been able to find them until now.

They’ve been refining the techniques, and now they’re using bone marrow stems cells, umbilical cord stem cells and a lot of other organ stem cells. What they’ve been doing with these is learning how to grow them in culture and to tweak them … turning them into liver cells, brain cells, you name it …

We’re coming pretty close to probably some day saying we won’t need embryonic stem cells with their toll of humans having been killed. We can find all the cures that we need from using adult stem cells. That’s certainly not true yet, but we’re a giant step toward that compared to where we were one or two years ago. So that’s a major issue …

The Interim: In light of all these developments, is there anything pro-lifers should focus on?

Dr. Willke: You (Canada) have further to dig out than most countries. You have an unfriendly supreme court, with very little constitutional ability to change its personnel … In Canada, your prime minister just appoints (judges). So if you have a pro-abortion guy on top – and that’s all you’ve had in recent years – you end up with pro-abortion supreme court justices. And it shows.

It’s interesting that you have a higher percentage of Catholics in Canada than we do in the States. Yet, your ability to pass pro-life laws doesn’t approach what we’ve been able to do in the States. The difference is probably that we have a huge number of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians – far more than we find north of the border.

In so many ways, our populations are the same. But somehow or other, in the States, we have slowly turned one of our two political parties almost into a pro-life party – that’s the Republicans. At the same time, the Democrats, at least in their top leadership, have become much more rigidly pro-abortion …

What can you do? The basic answer is – become informed. That is true of anybody, anywhere. There is certainly adequate pro-life literature out … Then, of course, you want to become active. What does that mean? That means relate to other people – your neighbours, your clergy … Schools. Get into schools. Talk about abstinence. Talk about fetal development and, if they’ll let you, talk about abortion. So, you educate yourself, then you educate other people …

Lobby your members of Parliament. Work in your ridings … When you (have a pro-life candidate), my advice is to go all out. Forget about the party he or she belongs to. Put in pro-lifers who will stay pro-lifers once they get to Ottawa or the provincial capitals … If you can’t change the legislation, change the legislators.

The Interim: You’ve been prominently involved in pro-life efforts for several decades. Perhaps on a more positive note, can you highlight particular successes from over the years that stand out for you?

Dr. Willke: I’d like to compare North America to Europe. For example, we had a major march in Stockholm, Sweden some years back … People were looking at the signs and saying, “What’s wrong with abortion?” They had never heard that there was anything wrong with abortion. “Why would one stop it? You mean it hurts women? I haven’t heard that. You mean it’s morally wrong? I haven’t heard that” …

In our two countries, a doctor who does abortions is “an abortionist.” He’s a scoundrel … For 30 years, we’ve had abortion on demand. Yet, both our countries have maintained an image that abortion is really wrong and it’s really bad. It may be a necessary evil, but it’s an evil. The people who do it are scoundrels.

The fact that we have maintained this condemnation of abortion, literally across the board among the great majority of people, is a triumph. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

You want another example? Poll people anywhere as to what they think of abortion … The majority of people will say yes for three months. Six months? Maybe 15 or 20 per cent will say yes. Nine months? Two per cent. And yet it’s legal through nine months … If we could refashion our laws to reflect majority opinion in our nations, we would pass a law permitting abortion for three months, but only for very difficult circumstances …

The media are 95 per cent pro-abortion. They have been the purveyors of abortion rights. The New York Times is the flagship of the pro-abortion movement in the United States. You might say much the same for the Globe and Mail. We have had a media … that have done nothing but a massive, intensive, continuing propaganda job for abortion on demand. That’s now over 30 years going.

In the face of this suffocating media onslaught – this comprehensive, never-ending propaganda – we still have significant opposition to abortion. And that’s true in both of our countries. That’s a triumph …

Abortion contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction … Very few people today, outside the radical leaders of the pro-abortion movement and their politicians, stand up and vocally defend abortion …

The kids are looking at the older (people) and the mess (abortion) has created in their lives. They’re saying, “That’s not for me.” In fact, we’re seeing that these kids, who have never known anything but free abortion, are coming on strong opposing abortion … Young people are coming up out of the ashes of what their parents left them … Young people are coming in and leading. That’s a triumph.

The Interim: Looking ahead a little bit, where do you see your work going?

Dr. Willke: I’m getting pretty old. Barbara and I have been married 54 years, so my seasons are beginning to change. I’m still quite active. Given good health and the Lord willing, we’ll be in it for awhile, but we’re now looking to pass the wand. You’ve got vigorous leaders and one of the best in the world in Jim Hughes. Jim’s just a very outstanding person. Take care of him. You need him. He’s good.

You’ve got one of the best philosophers in Don DeMarco. You’ve got the deVeber Institute. So you’ve contributed a great deal. I just wish you had some better parliamentarians … There’s a lot that could be done through your churches that isn’t happening …

Where’s it going? I think it’s inevitable that public opinion is slowly changing … You’ve got a movement towards opposing abortion as such – and this includes abortifacients … but balanced on the other hand is the deterioration of the family unit. If the family goes down the toilet, it’s over, I’m afraid. We can’t survive as a civilization …

The Interim: Is there anything you’d like to add by way of final thoughts?

Dr. Willke: Of course we want to stop the killing and we don’t want to start killing old people … But we certainly want to love that woman. I think there isn’t any woman alive who has ever crudely, callously and with no thought at all gone ahead and had an abortion. There is something so deeply basic in a woman that knows that this is part of her flesh and blood and that no matter what the reasons are that she justifies this – and they can be profound – she doesn’t do this without a sense of regret that progresses all the way to deep guilt and upset. So we need to help her …