But Toronto pro-lifers weren’t laughing as pro-aborts tried to sabotage Aid to Women fundraiser

Pro-life supporters narrowly averted efforts by a “Catholic” abortion rights activist to scuttle Halloween fund-raising efforts on behalf of Aid to Women.

At issue was a 1996 decision by the Toronto Catholic District School Board to oust UNICEF as the recipient of its schools’ Halloween fund-raising project. The move was made on the grounds that the international aid organization is connected to the promotion of abortion and contraception in the Third World. The action followed on a decision by the Vatican to end its annual contribution to UNICEF.

In place of UNICEF, Catholic students were urged to collect funds on Halloween night for Aid to Women, the Holy Childhood Association, or the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. Aid to Women, a pro-life agency for women in crisis pregnancies, became the major beneficiary of the program.

At an October 14 meeting of the school board, Kathleen Howes of the dissident group Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), called on trustees to reject Aid to Women as a recipient of Halloween fund-raising efforts.

The meeting took on a bizarre twist when Howes was advised by acting board chairperson Barbara Paplowski, that she would have to make her presentation in a private session, rather than in an open forum. Howes immediately began shouting her objections about the Aid to Women fund-raising scheme. Howes stopped only after she was told she would be forcibly removed if she continued to interrupt the meeting.

Outside the meeting room, Howes told reporters that she was hoping for an open forum for her objections and that she would not make her case in a private session with trustees. She described Aid to Women as “an awful anti-abortion organization” that deceives abortion-seeking women into carrying their pregnancies to term. She also said the school made “an incredibly stupid decision” to reject UNICEF as the recipient of annual Halloween fund-raising efforts.

“Aid to Women harasses women who want to terminate their pregnancies,” Howes claimed. “I’m really concerned this is going to engender anti-Catholic sentiment.”

According to LifeSite News, Howes applied for standing before the school board by presenting herself as an individual rather than as a representative of the vocal pro-abortion group. She then advised local media that Catholics for a Free Choice had been invited to address the Catholic school board.

Dianne Pearson, a spokesperson for the school board, told The Interim that Howes refused at least three invitations to share her concerns about Aid to Women with trustees. “Officially, Ms. Howes’ allegations were never put before the board,” Pearson said.

Pro-life officials are not surprised that Howes refused to discuss the matter privately. They claim that as a member of CFFC, Howes’ true objective was to win a platform for the group’s dissident views. A report prepared by Human Life International described CFFC as “an anti-family and anti-woman organization that masquerades as Catholic and pro-woman.”

The U.S. Catholic bishops have denounced CFFC as bogus. In the past it has been referred to as nothing more than a “well-funded letterhead.” Founder Frances Kissling hasn’t been a Catholic for decades.

Although Howes did not address trustees, a group of pro-life leaders, including Aid to Women director Joanne Dieleman and Frank Kennedy of Campaign Life Coalition, were permitted to defend the fund-raising scheme. The group addressed trustees privately and then awaited a vote on a motion to reconsider the Aid to Women plan.

The vote ended in a 4-4 tie, thereby preserving the status quo.

Frank Kennedy was relieved that Howes was unsuccessful in having trustees reverse their position on fund-raising efforts for Aid to Women. He said he is expecting to distribute some 22,000 Aid to Women collection boxes this Halloween throughout Toronto Catholic schools.

The pro-life delegation however, was disappointed that the Aid to Women program had such lukewarm support among trustees. “This came close to being a disaster,” said Kennedy. “One more vote in the other direction would have stalled the entire program.”