A contingent of pro-life parliamentarians proved that life issues are far from dead at the federal level, when they appeared at a press conference to mark the opening of the two-day March for Life event in Ottawa.
More than a dozen MPs went before cameras, tape recorders and notebooks in the media room of the Congress Centre to make it clear that they will continue to fight tooth-and-nail to fill the legal vacuum surrounding protection for preborn Canadians.
Among them were Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus chairs Jason Kenney, Elsie Wayne and Tom Wappel, as well as stalwart MPs Dan McTeague and independent John Nunziata.
“There is strong support for pro-life, strong support for anti-abortion, in the House of Commons from B.C. right through to Newfoundland,” asserted Wayne at the opening of the conference.
Wayne added that it must come to the public’s understanding that a murder occurs when an abortion takes place. “The victim is the little baby in the womb, whether a week old, a month old or nine months old. That is a child. We need to stand up and fight for that child.”
She took a few moments to castigate the media for their too-obvious pro-abortion reporting positions in many cases. “I say to the press: help us … You sure as heck help Mr. Morgentaler with his rights. And I’m telling you right here and now that in no way should Mr. Morgentaler be able to commit an abortion.”
She concluded by calling abortion “outrageous,” and vowing, “We will never, ever give up this fight and this struggle.”
Kenney said he was present because he found it “troubling in the extreme” that Canada is the only democratic country in the world with no legal regulations regarding abortion.
“Successive governments … from all parties have failed to accept this profound responsibility to do something to protect the most innocent and helpless amongst us,” he said.
He pointed to incidents such as the Brenda Drummond case (in which an Ottawa – area woman shot her unborn child while in the womb) and the more recent horror stories of “genetic termination” abortions at Calgary’s Foothills hospital, as evidence of “the ultimate whirlwind we are reaping.”
The abortion issue “is not going away,” said Kenney. “We as a society must no longer turn a blind eye. We must accept our responsibility to respond to the courts as parliamentarians.”
Wappel reiterated the point that the abortion issue “is not going to go away” and said many parliamentarians are seriously concerned about it.
He questioned a mentality that sends military troops to secure human rights overseas in Kosovo while ignoring the human rights of preborn Canadians at home. “We must fight our own verbal war … To protect those who have no other voice. If we can go across the world to protect human rights, we can try to protect them here as well.”
During a question-and-answer repartee with the media, the pro-life parliamentarians were reluctant to reveal much about their numbers or their influence. “We know the answer to that, and we’re hardly about to reveal it,” Wappel said in response to one question about numbers. “Either it will be too many … or too little. I like to say that there’s plenty of us.”
He added that the Liberal government of Jean Chretien has no plans to recriminalize abortion by introducing an amendment to the Criminal Code, and so the Pro-Life Parliamentary Caucus is looking for other avenues of obtaining at least some protection for preborn children. “We have to concentrate on a number of different methods of proceeding,” he said.
Kenney, in response to another question about the charitable status of pro-life groups, said there is “an apparent double standard” in the way Revenue Canada determines the charitable status of pro-life organizations versus their counterparts on the other side of the issue.
“We find it troubling that … (pro-life groups such as Human Life International and Alliance for Life) have been stripped of their charitable status, while the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League maintains a charitable branch … and Planned Parenthood, which advocates abortion, continues to be regarded as a charitable organization.”
Kenney called for a “consistent application” of regulations regarding eligibility for charitable status among pro-life and pro-abortion groups.
Wayne, meanwhile, placed the lion’s share of the blame for the legal vacuum regarding abortion on the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the Trudeau government in 1982. “We have a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When it was drafted, we left out responsibilities.”
McTeague said the status quo on abortion is unacceptable to a significant number of Canadians, and “something … must be attempted. We need to bring the pendulum back somewhere toward the centre.”
Wappel again sounded the keynote of the press conference with his concluding statement. “It has taken us 30 years to … get where we are. It may take us 30 years to get back to where we should be. However long it may be, there will be people like us … who will continue to raise this issue.”
For years, the Canadian Medical Association has been abdicating its responsibility to uphold the classic Hippocratic Oath, which includes among its precepts the exhortation for the physician to do no harm.
On May 13, hundreds of pro-lifers descended on the CMA’s headquarters in Ottawa to take the organization to task for its shortcomings in that area. The demonstration had been planned for months by Ottawa-area physician Dr. Andre Lafrance, and was supported by attendees of the March for Life event.
Demonstrators, under the watchful eyes of a contingent of police officers, marched up and down in front of the CMA’s headquarters with placards urging the CMA to uphold the Hippocratic Oath. A few individuals inside the building could be seen peering at the events outside.
Using a bullhorn, Lafrance addressed the demonstrators, noting that contemporaneous with the passage of the Trudeau government’s infamous Omnibus Bill that legalized abortion in the late 1960s, was the removal of the Hippocratic Oath from the CMA’s code of ethics, and a general turning away from medical ethics based on the Oath.
“This was the first fatal step which opened the door to a medical culture of death, to a culture which led the CMA, during the 70s, to adopt a policy on abortion which amounted to abortion on demand,” Lafrance told the crowd. “Then, in the summer of 1994, the CMA almost succeeded in having its General Assembly adopt a policy that, instead of condemning euthanasia, would have made it a matter of conscience for physicians, this giving it tacit approval.”
In less than three decades, said Lafrance, the traditional Hippocratic ethic, which committed doctors to the care and protection of human life, has been replaced by an ethic which increasingly condones killing by doctors.
In closing his address, he asked the crowd to join him three times in shouting at the CMA building, “CMA, revive the Hippocratic Oath.”
Mary Lynn McPherson, head of Canadian Nurses for Life, also addressed the crowd, noting that the Hippocratic Oath today means something very different from the one Hippocrates composed.
“Nurses, as well as patients, must believe that they can trust doctors to maintain definite standards of medical care,” she said. “The swearing of the Hippocratic Oath remains relevant today because not only is it a statement of the confidence patients can place in their doctor, but of the duty and respect doctors owe their patients.”
McPherson added that it is crucial for her as a nurse to know that the doctor in whom she places her trust is worthy of that trust. “It is critical that my religious beliefs and values are not compromised by the actions of another health care professional. The knowledge that a physician has the courage and conviction to swear the true Hippocratic Oath should be a fundamental part of the trust we place in him or her.”
“If the medical profession is to remain vital and credible through the new millennium, adhering to the principles of respect for all human life that is reflected in the swearing of the Hippocratic Oath, should remain a concern for all of us.”
The North American culture of death, as exhibited through manifestations such as abortion and euthanasia, was tied in with the recent shootings by high school students in Littleton, Colo. and Taber, Alta., when March for Life demonstrators gathered in front of the Supreme Court building in Ottawa in preparation for their march through the streets of the nation’s capital.
Ken Campbell, founder and president of the evangelical pro-life group Choose Life Canada and a Milton, Ont. Christian activist, addressed the gathering on the Supreme Court grounds. He said the case of Robert Latimer, the Wilkie, Sask. farmer convicted of second-degree murder in the so-called mercy killing death of his daughter Tracy, “epitomizes the perverse and vicious dominance of Canadian society by ‘the death culture,'” he said.
But he also pointed to the case of Rev. Dale Lang, whose son was shot to death by a fellow student at a Taber, Alta. high school. “The town of Taber represents the only hope to reverse the perverse by the restoration to appropriate honour and dominance in Canadian public schooling and public life of the theistic principles under which Canada’s pluralistic society is founded and has flourished in peace and prosperity under God, as affirmed by our Charter of Rights,” he said.
Campbell noted that a society that permits the will of its elected Parliament to be overruled by the “dictates” of nine appointed judges in the establishment of public policy “is no longer free and sovereign.”
“If Mr. Trudeau’s government can legislate the violence of abortion as a legal solution to a social problem, why shouldn’t a 14-year-old lad in Taber or a farm dad in Wilkie, Sask. Resort to violence in resolving their social crises? ” he asked.
“On this 30th anniversary of Canada’s Day of Infamy, the temporary triumph of evil, let us – the dominant minority, the godly remnant – respond to the tale of two towns, Taber and Wilkie, and commit ourselves to join Taber’s Rev. Dale Lang … reclaiming Canada for God and for good.”
Campbell observed that abortion is “the pivotal issue on which the destiny of our nation will be determined for at least a generation. God help us in the pro-life movement to be all we can be by His grace in witnessing for life in our bewildered, post-Christian, secular society, so that whatever the response to our witness may be, we’ll fulfill our prophetic and redemptive mandate.”
Who better to speak on, and establish a ministry for, those affected by the trauma associated with undergoing an abortion, than someone who has gone through the experience herself?
Angelina Steenstra has served with the Toronto-based post-abortion ministry Second Chance since 1991. The ministry offers prayer counselling and a weekly support group for men and women who are living through the aftermath of an abortion.
Steenstra herself underwent an abortion at the tender age of 15. She spoke of her life’s story, as well as the work of Second Chance, during the keynote address of the opening luncheon of the March for Life event on May 13.
“Little did I know that the decision made on May 14, 1969 (legalizing abortion) would impact my life the way it has,” she told the luncheon crowd. “It has taken a lot of courage for me to go through the process of healing, and come to the place where I can stand before you.”
Steenstra noted that women face a trauma because while a lot of attention is paid to them before an abortion takes place, afterward, “people stand alone.”
“They’re walking to a place of shame and guilt” in the abortuary, she said. “That may not be true for every woman, but I can tell you that after eight years of ministry, I’ve met hundreds of women for whom that has been true.”
Steenstra said the pro-life movement’s response to women undergoing, or having undergone, an abortion experience should be one characterized by mercy. “There has been a deadly silence in this country on the part of men and women who have been there and done that.”
Yet, she sounded a note of hope. “The deaths of those (preborn) children is, in fact, a spiritual lifeline to God (for the mother),” she said. “Women are moving into conversion and healing … and forgiveness. Ultimately, a woman moves into a place of self-acceptance – and an acceptance of things she cannot change.
“But the good news is: God is going to have the last word. What we as pro-lifers need to do is really be present to those people around us who may have had abortions and we don’t know it.”
Steenstra asked the crowd to pray with her that God would help raise up post-abortion ministries in Canada. “For every abortion, there are 17 lives touched,” she said. “We need to have the sensitivity of Jesus when we speak. Now is the time. I really do believe something is stirring and graces are happening … We are standing on the brink of victory.”
Also addressing the luncheon gathering was Deacon Gerry Brunelle, a diocesan pastoral co-ordinator in the Archdiocese of Ottawa’s French sector. He previously served as executive director of Family Action, a pro-life and pro-family agency of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Brunelle said society is being forced to recognize how precious life is in all its forms, “no matter how frail and useless those forms may appear.”
“It is sad indeed that a society as knowledgeable and wealthy as ours … Tends to conspire to destroy life,” he added.
Gilles Grondin, president of Campagne Quebec Vie and an active pro-life player on the international stage, spoke to the luncheon about the United Nations and its “business of abortion.”
He also dealt with the U.S. document National Security Study Memorandum 200, written under the aegis of Henry Kissinger, which called for strategic population control initiatives against those countries that posed a security threat to the U.S. In many cases in the document’s aftermath, foreign aid has been tied in with acceptance of population-control initiatives in developing nations.
“Family planning is the most potent of weapons … A weapon of mass destruction,” said Grondin.