Abortion is not about poverty or capital punishment.

Its about one issue: What is the unborn?

Canadian students are taking a leading role in keeping the right-to-life issue alive on college campuses across the country, says a leading pro-life educator.

Speaking January 13 at the annual National Campus Life Network (NCLN) symposium in Toronto, Scott Klusendorf of the California-based Stand to Reason organization, said students have showed exceptional courage in encouraging pro-life debate in a hostile secular culture.

Referring specifically to the use of graphic images of aborted children in campus presentations, such as the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP) displays in British Columbia, Klusendorf said students have resisted the temptation to soften the pro-life message in the name of improved public relations.

“Many students in Canada and elsewhere are more concerned about babies dying than they are about looking positive,” Klusendorf said in an interview. “Some of our allies in pro-life work are afraid to stage the more controversial activities such as the Show the Truth tours and the GAP displays. But the students, by taking on these presentations, are effectively bypassing the pro-choice gatekeepers who would like to shut down all debate.”

Pro-life students at the University of British Columbia were at the centre of a media storm last year when their graphic display of aborted children was trashed by pro-abortion students. The pro-life students were later forced to sue the university administration for its failure to protect their civil rights, and for failing to take suitable action against the violent pro-abortion students.

For the third year in a row, Klusendorf was the keynote speaker at the NCLN symposium. He expanded on his essential message that students and other pro-life workers must not stray from an emphasis on the humanity of the unborn child. He said pro-life arguments based on the self-interest of the pregnant woman in distress are harmful to the movement.

“Some of the rationale behind the ‘woman’s self-interest approach’ suggests that we are failing in the secular culture because we don’t have the right public relations,” he said. “But we have to remember that the secular culture doesn’t agree with us on this issue and we have to confront that culture with the hard truths.”

Klusendorf later offered advice and guidelines on how students can use scarce resources to make their campus-based clubs more effective in advocating for unborn children. He said the charge that pro-lifers are hypocritical if they don’t speak out on capital punishment, the environment, family violence and other social issues should not dissuade student efforts.

“Contrary to what some think, the abortion issue is not about poverty, capital punishment, AIDS, protection of the environment or the redistribution of wealth,” he told students. “It’s about one issue – what is the unborn? The culture tolerates abortion because it does not agree with us that abortion is a serious moral wrong. If we want to change that, we must focus public attention on just one question, what is the unborn?”

Students attending the 2001 NLCN symposium also examined ways to include additional faith groups in an active right-to-life effort. Too often, students were told, pro-life work is seen the exclusive responsibility of Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians. While these two faith groups form the bulk of the present movement, there is encouraging new input from Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish students.

Father Tom Lynch, a professor of theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary, and a founding member of the NCLN, said students need not downplay their own faith and morality to argue for pro-life aims. “It’s a question not of abjuring your own faith, but of speaking to others in a language they can understand,” Father Lynch said.

Although the NCLN is continually in need of financial and personnel resources, the organization is strengthening its ties across the country. The NCLN recently added executive director Jose Ruba as a salaried, full-time staff member, and it has published an information handbook available to all student pro-lifers.