In the last couple of months, I’ve been too busy to contribute to The Interim. My excuse is that I bought a new computer to make my pro-life work more efficient. If I were to admit exactly how many hours I’ve spent in front of a screen, wrestling to learn a new system, hook up a modem and step onto the so-called “information highway,” I would probably be advised to seek counseling. But, all those countless hours later, I can report that the information highway contains both good news and bad news.
The good news is that the ability to network world-wide via computer offers immense potential to the pro-life movement to keep in touch with fellow pro-lifers, to gather information and to use technology to further our goals.
The bad news is that, as far as I can see, we have not yet started to explore whereas the “other side” is already zooming along the highway. Someone in Sweden runs a service dedicated to informing everyone about the various methods to commit suicide. Deathnet, run by John Hofess and Derek Humphry, pushes the right to die point of view from Canada and the U.S. across the world.
The Internet basically is thousands, if not millions, of computers, ranging from huge academic and government systems, to people like me sitting in front of our PCs. From my desk at home, I can send a message to Premier Frank McKenna in New Brunswick, or read the Minutes of the Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide from Ottawa. I can check through newswire services, and read abortion-related stories that never seem to get printed in Toronto newspapers.
Apparently millions of people across the world are able to connect to the Internet. Imagine the impact if the hundreds of pro-lifer groups across Canada jumped in. The crisis pregnancy services could offer information and help to those in need. Post-abortion counseling could help many women whose abortion experiences have left them desperate and isolated. Educational groups could offer libraries of information for students or those merely curious about fetal development (the most sophisticated computers can run videos), abortion effects and so on. Soon, federal MPs, and provincial politicians, will have e-mail addresses, offering us instant access to them.
The Interim could offer daily or weekly updates on pro-life stories. Articles from past issues could be stored so that they are available to all. This kind of electronic publishing is already well established. The advantage is that it is very efficient and very cost effective.
I am sure there are any number of computer-literate pro-lifers out there who will roll on the floor laughing at my simplistic explanation of Internet wonders. But the rest of you might be interested in how I have reached this far with a still quite intact ignorance of how computers really work.
First of all it helps to have a fairly new computer which will run one of the software programs now available to those who still don’t know the difference between ROM and RAM, and who really can’t be bothered to ever find out. You need a modem. Smart people can do the rest of it themselves for the most part, using headache-producing computer language called UNIX.
The rest of us buy a software program and use a commercial service. All this can cost lots of money, so investigate for hidden charges before joining a commercial service. At the moment, I belong to CompuServe, a large American service. It provides its customers with software which even I managed to get working without too much trouble. CompuServe offers me a local dialing number, so I do not run up long distance telephone bills. Membership for the first month is waived. (A good marketing tool this. By the end of the month you have no intention of leaving this brave new world!)
Using a service such as this does not connect you directly to the Internet (which isn’t in any one place anyway), but it does give easier access. Another bonus for beginners is that this is a convenient, and not too expensive way of learning the ins and outs of using modems and finding information.
If any Interim reader is interested in learning more about putting pro-life on the information highway, I can be contacted through the newspaper. It would be especially wonderful to hear from anyone who has experience in the Internet world.