Why doesn’t this nation mourn?

Until the Morgentaler decision of Jan. 28, 1988, abortion was a generic term to me, a word that brought little response. The day the Supreme Court of Canada decided to strike down what little law was left, I became aware, for the first time, of the emotions surrounding this incredible debate.

As I watched the news, I neither celebrated nor mourned. I did not belong to the crowds of feminists claiming victory, nor to the pro-life activists in sorrow on the courthouse steps.

Like so many Canadians, the issue of abortion brought little emotion because I knew so little about it. Perhaps it was the timing of this court decision that stirred my apathy, for as I sat watching the events unfold, my twin daughters rolled and kicked within me, their new lives all consuming.

I decided to explore both sides of the debate. What I didn’t realize was that this simple decision would so completely alter my life. The feminist group that I contacted defined abortion without mentioning the pre-born child. It was a fundamental right, central to their fight for equality, and the pro-life response was explained away as a religious reaction to women finally gaining ground.

On the other hand, the pro-life material that I received in the mail defined abortion with two small and contrasting photographs. On the left was a picture of a 12-week old baby floating peacefully within its mother’s womb. On the right was graphic reality, the dismembered remains of a 12-week aborted baby reassembled like a gruesome jigsaw puzzle. In light of this, I understood their sorrow.

For many days I did not read the words. The pictures burned into my conscience. I longed again for apathy, but it did not come. Yet, although the Morgentaler decision had opened my eyes to abortion, it took another year to galvanize my commitment. Chantelle Daigle was my catalyst. She was the woman who was demanding the right to have her baby destroyed by abortion, while the father of the child was fighting to protect it.

Although the first court ruling upheld the father’s rights, Chantelle had the abortion and once again I was forced to face the issue. A local pro-life group asked me to write a song for the memorial service planned for Chantelle’s baby. It was difficult to wrap words and music around my sorrow, but when the day came I had my song.

On the evening news it was now my face that stared back from the screen. It was my voice that filled the livingroom. “Why is it that you felt the need to mourn?” was one reporter’s question. “Why is it you don’t?” was my reply.

It is a question I keep asking a silent nation. For 10 years we have had no abortion law. Why don’t you mourn?

(Cynthia Clarke is executive director of Campaign Life, Nova Scotia.)