During the weekend of April 3 to 5, Campaign Life workers from across Ontario met in Niagara Falls for their 1987 Annual General Meeting. Among the 90 delegates were representatives from areas as far as Thunder Bay and Cornwall, and North Bay and Windsor. A number of all those present were wearing two hats for they also represented such groups as Physicians for Life, Teachers for Life, and Nurses for Life.
Campaign Life meetings are always work sessions with discussions, papers and workshops but it is acknowledged that over and above the official agenda there is the invaluable learning experience gained from the exchange of ideas and experiences of other people from different areas and backgrounds. This year the programme was greatly enriched by the presence of representatives from other national pro-life organizations: Alliance for Life, Coalition for the Protection of Human Life, and the Canadian Youth Pro-Life Organization (CYPLO). Invidious though it may be to name names, one person deserves a special mention. Margaret Purcell who is on the executive Coalition, traveled by bus from northern Saskatchewan, Margaret said that she felt the effort was well worth-while, especially if it could help towards a greater cooperation and unity in the pro-life movement.
This need for a greater unity was the theme of the first session on Friday evening. Jim Hughes, President of Campaign life Canada, welcome the group and then very briefly outline the efforts that had been made, and were continuing to be made, by Alliance Coalition and campaign Life to co-ordinate the unify their efforts where this was possible and practical. The opening address by heather Stilwell, national President Alliance for Life on “attempt to unify the Pro-Life Movement” Developed this message more fully.
Alliance for Life is the umbrella group for almost all the pro-life educational groups in Canada. Heather stressed the importance of the hundreds of educational groups which are the grass-roots of the pro-life movement. Within each group and amongst the groups, as in any educational system, there are people at different stages of development in their concepts of pro-life issues. The prime work of the education branch of the movement is both to widen its base and to keep the informed members up-to-date with the new developments: the new threats to human life on the one hand, and the new aids and methods is to spread the pro-life message on the other.
Many of those in educational work are also involved in political action, but not everyone is at that stage. Heather gave as an example that some groups felt it was too political to send postcards to Parliament in the million-card blitz a couple years ago. However, both the educational groups and the political groups are needed to regain protection for the unborn. By working together and co-ordinating their efforts more people will become aware of the evils of abortion, and thus be led to appreciate the fact that the law must be changed. Votes for pro-abortionists or known fence-sitters, or whatever party, men votes for wholesale slaughter of the preborn children.
During the first session on Saturday morning, Frank Foley of Coalition and Sue Hierlihy, both of whom are busy lobbying MPs, dealt with Gus Miges’ motion to amend the Charter of Rights by including the unborn child. Both Sue and Frank stressed the effectiveness of the thousands of letters from pro-lifers across the country, and said that some MPs are changing their minds – in a positive way. The motion could pass. By the time this report appears the vote may well be over, but however the vote goes pro-lifers will have gained an advantage. There will be a recorded vote and, for the firs time since the last-ditch effort to modify the Charter, pro-lifers will know how their MPs voted on this issue. In the United States there are recorded votes on all bills and amendments and the electorate can judge how their Senators and Congressmen stand on the abortion issue. The Gus Mitges’ motion will show Canadians which MPs are willing to stand up and be counted.
The strong possibility of an early provincial election in Ontario gave a special urgency to the sessions and workshops devoted to electron strategy and to the level and type of support that members of Campaign Life will give to the new Family Coalition Party.
During some of the other sessions there were:
- arguments pro and con picketing doctors who perform abortions.
- a very encouraging report of the effective work at the Way Inn next to the abortuary on Harbord Street, Toronto. This is now being paid for and run by the picketers from all areas.
- a discussion of the philosophy of REAL Women and its relationship to the pro-life movement.
- a report on the work of The Interim.
- a critique of the Marion Powell report and its unconscious betrayal of the fact that doctors, hospitals and people in genera dislike abortion.
Two related sessions which greatly disturbed the conference, because of the new threats involved, were those on sexual ethics and sex education. Father Alphonse de Valk, associate editor of The Interim outlined the way in which the battle for abortion has expanded into infanticide, euthanasia, experimentation on embryos and demands for “legally assisted suicide.” It has affected the parent-child relationship with questions as to who has “rights,” the state f the parent? Who decides if a young girl can be given contraceptives or have an abortion? This survey provided the background to the talk by Theresa and Paul Tomory.
The Tomorys and some close friends have made an in-depth study of the proposed guidelines for a new French-language Family Education programme for Ontario Separate School from Grade 1 upwards. What they found appalled them, and horrified the parents at the meeting.
Catholic content minimal
The sex-education programme, which has ignored the very clear outlines laid down by the Catholic bishops, has been drawn with little parental knowledge or parental input. This, despite the fact that parents are the first teachers of their children. The Catholic content is minimal for example in the first seven years of the programme the words “chastity” and “purity’ are never once mentioned. Human sexuality is base don biology, and children are given information before they are ready for it. (Ten-year-old boys are to discuss menstruation.) There is no adaptation to individual children and recognition of their differing rates of maturity.
Apart from the distressing fact that morality is omitted from the programme, there is the added flaw that it breaks the laws of pedagogy. What is of deep concern to the parents is that their children will be deprived of their childhood and years of innocence, and that their rights over their children’s development are being taken away.
Eclipse of reason
The bishops clearly wanted any sex education to be within the frame of religious values, of morality. The suggested programme fails to provide this, the Tomorys argue, and should be amended or scrapped.
During the weekend we had the opportunity (courtesy of rank Foley) to see Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s latest film Eclipse of Reason which shows the abortion of a baby in the second trimester. We remembered that when unedited footage of the film was first shown, at a conference in Paris last year, even strong men collapsed. Even in its final form, people found it difficult to watch the pieces of dismembered baby being removed from the mother. Many men, as well as women, were in tears.
However, this is the reality of the evil of abortion. This is what the pro-life movement is fighting to stop. This is why people were meeting together in Niagara Falls.