The end of April will put the coda to nearly three decades of frontline pro-life work for Alliance for Life’s Anna Desilets.
Anna steps down April 30 after a 26-year association – the last 14 as executive director – with the Winnipeg-based educational and research organization.
“It’s time for some new talent and fresh ideas,” Desilets told The Interim. “We’re hoping there won’t be any disruption of our continuity.”
Promoting greater cohesion among the various organizations has been one of Anna’s top priorities since she began her pro-life work back in 1971. she was first active with the League for Life of Manitoba and became league president in 1978. Anna joined the national Alliance for Life team in 1980 and for the first three years, she was part-time editor of the Alliance’s national newsmagazine, the ProLife News. She became executive director in 1983 and held the post during several milestone events in the pro-life struggle.
Over the last 14 years, Anna has noted a greater unity to national pro-life work in Canada. “We seem to be speaking more effectively with one voice,” she said. “There’s a better relationship among the different groups.” Anna cited increased pro-life unity as one of the highlights of her long and distinguished career.
Alliance for Life is primarily a research and educational arm of the Canadian pro-life movement. It works closely with political organizations such as Campaign Life Coalition in seeking laws that promote greater respect for human life from conception until natural death.
Anna described the last 15 years as a time of growth for Canada’s pro-life network. For Alliance for Life, that growth culminated in 1988 with the broadcasting of the television program “Fell the Heartbeat” which Anna says put a positive face on pro-life work.
Along with accomplishments come disappointments, the most notable being the lack of federal law protecting unborn children from abortion. She is also concerned about the growing tolerance for assisted suicide and the general trend towards a diminished respect for life.
“The euthanasia question is moving us closer to ‘slippery slope’”, she said. “We were called scaremongers when we raised these fears back in 1969 (the year the Canadian Parliament legalized abortion), but our 28 years of experience with abortion shows that our concerns were justified.”
As well, Anna is concerned with the image of pro-life workers as violent and fanatical. “Even though that image is wrong, it needs to be addressed,” she said. “It will be difficult to make progress if the media remains hostile to our cause.”
On that not however, Anna has observed some improvement. She believes the media is gradually warming up to the pro-life message, especially in light of recent court cases in showing the Criminal Cod’s failure to recognize unborn children as persons.
While her departure will no doubt mean a loss of experience, Anna welcomes new pro-life talent. “There’s the danger of stifling progress if we hang on to the job for too long,” she said. She is especially optimistic about younger people getting involved in pro-life work.
“The younger generation is showing a tremendous commitment and enthusiasm and they should be encouraged.”
Anna plans to undertake “more personal pro-life work” including caring for elderly parents and parents in-law, and spending more time with her grandchildren.
She also hopes to lend occasional guidance to Michelle Blanchette, her young successor. The Interim plans to feature a profile Michelle in an upcoming issue.
“I will certainly miss dealing with the good pro-life people fro across the country,” Anna said. “But I still see the need to step back from it all. Even the most dedicated pro-lifer has to keep their priorities – God, family and spouse – in order.