Interim staff

Canadian pro-life workers increasingly rely on religious faith to overcome feelings of loneliness, isolation, persecution and lack of support, according to a recently released attitude survey.

Entitled “Compassion Fatigue in the Pro-Life Movement,” the survey was prepared by Mary-Lynn McPherson, national co-ordinator of Canadian Nurses for Life.

It indicates that despite a lack of support from their own churches and from the community at large, Canadian pro-lifers remain happy and optimistic in their work. They gain strength from other pro-life workers and from their religious faith, which remains unshaken despite less than overwhelming support from church leaders.

Inner strength

“The certain strength of the pro-life movement lies in the tenacity and inner strength of its members,” McPherson concludes in the report. “… However, in spite of the fact that a large majority of pro-life advocates are religious, they do not see their churches as supporting them or the pro-life movement to the extent that they would like.”

McPherson offers eight recommendations to address the concerns raised in the survey. Chief among these is a plan for pro-life organizations at the national, provincial and local levels to appoint individuals to establish formal links with Christian churches.

Churches are urged to avoid duplication of effort by supporting existing pro-life organizations financially and administratively.

Other recommendations include the establishment of a national pro-life Sunday by all Christian churches, more active liaison between church pro-life officials and existing organizations, the creation of compassion fatigue seminars for organizations, the promotion of a positive image of pro-life work and the promulgation to all faith groups that respect for life is a human rights rather than a religious issue.

Finally, the report calls for pro-life organizations to identify members who feel isolated and rejected and to act on their needs.

The questionnaire was distributed at two national pro-life events in 1995. It was also mailed to randomly selected pro-life organizations across the country to obtain a more national flavour to the final results.

More than 150 surveys were returned for analysis with the median age of respondents being 48 for men and 52 for women.

Although an average of 90 per cent of respondents felt happy or optimistic about pro-life work, more than half experience feelings of persecution. Nearly one-third said they would find it difficult to admit if they found the stress of pro-life work overwhelming.

In terms of support, nearly 62 percent of those surveyed said they enjoyed the involvement of pro-life organization is usually supportive, although some complained about a lack of volunteers and internal disorganization and in-fighting.

While church leadership was found to be lacking by some pro-lifers, only 9.7 per cent cited this as the most difficult part of being pro-life.


McPherson said many pro-lifers are reluctant to criticize the movement or to voice their frustrations because of a concern that the movement is already under great strains. “When so few seem to care, and even fewer care enough to help, how can we admit we have had enough, and can no longer take the pressure?” she said. “It would be an admission of defeat, a humiliation, and even worse, a betrayal of pro-life colleagues.”

McPherson offered thanks to the Catholic bishops, who financed the survey.