Those of us who participated in this year’s LifeChain in London, Ont., were greeted with many encouraging honks and friendly waves, as well as some expressions of strong disapproval of our peaceful, pro-life witness. Among the dissenters were three young ladies in a jeep that had stopped for a red light in front of where I was standing with a sign stating, “Abortion Hurts Women.” One of the youngsters inquired: “How can you, as a man, have the gall to express an opinion on women’s right to choose?”
If my interrogator had been a reporter, I would have referred her to our official spokesman, Phil Arnsby, the exemplary president of the London Area Right to Life Association. As it was, I suggested to the trio: “Why don’t you park that jeep around the corner and come back here for a thorough discussion of this issue? I would be most interested to hear your views.”
In particular, I wondered what these young ladies would have to say about the several young mothers in the LifeChain, who, like me and my wife, were also holding signs stating, “Abortion Hurts Women.” Alas, my invitation for a dialogue was not accepted. Instead, the young lady sitting in the back seat of the jeep fired back: “Why would you want to prevent a helpless and distressed young teenager from ending an unwanted pregnancy?”
Having only about five seconds to respond, I said: “I honestly believe that abortion hurts women.” At this point, the attractive young driver of the jeep leaned forward, exclaimed, “That’s bull—-” and stepped on the gas.
Not so long ago, I used to be amazed that so many women react with frenzy nowadays to even the mildest and most peaceful reminder that all human life is sacred from conception to natural death. Whenever abortion came up for discussion among my fellow university students in the 1960s, we could discuss our sometimes-contrasting understandings of the truth in a civil manner.
What was so different about that era? Part of the explanation has to be that in the 1960s, hardly any women, young or old, had undergone an abortion or knew of someone who had had an abortion. At that time, procuring an abortion was still an extremely rare, Criminal Code offence.
Likewise, single motherhood used to be most unusual. John Kenneth Galbraith recalls in The Scotch, a charming memoir of his life as a boy in southwestern Ontario in the 1920s, that it was a disgrace to father or mother an illegitimate child. He writes: “We did not speak of shotgun marriages, for firearms were not much known in the community; a boy who was compelled into marriage as the result of pregnancy was described as having put his partner ‘up a stump.’”
Much the same could have been said about any Canadian community up to the mid-1960s. Then came the disastrous series of legal reforms introduced by prime minister Pierre Trudeau that legalized contraception, abortion, sodomy and divorce on the grounds of “marriage breakdown.”
The results are still with us – rampant sexual promiscuity; ever rising numbers of out-of-wedlock births; appalling levels of abortion; an epidemic of divorce; and a catastrophic breakdown in the natural, two-parent family.
As a result, the chances are that at least one of the three critics in the jeep might well have seriously contemplated or actually undergone an abortion. Perhaps she had been seduced and impregnated by some irresponsible man who has no regard for the responsibilities of fatherhood. Yet, as the philosopher J. Budziszewski explains in his illuminating recent book, What We Can’t Not Know, all men and women must know in their heart of hearts that abortion is an evil that can never be justified.
What, then, can bring peace of mind to men and women who have been hurt by abortion? What can likewise lift the burden of guilt from participants in that LifeChain? For all have sinned and fallen woefully short of the divine perfection.
I know of no remedy for sin and guilt other than the one suggested by a young lad standing next to me in the LifeChain. He held a sign proclaiming: “Jesus heals and saves.”