“This was truly a grace-filled time of favour from the Lord. I believe we have re-energized the pro-life movement in Canada,” says Peter Ryan, executive director of New Brunswick Right to Life, of the national pro-life meetings and conference in Moncton, Oct. 25-27. It drew 325 participants from all 10 provinces.
An exciting element was the presence of numerous students and other dynamic young people involved in various aspects of pro-life work. Special sessions were held for Campus pro-life groups. The presence of three members of Toronto’s Sisters of Life also made a strong impact.
Natalie Hudson, the new executive director of B.C. Pro-Life, called for a restoration of education. “The battle against the culture of death is not only about abolishing abortion, but about forming young hearts and minds,” Hudson said. “For them to understand our concerns, we must reintroduce the concept that a human person has an intrinsic objective value, that human actions can be intrinsically good or evil … and teach the young that their sense of right and wrong is based on objective truth and not just subjective value statements.”
Hudson added: “They must be educated in the use of logic and reasoning to arrive at and understand the truth, to hold on to a pro-life position, to defend their position against the vast array of false, empty doctrines that will come at them from every angle … We already have the tools to do it.”
In the meantime, we still have to work at transforming our culture by getting across the facts about abortion, euthanasia and related issues.
The varied speakers provided some notable statistics. John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews.com reported that two-thirds of Canadians want some protection for the unborn, yet 90 per cent of those in the media do not. According to Life Canada’s Joanne Byfield, an Environics poll found that 72 per cent of Canadians want a law to protect unborn children injured in the course of a violent attack on their mothers. Mary Ann Kuharski of Pro-Life Across America reported that 50 per cent of women seeking abortions are “repeaters.” Rev. John Ensor of Heartbeat International said half of all abortions are performed on women who describe themselves as Roman Catholics or born again.
In this very visual culture, pictures also prove particularly effective. Keynote speaker Kuharski, of Minneapolis, uses poignantly beautiful billboard picture-messages. She says that generally, the woman “chooses” abortion in response to outside pressure, so her billboard messages – over 5,000 of them to date – are aimed at the people around the pregnant woman.
In Canada, similar billboards are “especially geared to the general public who think of abortion as a rare event,” said Joanne Byfield, president of Life Canada. Stephanie Gray in Calgary mounts them on trucks that cruise city streets. Like the others, she finds they bring a great increase in requests for help. “So it is important that each campaign be run where assistance is available for women,” she stressed. Gray is co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform.
Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, who applies these ideas to his videos and other materials, strongly agrees. In the immediate future, he foresees a vigorous attempt – quite possibly successful – to get doctor-assisted suicide accepted by the current Parliament. He warned that Death with Dignity is now associated with the hospice and palliative care movement – an obviously ominous development. He also noted that Jocelyn Downie has formulated a right to die case designed to win before the courts and is looking for “a winning candidate” – preferably a woman with ALS. Downie is Canadian Research Chair of Health Law and Policy at Dalhousie University.
Many participants commented on the faith-filled atmosphere of the conference. They were touched by Lorraine Hartsook’s songs about her personal experience of God’s unconditional love and by Denise Mountenay’s post-abortion conversion story. They were encouraged by Kuharski’s “Offer it up, let nothing go to waste” and Jim Hughes’s “This is God’s battle … our difficulties are slivers from the cross.”
“Some evils do not give way without cross-bearing,” said Pastor John Ensor, a Baptist minister involved with Heartbeat International. His spiritually strengthening and uplifting talk wove together many elements of the earlier presentations. Ensor spoke of “God-wrought suffering, willing suffering,” for spiritual purposes as a biblical promise (Phil 1:29), a matter of “common everyday Christianity.”
“We are cross-bearers for the child-bearing,” he said. “Suffering is not new, it’s just our turn … We may weep, but we don’t whine. We know that resurrection follows crucifixion.”
Through Heartbeat International, Ensor is currently establishing much-needed faith-based pregnancy resource centres in Miami, which has 37 abortuaries.
Overall, the conference, with its emphasis on “Building a Culture of Life,” merited Rev. Ensor’s description of a “death-defying, soul-satisfying, culture-saving, God-glorifying event.”