As estimated 15 to 30,000 Canadians endured cool, drizzly weather in Ottawa September 17 to hear religious leaders, evangelists and the leaders of the pro-life movement denounce a government and a nation that permits the killing of its youngest and most defenseless citizens.
Of the 35 speakers who addressed the day-long rally, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was the star attraction. The 78-year-old nun is the Superior of the worldwide Missionaries of Charity.
In India, the congregation fights abortion by means of adoption. In Canada, the Missionaries of Charity seek out and visit the unwanted and the lonely, including unwed mothers fearful or carrying their children to term.
To frequent bursts of applause and cheering, the famous missionary to the poorest of the poor challenged her listeners to overcome the evil of abortion: “Christ says, ‘If you receive a little child in my name, you receive me.’ That is why abortion is such a terrible evil, because in refusing the little child we are refusing Christ Himself….If you do not want the child, I want it. Give it to me,” she cried, twice.
“Protect the little, unborn child fro the glory of God and the good of the country.” Were her parting words to the crowd.
In the company of Senator Stanley Haidasz and MP John Nunziata, both pro-life Liberals, Mother Teresa later told reporters what she thought government’s role should be in the protection of human life: “Governments should prevent abortion because it’s one way of killing….If I had power I would make a jail for all the doctors and mothers who would destroy their child.”
Abortionists accused her of being inhumane. Spokeswoman for the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics, Carolyn Egan, said in the Ottawa Citizen, September 19, that her suggestion reflected an uncaring attitude toward women.
Others disagreed. “How many people,” wondered letter-writer Albert Miceli in the September 23 Toronto Star, “have the moral courage and intellectual honesty…to come out, openly and publicly, and declare that abortion is such an evil,” that those who commit it should be imprisoned for murder?
Mother Teresa’s suggestion mirrors the penalties for abortion in Bill S-16, introduced in the Senate May 18 by Senator Haidasz. It recommended life imprisonment for those who have deliberately procured the death of an “unborn human being” and five years imprisonment for anyone guilty of manslaughter. Bill S-16 recognized that aborting women are victims of their own crime, and recommended a two-year imprisonment – a sentence which in practice would be either shortened or suspended.
Ed Van Woudenberg, leader of the Christian Heritage Party, told the crowd assembled on Parliament Hill by Christians for Life, an umbrella organization of mostly Evangelical groups: “We are here to speak for those that cannot speak for themselves, and to speak to those that have filed to speak for them.”
Dr. Richard Ganz, Ottawa-area Reformed Presbyterian pastor and one of the organizers of the rally, drew the crowd’s attention to the biblical motto carved in the wall of the Commons – “He shall have dominion from sea to sea” – and called for the abolition of the “complacency and apathy which allowed legalized murders in Canada to pass the one-million mark.
Choose Life Canada president Ken Campbell pleaded with those present and all other Canadians to halt the encroachment of the “godless, lawless religion of secular fundamentalism on the nation.” He designated Thanksgiving day October 10 as a national day of prayer.
One of his hearers, Anthony Kuttschrutter of St. Olaf, Ontario, agreed: “I simply do not believe in killing babies…I honestly feel by doing what we’re doing today, rain or shine, we’re demonstrating that there are still people who are God-fearing people.”
A spokesman for Texas-based Last Days Ministries reiterated a theme of the rally: Christians need to exert themselves against the scourge of abortion sweeping the western world “because it’s not just a social issue. This is something that is a very grave issue on the heart of God.”
“He is grieved to the depths of His heart by the mutilation of these beloved children,” observed Melody Green, a representative of Last Days Ministries, and a speaker at the rally. Green was delighted with the size of the well-behaved crowd. “Today we’re seeing the factor of spiritual warfare, when Christians gather and take a stand for the truth,” she told The Interim.
The 44-year-old Nova Scotian mother of five, Helen Walsh, who embarked May 9 on a marathon for life in a country without any law protecting human life, also addressed the gathering: “I’ve walked more than 3,000 kilometers across Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, PEI and Quebec….And I’m here to ask our government to join with all other Canadian in giving us a law, a law that will protect life from the moment of conception through all of its stages until God calls that life home.”
Gilles Belisle, Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Ottawa, was instrumental in inviting Mother Teresa to the rally, at a time of the year when she normally doesn’t travel outside India. In May, 1988, Belisle received a begging letter from Henry Morgentaler. The bishop said his involvement in pro-life – including his speech to rally participants – deepened after his public reply to the abortionist’s calculated hypocrisy.”
As veteran Lifeliners marched on Parliament Hill, Genevieve Ring, chief organizer of the cross-country relay, declared: “Let (Prime Minister) Brian Mulroney, (Liberal leader) John Turner, (New Democratic Party leader) Ed Broadbent and anyone who votes to destroy our fellow Canadians, know today that we are going to take our country back.”
Later, the B.C. resident told The Interim that, in the wake of the January 28 Supreme Court decision declaring the abortion law unconstitutional, she and other pro-lifers wanted a direct and dramatic response. The result was Lifeline – a grassroots relay walk of concerned Canadians from Prince Rupert to Ottawa.
“It was so big a project in so short a time, it was a little overwhelming. But if we didn’t do it, what were we going to do? And no one could think of anything to do that would have the magnitude required to respond to the January 28 decision.”
Despite the hurdles of time, organization and non-cooperation from some pro-life groups, Lifeline’s success far exceeded Ring’s expectations.
“You’d go to a church or you’d find a person, the work would be done and Lifeline would go through,” said a grateful Ring of the 11,000 participants. These are two of their stories:
With 50 others, Gord Maloney, a member of the Stratford, Ontario Right-to-Life Association took the Stratford to Kitchener section of the cross-country trek for life. “We ran, we walked, we jogged, we crawled in a downpour, he said.
Henry and Alice Bieber walked between Cochrane and Renfrew, Ontario. Their reason was as simple as that which brought Mother Teresa to Ottawa: “We don’t believe in killing the babies before they’re born.