This year marks the 25th anniversary of the formal establishment of the pro-life movement in Prince Edward Island. And that calls for a party.
“We are the only province in Canada that does not provide abortion services. It seemed appropriate to mark these years of successful effort in protecting the unborn with a joyous celebration of life and living,” said Vince McIntyre, executive director of P.E.I. Right to Life.
So on Feb. 20, a Celebration of Life was held at Charlottetown’s Confederation Centre of the Arts. It was an evening jam packed with upbeat family entertainment by top Island performers.
Twenty-five years ago, when the clamour for abortion was sounding across Canada, Charlottetown social worker Pat Callaghan called together a half-dozen people to discuss ways to promote respect for all human life, particularly the endangered preborn. The result was the formation of P.E.I. Right to Life.
“My old notes show that ‘celebrating life’ was also the theme of our meeting that day. It gave us a good focus for all our subsequent work,” says George O’Connor, who attended that gathering in 1974.
Islanders rallied to the call to protect life, and membership grew quickly.
“At one point, we had 4,000 members,” recalls O’Connor. “We had upwards of 20,000 signatures on the petition of one million names presented to Parliament in 1974 as a protest against expanding access to abortion. That was an excellent showing from such a small province.”
The major objective of the new organization was to abolish hospital abortions in the province. Starting almost from scratch, pro-lifers learned the necessary strategies, developed courageous leaders, and educated the public.
Working one hospital at a time against very strong resistance took a dozen years of very hard work, and there was great jubilation in 1986 when they succeeded in overturning the abortion-related bylaws at the last holdout hospital on the Island.
“We have earned the right to call our province a Life Sanctuary,” says McIntyre. “We have reason to celebrate life!”
But P.E.I. Right to Life is not resting on its laurels.
“Our mandate remains education,” says current president Pauline MacDonald, adding that it’s surprising and discouraging to discover that so many people (including health care professionals) still don’t really know what abortion does to women and babies.
“We have a great deal of information. Our problem is learning the best ways to use it,” she says.
A committee is currently working on developing signage with indisputable evidence presented in a very positive way.
“Often people reject the statement that abortion kills a human being. They cannot dispute the existence of fingerprints on a nine-week unborn baby,” says MacDonald.
P.E.I. RTL has also recently provided a booklet to Island schools showing the United Nations Children’s Fund’s increasing involvement in coercive population control.
MacDonald notes that in the abortion battle, most pro-lifers found the issue unmistakably clear. But many Canadians seem to have more difficulty understanding the issues involved in the ever-increasing threat of euthanasia.
“So we have much to do yet, especially to reach young people,” she adds.