I learned long ago that truth-telling is fundamental to being pro-life. And I’m forever learning how abortion advocacy is disconnected from the truth.

I was nine when I became pro-life, 10 when I realized that meant without exceptions, 11 when I became an activist and 15 when Michele Landsberg penned something I’d rather not have read. In her Globe and Mail article, “‘Fake abortion clinics’ a pro-life front for emotional violence,” Landsberg allegedly quoted from the Pearson Foundation manual some appalling instructions for the operation of crisis pregnancy centres in the United States. These included the donning by non-medical staff of white lab coats; the administration of urine pregnancy tests falsely described as “lab tests;” the withholding of the test results for half an hour while counsellees were compelled, rather than invited, to view audio-visuals; and the sending of minor girls out-of-state prior to any notification of their parents.

Landsberg concluded, “When (pro-lifers) lie, manipulate or even kidnap in order to impose their religious will on others, they violate our democratic freedoms.” While we don’t concede the so-called “right to abortion” as a democratic freedom, and not all of us are motivated by religion, every authentic pro-lifer rightly condemns utilitarian tactics. If coercive methods have actually been employed – and such claims continue to emerge from south of the border – clearly they have been rejected by the vast majority of CPCs.

As my Aid to Women predecessor, Ann Wilson, wrote last year in response to a Timemagazine cover story: “The main criticism made is that CPCs give out false or exaggerated information. This is likely true at times and we can only hope that the guilty will take stock, do their homework and stick to the truth.”

Sticking to the truth is not only morally necessary, it is also sufficient and effective, whether our motivation is from faith or reason or both. Since childhood, I’ve been an avid reader of Scripture, which tells us (for example in Matthew 26:24 and Romans 3:8) not to do evil in order to accomplish good; and the natural law tradition, which I began to study at 19, clarifies why the end does not justify the means. Comparative feedback on trustworthiness from clients of CPCs and abortion patients is instructive. Even relatively “well-treated” abortion patients have difficulty returning to abortuaries for their post-operative follow-ups; whereas grateful CPC clientele come back to visit long after they need services, sometimes to present their living children, sometimes to help others as they once were helped.

I’m reminded of these early lessons in truth-telling as an adult professional managing an ethical Canadian CPC. Next door, the Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic advertises that recovery time after dilation and curettage (offered between six and 14 weeks’ gestation) “can vary from 15 minutes to half an hour” and that recovery time after dilation and evacuation (offered between 15 and 23 weeks’ gestation) is “anywhere from half an hour to an hour.” Yet, as my post-abortive friends explain, when recovery does occur, it can be the process of a lifetime.

When the Silent No More Awareness Campaign paid a recent visit to the University of Calgary, its four representatives brought their familiar signs: “I regret my abortion,” “I regret lost fatherhood,” and “We regret our abortions. If you do too, there’s help.”

Over 100 students came out to hear the talks and three members of the audience who came in identified as pro-choice signed up for the pro-life club that day. But one little group stood as counter-protestors, as four young women passed out flyers headed with the slogan, “I don’t regret my abortion.”

Intrigued, SNMAC’s Debbie Fisher approached these students and requested dialogue. “Talk to me,” she suggested. “Tell me about your abortion.” She was genuinely interested in how they survived without encountering devastating grief like hers. Not once, not ever … or just, not yet? But each woman denied having any personal experience of abortion. One said her mother had an abortion, others said they knew someone who had one, someone who wasn’t there. “She doesn’t want to talk about it.” Ah.

And why did these educated young women feel justified in claiming an experience that was not their own? Perhaps because, as a back-up for birth control, this “right” seems essential. Perhaps because it’s hard to wonder whether mom or Suzie made the wrong choice. Perhaps because abortion advocates fear that Silent No More testimony could propel new abortion legislation in this country.

And because, without the lies, abortion is unthinkable.