The Jan. 19 National Magazine television documentary on “anti-abortion violence” has evoked a varied response from Canadian pro-life activists. The range of reaction includes thinking that it set the pro-life movement back, while others thought the movement came out ahead because of the coverage.

Clayton Connell is a pro-life activist from Haliburton, Ont., who, along with his wife Rosemary and others, helped start Canada’s Show the Truth demonstrations. He told The Interim the documentary was very positive for the pro-life movement because the CBC included several close-up pictures depicting aborted babies. The pictures were on placards carried in the Show the Truth demonstrations and had not previously been shown on national television.

Connell said while the show was unfair in its coverage of the movement, the “broadcasting of those pictures from coast to coast will make a big difference in swaying opinion away from the pro-abortion side. We’ve been trying to get those pictures on TV for years and no one would do it.”

To CLC British Columbia president John Hof, that view is half-right, but a bit too optimistic. Hof told The Interim the sole benefit of the show was the broadcasting of the pictures, but that the show as a whole wrongly implicated the peaceful pro-life movement as condoning violence and connected to American militias and extremists.

Hof is unsure how this will all play out in the long term but says pro-lifers should not be despondent. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “But we got our pictures out there for everyone to see. We got the devil doing our work.” He hopes the show might “convince people of the humanity of the little baby.”

Steve Jalsevac, a Toronto director of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim that he fears the show may set the pro-life cause back in the eyes of the general public.

Jalsevac said people within pro-life circles know the truth, but the general public will be left with the impression there is a connection between the Canadian pro-life movement and those who commit, condone, or refuse to condemn, violence against abortion providers. He said the CBC refused to recognize that “a violent pro-lifer is an oxymoron.”

He said people will be left with the strong visual image of Matthew Trewhella talking about guns and Michael Bray talking cavalierly about the death of abortionists, while ignoring the genuine pro-life statements of Jim Hughes, whose views are representative of the vast majority of those who oppose abortion.

Some pro-lifers, including Jalsevac, say they believe that is what the CBC wanted. Jalsevac said if the CBC “was genuinely concerned about violence against abortions, they should have aired the statements of pro-lifers to dissuade such violence.”