At its national pro-life conference in Ottawa in November, LifeCanada president Peter Ryan recognized Paul Broughton as a “witness to life,” an “unsung hero” of the pro-life movement. Ryan said the founder of the Toronto-based LifeCycle Books “has served our movement quietly but so capably, diligently, and professionally.”
Broughton grew up in Toronto and began his pro-life activism at the invitation of Jim Bissonnette, his teacher at Neil McNeil High School in the east end of the city. Bissonnette invited several students “to heckle Henry Morgentaler” at some event in the city. “Who could resist,” Broughton said impishly. There he met pro-life activists from Toronto Right to Life where he would soon begin volunteering.
Although he had no idea what he wanted to do career-wise, Broughton had an entrepreneurial streak evident in high school where he started a used textbook business. While at Toronto RTL, Broughton saw that many pro-life groups needed materials such as brochures and books. He decided to start LifeCycle Books, operating out of his parents’ home and using Toronto RTL’s letraset to design his catalogue. His first catalogue, in black and white and sans pictures advertised “Pro-life books … Audio Visual Aids.”
That was in 1973. Forty-five years later, LifeCycle Books has just published its 50th book, a milestone Broughton never expected to reach when he began his operation. His catalogue today is glossy, full of bright photographs of the material LifeCycle sells.
Noting that margins were small, Broughton said his business may never have succeeded were it not for Martha Kramer, a Toronto Right to Life activist who would buy materials and lent them back to him to sell to someone else.
LifeCycle’s bread-and-butter is pro-life materials: brochures, fetal models, stickers, and buttons. It has also sold videos and slide presentations. His first big order was from Regina Right to Life which took 100,000 copies of “Did you know,” about preborn life. Broughton said he had “no business sense” and lost money on the deal because of the costs of shipping the order to the Prairies.
He would rely on sources throughout the Canadian and American pro-life movement to let him know about new material. He attended pro-life conventions as much to get contacts and discover new material as he did to sell his wares. He evaluated brochures and purchased the rights to reproduce and distribute them. Educational groups who talked to schools were keen on fetal development and abstinence brochures.
He tried to update brochures every few years with fresh design, but unless vital he eschewed statistics which quickly became old news.
His top selling brochure, “How you begin” – originally titled “Before you were born” – has sold between 3-4 million copies.
His first book was Abortion: Life Before Birth, a short tract on preborn life, the rights of which LifeCycle purchased. An early original book was Terry Ann’s Journey into Life, a colouring book by Denise Handler, editor of the pro-life Uncertified Human magazine. Handler and Broughton thought it was an effective way to teach young children about preborn life. It sold out of its 10,000 print-run.
Another early book was Louise Summerhill’s The Story of Birthright. Broughton wrote a book himself, Adoption: A Loving Choice. He stayed up all night typing away on his computer. He didn’t save it, but fortunately printed out one draft early in the evening.
LifeCycle also obtained the rights to The Right to Live, the Right to Die by C. Everett Koop, who would later become president Ronald Reagan’s surgeon general.
In 1979, Doubleday was looking for paperback rights for Bernard Nathanson’s Aborting America. They scoffed at his initial offer because they were seeking $50,000 for the rights. LifeCycle won a first-run paperback rights for $25,000.
LifeCycle was also one of three publishers to produce Joseph Scheidler’s Closed: 99 Ways to Shut Down the Abortion Industry.
Broughton only partially tongue-in-cheek described how he went about acquiring books: “I looked at what was out there and how much money was in the bank.” He said that for every ten books LifeCycle published, seven lose money, two break even, and one will cover the losses.
In the last year and a half, LifeCycle has published Stephanie Grey’s Love Unleashes Life, Tim den Bok’s Where is the Evangelical Church, Jonathan van Maren’s The Culture War, van Maren and Blaise Alleyne’s A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide. LifeCycle also reached a milestone, publishing its 50th book, van Maren’s Seeing is Believing, a brief in favour of using abortion victim imagery.
Broughton said van Maren came to him with the idea as they were preparing A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide, so he thought he had some time to get ready for number 50. Van Maren, who works with the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform, had the manuscript ready.
From the time LifeCycle received the manuscript for Seeing is Believing to the final product took a mere 21 days. “Two books in one month” was too much Broughton said, “two a year is a comfortable pace.”
Broughton said that right to life groups used to buy several copies of each book, one to keep for the organization and others to give to local branches of libraries or schools. He said that is less common today although some active right to life groups still carry on the practice.
In an age when print seems out of fashion, Broughton said that books are a “necessary part of how we educate ourselves.” For 45 years, Broughton and his LifeCycle Books has been educating the pro-life movement.
Broughton, a mild-mannered and humble father of four adult children and grandfather to seven grandkids, said he has been guided by the principle of “you try to do some good.”
Broughton has been involved with pro-life groups beyond his own small business. He co-founded the Canadian Youth Pro-Life Organization and has served on the board of Toronto Right to Life for most of his adult lifetime over two different stints.
Broughton concluded our four-hour interview saying, “It has been wonderful to find what God intended me to do with my life at a very early age. It is an honour to be part of the pro-life movement.” As LifeCanada’s recognition suggests, the honour has been the pro-life movement’s.