Dr. Craig Seaton has always had a strong interest in the relationship between belief, especially religious belief, and behaviour.
When he read an article in Christian Info (a Lower B.C. Mainland newspaper) featuring interviews with several of the people arrested for blockading the Vancouver abortuary, he was intrigued.
What makes these people tick? What kind of person engages in civil disobedience? Why would they put themselves at great risk to make a public statement about abortion?’
The idea for a study began to take place in Seaton’s mind. He contacted pro-life leaders to gain recommendations.
Meetings, reading and research produced a 20-page questionnaire which was mailed out to 102 rescuers. Dr. Seaton compared in-depth interviews with the 52 respondents and analysis of the court statements from the Rescue Canada trials in Vancouver with the rescuers of Jews in Europe during World War II.
Three cities in B.C. -Kelowna, Burnaby, Langley-produced the majority of rescuers and peer groups were also compared. The work took over a year and the results have a strong message for all interested in the most controversial issue of our time.
There were three areas of strong correlation between the two groups:
• Rather than being narrow-minded bigots as most media reports would have us believe, rescuers accept a broad range of people as their equals, people for whom they feel personal commitment and concern. This was also true of the rescuers of Jews.
• Both groups see themselves as free agents with the power to make a difference and demonstrate a willingness to take the consequences for their actions.
• Both rescue groups have clearly defined value systems and readily respond to perceived need, even though there are obvious dangers.
When compared to those who rescued the Jews, Canadian rescuers are more tolerant of various minorities; more likely to believe in freedom of choice where the rights of others are not jeopardized and to believe in personal responsibility and their capacity to initiate change.
They act on their commitment to traditional values and resist permissive cultural trends.
Rescuers are more likely to engage in voluntary social service and demonstrate social interest. They are likely to be assessed as having a high degree of psychological well-being.
Seaton says he was very much impressed by the people themselves. Many had taken others in need into their homes. They held the babies of those people and showed tangible love to them. “One woman I met said she prayed for four hours every day. Her demeanour supported that claim,” he recalled.
All of this information and more can be found in Altruism and Activism: Character disposition and ideology as factors in blockade of an abortion clinic, published in September 1990 by Cummings and Hathaway.
The first published empirical study of a group who engaged in the blockade of an abortion clinic retails for just under $30 and can be ordered by mail.
The author is associate professor of Psychology and Sociology at Trinity Western University. The book contains a great deal of data, but also uses easy-to-read bar graphs and contains the court statements of the blockade group.
All pro-life speakers and leaders will find useful information to refute stereotypes when dealing with the public.
“If there is a contribution to be made by my work,” Dr. Seaton says, “I hope it is seen as factual information describing a group of people who felt they were willing to risk everything (time, jail, possession) to save someone else. They very much felt the Spirit working in them. They don’t just talk about abortion – they do something about it!”