Since its inception in 1980, Peterborough Pro-Life has never swerved from what it considers its primary duty: publicly witnessing to the dignity and sanctity of a baby’s human life inside the mother’s womb. On Oct. 12, LifeSiteNews sat down with Paul Morgan and Ali van der Vegt, who recounted what the group had accomplished in 31 years of existence.
Morgan, a former president of the PPL, said the association, “was formed to fight abortion and to foster respect for the dignity and sanctity of every human life, from conception to natural death, but especially the pre-born baby.”
“It is not that we are happy that our group has been around this long,” added 78-year-old van der Vegt, a grandmother and a long-serving member of the group. “We wish abortion had stopped long ago and that our group was no longer needed.”
In a newsletter dated February 1998, Morgan explained to those who had recently joined the PPL group what was expected of them. “You joined because you believe that the killing of babies, yet-to-be-born, is wrong and should not be permitted under any circumstances,” he said. “Being Pro-Life means acting, not just believing, and that action has to be persistent and constant.”
The newsletter went on to say: “But if you do act, if you get involved, then and only then, can you say ‘I’m a Pro-Lifer’.”
The group has a long history of pro-life political involvement and pro-life events. The group organized a candle-lit vigil in 1986 attended by 2000 people to protest the opening of a new Health Centre that did abortions. “They told us at the time that the new centre was for women’s health, but we knew that ‘health’ was really about bringing more abortion,” said van der Vegt.
Other PPL events included participating in Canada’s first Operation Rescue effort with Joan Andrews, held in Toronto in October 1988. Some of PPL’s members were arrested by police and detained in prison. Morgan, one of those arrested, remembers clearly the events that unfolded that day.
“The philosophy of Operation Rescue was that if we blocked the entrance ways to the abortuary with bodies – just saturated it with bodies – then the pregnant mothers and doctors couldn’t get through. Towards the end of the day, the police came with their paddy wagons and 75 of us were arrested. The clinic remained closed for the day.”
To get the pro-life message out to their hometown community, the PPL sponsored information campaigns, including a 1994 campaign where 40,000 copies of a pro-life newspaper were distributed to Peterborough homes.
The PPL group is best known for its weekly Saturday morning silent prayer vigils at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, where they witness to the life of the unborn child with signs that read: “Abortion Kills Babies.”
With their stalwart dedication to the pro-life cause, PPL has never missed a Saturday at the Peterborough hospital in the past 25 years, ever since the facility received governmental recognition as a corporation in 1986. “There were some days when we were so cold, you couldn’t talk to one another, your face was frozen,” said Morgan, “We have been there in ‘fair or foul’ weather.”
After so many years of hard work, the group experiences frustration that babies are still killed in their hometown. “They are killing life in that hospital which is supposed to be for health, and it’s not for health,” said van der Vegt. “The local doctor does abortions on Thursdays, and two other doctors take turns and they come at the end of the month on Saturdays.” Morgan said that “between 300 to 500 babies killed each year at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre,” explaining how they once received help from their local Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro in obtaining information about the number of abortions committed, information that the hospital was at first unwilling to hand over.
While PPL does not know how many babies they have saved by their public witnessing, they realize that the battle they are fighting has spiritual ramifications. “It’s spiritual warfare,” said van der Vegt. “Sometimes we have to stop, take a deep breath and say, ‘wow, we’ve done all this over the years, and obviously our timing is not commensurate with God’s timing.’ So, all we can do from here-on-in is do what we can – in other words – fight the battle,” said Morgan. In fighting what appears, for the time being, to be a losing battle, the group finds consolation that from God’s perspective, it is the “fighting of the battle that counts… not the winning or the losing.”
As these veterans for the pro-life cause begin to show signs of weariness from their long struggle with the culture of death, they are glad and heartened to see young people starting to take up the pro-life banner and continue the fight for the right-to-life of pre-born babies. “I have hope in the young people. Everywhere you go, there are young people taking over (the pro-life movement). They are really enthusiastic about it and well educated,” said van der Vegt. Morgan agrees. “Our greatest hope on the horizon is young people.”
A version of this article originally appeared Oct. 21 at LifeSiteNews and is reprinted with permission.