Pro-life movement takes on a youthful look

John Hof, seated left, Leah Hallman, Ruth Shaw, Rebecca Richmond took part in the recent Life Canada conference.

PHOTO | BENJAMIN FRANCIS

John Hof, seated left, Leah Hallman, Ruth Shaw, Rebecca Richmond took part in the recent Life Canada conference.

November 7, 2011
SARA FRANCIS
SPECIAL TO THE WCR

CALGARY – A southern savvy Shawn Carney captivated pro-life advocates from across Canada with his wit and wisdom at the annual Life Canada conference held in Calgary Oct. 27-29.

"Howdy," greeted Carney in his Texas-twang, while flashing a wide-mouthed smile, as the conference participants erupted in laughter at the opening of his keynote address.

Carney encouraged the group that it's small pockets of individuals meeting in banquet halls like this one that will inevitably change history and bring about an end to abortion.

"We know what is at stake, which is not only the lives of millions of unborn children, but really the future of western civilization," said Carney.

At a mere 29 years old, Carney is a pro-life advocate who leads by example as the father of four children under five and the co-founder of the 40 Days for Life campaign.

In the fall of 2004 Carney and a friend prayed about how they could impact their local abortion clinic. Forty days of prayer and fasting outside the clinic came to mind. The vigil was only intended to be a one-time event, but other pro-life groups in America heard about the effort and wanted to duplicate it.

"One thing that we hoped for was through the peaceful approach of the vigils that women would choose life," said Carney.

So far 4,313 babies have been saved – that Carney is aware of – as a result of the 40 Days for Life campaign. This fall is the largest 40 Days for Life campaign with 341 cities in 10 countries participating. As of Oct. 28, with 10 days left to go in this fall campaign, 420 babies have already been saved from abortion.

Through the years, 16 abortion facilities have closed and 53 abortion workers have quit their jobs.

The 26th time this happened was very personal for Carney. After eight years of conversations outside an abortion clinic in Texas with Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood clinic director, Carney witnessed her conversion.

CLINIC DIRECTOR TURNS PRO-LIFE

Ultimately, she became pro-life after participating in an ultrasound-guided abortion of a 13-week-old baby. Right after that, she marched over to Carney's nearby pro-life centre and told him she wanted out of the abortion industry. She has documented her experience in the book Unplanned and travels around speaking on behalf of the pro-life cause.

Not only are inspiring young people like Carney injecting new life into the pro-life movement in the United States, but similarly young Canadians are also making waves in Canada.

Last year Ruth (Lobo) Shaw made national headlines when she was arrested on her Carleton University campus in Ottawa for attempting to erect the Genocide Awareness Project, a series of graphic images comparing aborted babies to genocides such as the Holocaust.

Shaw sat on a panel called Tales from the Trenches with Leah Hallman, executive director of The Back Porch in Edmonton, and Rebecca Richmond, executive director of the National Campus Life Network.

All three women are in their twenties and were joined on the panel by veteran pro-life advocate John Hof, director of Campaign Life Coalition for B.C.

"I can't think of one conference that's had more young people at it," said Hof. "We, the pro-life leaders, need to be open to all possibilities. We need to step aside and applaud their efforts. Let young people lead. Make room for the new generation, new ideas."

The pro-life movement in Canada is attracting youth with fresh new ideas, said Stephanie Fennelly, the executive director of Alberta Prolife.

For example, said Fennelly, youth are leading the way on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs to spread the pro-life message. As well, campus pro-life clubs are gaining momentum.

DIGNITY OF HUMAN LIFE

Alberta Prolife co-sponsored the annual Life Canada conference that promotes the dignity of human life from fertilization to natural death.

Veteran prolife activists Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and Wesley Smith, author and attorney with the International Taskforce on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, were among the other speakers.

This year's Mother Teresa Prolife Award for outstanding contributions to the pro-life cause went to Dr. Robert Walley, founder of MaterCare International.

Session talk summaries can be accessed at albertaprolife.com.