Hundreds of people marched through the centre of Edmonton in the fifth annual Alberta March for Life May 17.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Hundreds of people marched through the centre of Edmonton in the fifth annual Alberta March for Life May 17.

May 28, 2012
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Adam and Crystal Charbonneau spoke from the steps of the Alberta Legislature about their son Caleb who lived for 2 hours May 12 of last year.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Adam and Crystal Charbonneau spoke from the steps of the Alberta Legislature about their son Caleb who lived for 2 hours May 12 of last year.

A year ago, Crystal Charbonneau was pregnant and, at 20 weeks gestation, was diagnosed with an anencephalic baby. Knowing their baby would die, she and her husband Adam from St. Paul were offered abortion, but refused.

At 34 weeks, Caleb was born naturally at 4:37 p.m. on May 12, 2011 – coinciding with last year's March for Life. He died at 6:30 p.m. that day.

This year's March for Life, held May 17 in Edmonton, was a commemoration of Caleb Charbonneau.

"We knew from the very beginning that God had a plan for Caleb's life," Crystal said.

"It was certainly not easy to carry a child that you knew was going to die, and we could have let it destroy us as a couple but we chose to let God in to take control. He really did grant us peace beyond all understanding," said Crystal, who is pregnant again.

Hundreds of Albertans took to the steps of the Legislature in the fifth annual March for Life to challenge the provincial government to protect its most vulnerable citizens – children in the womb.

Many people donned Team Caleb T-shirts during the march.

The Charbonneaus were overwhelmed with prayer, love and support during their difficult time. They have no regrets about their decision.

"The joy of hearing that first cry, seeing us open his eyes and look at us, holding him, and showing him as much love as we possibly could in those two hours of his life was so worth it. We would definitely do it all over again," said Crystal.

K of C state-deputy Gary Johnson says the Knights exist to help families in need.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

K of C state-deputy Gary Johnson says the Knights exist to help families in need.

A petition circulated during the march urging the government to enact laws to protect every human being from conception, and to stop funding the abortion industry.

Judy Zwart, wearing a shirt that said, "Unaborted," participated in the march as a means of supporting life from conception until natural death.

Life as a fundamental right is being ignored these days, Zwart said. She spoke of the enormous societal consequences of euthanasia and assisted suicide in other nations.

"If you look at where the Netherlands has gone, they've had euthanasia legalized since the Eighties, and now they have mobile clinics going door to door to provide assisted suicide to people, sometimes without their consent," she said.

Her hope is that similar legislation is not adopted in Canada. If euthanasia gets its foot in the door politically, "it's all downhill from there," she said.

Voluntary euthanasia is available under Dutch laws, and is legal for people 12 years and older. The Groningen Protocol in the Netherlands allows for physicians to perform euthanasia on handicapped babies.

KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS

Knights of Columbus served as marshals, ensuring that participants stayed on route from the Legislature to Sir Winston Churchill Square and back again.

Judy Zwart is concerned that Canada will follow in the footsteps of the Netherlands in legalizing euthanasia.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Judy Zwart is concerned that Canada will follow in the footsteps of the Netherlands in legalizing euthanasia.

"Our mission has always been to be there for families and individuals in need throughout the world," said State Deputy Gary Johnson.

The Knights in the U.S. provided ultrasound machines for pregnancy crisis centres. The first one in Canada was donated to Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre earlier this year, Johnson said.

Reports indicate that up to 90 per cent of women considering an abortion choose to have their baby after seeing an ultrasound image. The parents see a child, not a choice, said Johnson.

CONSISTENT APPROACH

Gordon Self is Covenant Health's vice-president of mission, ethics and spirituality. Beyond abortion and euthanasia, another life issue that Covenant Health seeks to eliminate is elder abuse.

His belief is in a consistent ethic of life, applying the same attitude towards defending the unborn in the womb as for the murderer on death row.

"A consistent ethic of life calls us to impart the same loving gaze on the homeless person or addict we might encounter this afternoon as we march the streets of Edmonton," said Self.

Emilie Martin and a handful of her friends held signs in the march with graphic images of aborted fetuses.

"I am the oldest of eight kids, so I've experienced life in a very real way with my parents. It's important to show the world that they can have that same experience," said Martin.

She has attended several pro-life rallies. "This world likes to persecute people who take a stand, so today is all about coming together and being a unified group against that persecution," said Martin.

Mark Pickup, a freelance writer on life issues. He is a triplegic, and lives with advanced multiple sclerosis.

If Pickup had been told when he was 30, when he was active and athletic and mobile, that there would be a wheelchair in his future, that all but one limb would be affected by disease, he would have said there's no quality of life in that.

But now he is 59, in an electric wheelchair, and his life does have quality. Through it all, through his deepest grief and anguish, his wife stayed with him.

"During my darkest times, when I was sinking beneath the waves of my circumstances, it was my wife who held me up as someone of value, even when I doubted my own value."