November 29, 2010
Adopted by an Ottawa couple, student Ruth Lobo plans to work with Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform once she graduates.

CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG

Adopted by an Ottawa couple, student Ruth Lobo plans to work with Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform once she graduates.

DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA — The only time Ruth Lobo felt afraid during her arrest on the Carleton University campus last October, was when the Ottawa police slammed the doors of the paddy wagon and left her inside alone.

"I didn't know what was happening and I couldn't see my team," the 23-year-old student said. Until that moment she had felt "righteous anger" when she and five others were handcuffed after a confrontation with university authorities.

Lobo and five other students were arrested Oct. 4 for trying to mount a controversial pro-life display on the Carleton University campus. They expected confrontation, but they did not expect Ottawa Police to cart them away.

"When things like that happen it really forces you to grow up," she said.

It's not only the arrest that has forced her to count the cost. Since then she and her fellow demonstrators have "experienced a lot of rejection from close friends and people in the Catholic community."

People have told her they don't like the images they use from the Genocide Awareness Project (GAP), which graphically compare the destruction of unborn children with recent genocides, including the Holocaust.

Lobo represents a new face of the pro-life movement in Canada. She is one of many young pro-life activists prepared to use tactics that make people uncomfortable. Lobo and her counterparts are influenced by the Calgary-based Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform (CCBR), which created the GAP project.

"CCBR's tactics have proven to be effective in saving babies and helping women," Lobo said.

CCBR is training up a new movement of young pro-life leaders. "They set a new standard of what the pro-life movement looks like - it's full of young, articulate, confident and intelligent young people who are not afraid and who have the ability to endure suffering."

Her arrest took place almost 22 years to the day of her arrival in Canada as the newly-adopted baby daughter of Ottawa residents Ben and Maria Lobo, who already had three children of their own. They had felt led to adopt a child from their native India and prayed to receive this child into their devout family.

Lobo's birth mother had sought shelter in a Bangalore convent that provided help for single mothers.

Last summer, working for CCBR and telling her story on city sidewalks to people confronted by the GAP imagery, Lobo realized how the pro-life cause gives meaning to her life as an adopted child.

HURLED ABUSE

Some people told her: "You should have been aborted." It made her wonder if her mother might have aborted her if she had the chance.

"All I know is that I'm here, and I don't think it was a mistake," she said.

Because she did not experience one caregiver in her earliest months, Lobo experienced trouble bonding and had "trust issues." Though her parents loved her unconditionally and never treated her any differently from her two older brothers and sister, Lobo had to learn to accept that love.

She felt different. "I think a lot of adopted kids think 'What is my purpose?'" she said, because they are chosen, not an "accident."

The Lobo family did not focus on pro-life activism, but they attended the National March for Life every year and participated in the Life Chain.

The Lobos instilled a passion for justice in their children, she said. They also modelled the courage to stand up for what is right.

After taking a year off university to be a missionary to high school students through NET Ministries, Lobo decided to switch from psychology to the new human rights program at Carleton.

She finds the cutting-edge human rights discourse "very anti-Catholic and anti-establishment." Women's "reproductive rights" are stressed.

Lobo credits CCBR with forming her pro-life activism. Jose Ruba, one of CCBR's founders, is a Carleton graduate and has stayed in touch with Carleton Lifeline, the university's pro-life club that Lobo now heads.

CCBR is about far more than the GAP project. Its aim, according to its website www.unmaskingchoice.ca, is to make abortion "unthinkable." CCBR has taught her and many other young people across Canada to be articulate and defend pro-life views with rational arguments, Lobo said.

She, too, struggled with the graphic GAP imagery. "I didn't see it as effective. I could barely look at it myself," she said. But Stephanie Gray, another CCBR co-founder told her "That's the reaction people should have. We shouldn't be okay with what we've been tolerating."

Now Lobo is persuaded the campaign is effective. "In four years of doing pro-life work, the graphic images have brought the most conversations."

SOFTER TONE

Lifeline Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform started a new campaign using handheld signs of aborted unborn children with no genocide comparison. They had 25 to 30 conversations a day, more than on any day in four years.

But the GAP has run up against influential critics, among them Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, who removed his endorsement of the CCBR in a 2007 letter to Gray.

"GAP in its usage of pictures of aborted children violates their human dignity, denies human remains the respect that inherently must be accorded them and reduces them to things, albeit, for an arguably good reason," the bishop wrote. "The end, however, does not justify the means."

He also disagreed with the genocide comparison.

Though she finds the legal battle and decision to remove Lifeline's club status, stripping it of funding and recognition on campus stressing, she has no plans to quit the fray. Instead, when she finishes at Carleton, Lobo plans to work full-time for the CCBR.