Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 13, 2006
Back Porch opens the door for unborn lives
ALIES offers those on their way to a nearby abortion clinic a chance to discuss alternatives
- WCR photo by Glen Argan
A warm window and a chance to discuss alternatives to abortion is offered by Back Porch office manager Theresa Pike, left, and Alberta Life Issues Educational Society spokesperson Joanne Byfield.
By GLEN ARGAN
A pro-life education group has set up shop in the shadow of Edmonton's Morgentaler abortion clinic.
The Alberta Life Issues Educational Society is renting a home across the street from the clinic in hope that women on their way to get an abortion might drop in to their back porch and change their minds.
"We have to believe the Holy Spirit is going to work and will move these women, these men, to come here," says Joanne Byfield, a spokesperson for ALIES. "There's not much we can do except hope and pray. And we do pray - we pray every morning."
Byfield estimated that about 5,000 women a year have abortions at the clinic. "I know there are people in that group who have misgivings. Many of those girls have never heard of an alternative to abortion."
The back porch of the home at 10958-124 St. opened Jan. 30 and in the first week, only six individuals or groups of people headed for the abortion clinic dropped in - none of them for longer than two minutes, she said.
But ALIES takes its hope from Aid to Women, a Toronto pro-life group stationed immediately adjacent to an abortion clinic for more than 10 years. That group has saved hundreds of babies, pictures of whom line the walls of Aid to Women, said Byfield.
"They've been phenomenally successful. It does make a difference if people know there are alternatives."
City bylaws prevent ALIES from providing counselling and a court injunction bars any leafleting or protesting on the sidewalk outside the clinic.
"We don't do counselling," Byfield said. If someone wants counselling, they will be referred to an agency set up for that purpose.
"We're not here to get arrested. We just want to offer these girls an alternative."
Byfield and four other volunteers are manning the house, along with the part-time office manager Theresa McPike.
While they would like more volunteers, they are also wary. "We need people who are not going to be judgmental. These are women who are going for an abortion."
But they do need donations to help pay the $1,000 to $1,200 a month it costs for rent and utilities for the building. They hope Catholic parishes will each sponsor the house for a month.
A sign on the home's back porch announces their presence and inside the porch can be found pro-life leaflets and life-size models of a fetus at various stages of development.
Those who arrived during the first week were people who were having trouble finding the abortion clinic, Byfield said. "No one has been hostile. We haven't found anybody yet who has been upset that we're here."
The project has been two to three years in the making, she said. "When the Morgentaler clinic moved here, a group of us thought it would be good to have a visible presence for women going to the clinic."
A supporter in southern Alberta bought the house and rents it to ALIES at "a reasonable rate," she said. The pro-life group worked from April to October renovating the house and cleaning up the backyard, all with volunteer labour. After that, legal and zoning issues had to be sorted out.
McPike admits to a feeling of panic every time the back door opens. The goal is to help the people, but there is only two minutes to do so.
Still, she is moved by the task before them. "The opportunity to help these girls is a gift from God."