Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2008
Byfield sees slow progress in battle against abortion
Voters need to speak out before change will take place, she says
By ALICIA AMBROSIO
- WCR file photo
Byfield is heartened by the growing youth support for the pro-life movement as seen at this 2002 conference in Drayton Valley.
Then-premier Ralph Klein was "hostile" to the movement and, Byfield said, "did a brilliant political thing," declaring that the provincial government would pay for medically necessary abortions, then telling the Alberta College of Physicians it would be responsible for defining what constituted a "medically necessary abortion."
The college refused, saying it had to be up to individual physicians to determine when an abortion was medically necessary.
"A doctor at a private, for-profit clinic is not going to tell anyone they don't need an abortion. It's like trying to get the tobacco industry to say cigarettes are bad," Byfield said. "That was an eye-opening experience for us about how difficult it is to get support."
Since that initiation into pro-life advocacy, Byfield has served as president of Alberta Pro-Life, stepping down to take on the role of president of Life Canada. She is also the acting executive director of The Back Porch in Edmonton - a safe haven across the street from the Morgentaler Clinic where women and couples dealing with a crisis pregnancy can get information, support and counselling referrals.
She said in Canada it is impossible to have a public discourse about the issue of publicly funded, unrestricted access to abortion because most of the members of the mainstream media are pro-choice and consider abortion a settled issue that is not "of interest to anyone because it's not of interest to them."
This is regardless of the fact, Byfield says, that over the last 30 years polls have shown that "between 60 per cent to two thirds of Canadians think there is a need for some legal restrictions on abortion."
Only recently has the media begun to pay some attention to polling on the issue. "We don't get news coverage, but columnists will cover it in their columns," Byfield said.
Byfield also said changing views can be attributed to the fact that women, and men, who have been affected by abortion are acknowledging their pain and sharing their stories.
- WCR file photo
The annual Life Chain, held every October, brings hundreds of pro-lifers into the streets to show their opposition to abortion.
Attention is being given to women who have had abortions and are struggling with their suppressed grief years later. Byfield cites a series of stories run by the Sun papers telling the stories of women who have had abortions and the emotional and psychological problems that resulted.
There is a recognition, she said , that "these women need healing, they need to be invited to talk about it, to talk about it" and to seek forgiveness, both from God and from themselves.
There is also a "huge movement toward healing men" who have been involved in abortions. Women started talking about their post-abortive experiences and drew out the men who were also suffering.
At The Back Porch, we see some men dropping off their girlfriends at the clinic and driving away. "But we also see the men who weren't asked," she said, because of the assumption that they don't care or shouldn't have a voice.
She also points to the increasing involvement of youth in the pro-life movement. "The March for Life in Ottawa was 50 per cent young people."
This stems, she said, from having a generation of young people who have grown up with post-abortive mothers and the knowledge that "they have brothers and sisters who are not here." There are also increasing numbers of pro-life conferences for youth.
Although Byfield sees this shift in overall attitude as positive, she notes that it is a very, very slow shift.
"Our churches aren't doing enough. There is a fear, on the part of pastors, to speak about abortion because they know there are wounded men and women out there and they don't want to make anyone uncomfortable."
There is still great difficulty getting political support as well. Byfield cites the federal Liberals under Paul Martin. Although there were pro-life MPs in the Liberal caucus, Martin declared the party to be a "pro-choice party."
And although there are pro-life MPs in the current Conservative government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he will do nothing to call into question current access to abortions in Canada.
Byfield said she doesn't believe the pro-life moment has made any political gains in Canada.
"It's great to elect pro-life MPs, but it's unrealistic to expect bills to be passed without us doing the groundwork to change public opinion," Byfield said.
Voters need to tell the politicians who come to their doors asking for votes, "We won't vote for you unless you do something to protect human life.
"Priority has to be (given) to de-insure abortion and our politicians have to hear it from person after person when they go from door to door. Our job is to get people to that point."
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.