Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2008
Pro-lifers grow stronger, wiser since Morgentaler ruling
After 20 years, advocates refine strategies, welcome young people to the cause
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
- WCR photo by Alicia Ambrosio
LifeCanada has mounted a billboard and poster campaign, hitting 50 billboards and 25 transit shelters across Canada.
Hughes sees Pierre Trudeau's 1969 omnibus bill that legalized abortion with the approval of a three-person committee as far more damaging than the Morgentaler decision.
"The original legalization was a surprise and a shock," Hughes said. "Those people involved right from the beginning were so small in number, they would be delighted to see the number of people involved now."
Though numbers are hard to pin down, they are in the tens of thousands, and belong to groups in small towns and big cities across Canada. REAL Women alone has a membership of 55,000. The Catholic Women's League has consistently supported life and family issues and its membership is over 90,000.
The pro-life movement has become increasingly sophisticated and prepared, whether through the use of new media or in fighting battles in the courts.
When the Morgentaler case was argued in court in 1987, however, nobody from the pro-life side intervened.
REAL Women of Canada's executive vice president Gwen Landolt described the cold February day in 1988 when she read the Morgentaler case files as "the saddest, loneliest, most difficult day" of her life. She found "not one single pro-life word in the entire proceedings."
She vowed that never again would a pro-life or pro-family case go before the Supreme Court without pro-life involvement. REAL Women intervened in some cases on its own, such as the case involving Chantal Daigle, whose boyfriend Jean Tremblay wanted to prevent her from aborting their unborn child.
Knowing they would not win, Landolt said they intervened to create a "paper trail" for two reasons: so "history will know there was organized, determined resistance to abortion in Canada;" and the "court will never be able to exonerate itself, saying no one argued for the other side."
Now REAL Women joins forces with a network of other groups before the courts, not only on life issues but on defending marriage and family. It has gained experience.
REAL Women celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. So does The Interim, the newspaper CLC set up as a Canadian pro-life information vehicle. Out of The Interim, came the web-based LifeSiteNews.com that reaches thousands around the world with its daily news updates. LifeSiteNews will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.
While the established groups grow older, their membership is growing younger. In addition, pro-life groups are proliferating on university campuses across the country.
"I love these campus groups," said Byfield. "I love hearing when they get shut down by the students' union because of all the attention it gets."
Campus groups affiliated with LifeCanada are using Facebook, a web-based social networking tool, to mount their awareness campaign, using the same billboard image.
LifeCanada executive director Gudrun Schultz said younger people see the issue from a social justice standpoint. They use the slogan "Join the human rights movement of the 21st century." Hughes, who uses a clicker to hand count participants in the annual national March for Life estimated about half of the more than 6,000 marchers last spring were under 35.
Landolt has noticed a major difference when she speaks in high schools now. The students are "spellbound." She experiences none of the hostility she met in the '70s and '80s when young people were being systematically "indoctrinated" to radical feminist viewpoints.
The whole movement has grown in size and complexity. Landolt imagines sometimes as she flies over Canada "little flickering lights" representing the pro-life movement, lights for "hope and life flickering in every town and village" across the country.
When the movement began nearly 40 years ago, it was predominately Catholic. Then evangelicals came on board. Now nonreligious women are joining forces. On Jan. 15, a new, non-religious pro-life organization was launched in Ottawa. ProWomanProLife.org founder Andrea Mrozek described the group as nonpartisan and nonreligious.
"We have no hidden agenda here but a very open one: to eradicate abortion in Canada, not by legislation or force, but because that is what women choose," said Mrozek in a Jan. 15 statement. Mrozek also stressed the freedom of speech aspect to the battle.
"Pro-lifers are told what they can and can't say in politics, and pro-life clubs are currently being banned on our university campuses," she said. "No Canadian should be comfortable with this suppression of dialogue, irrespective of how they feel about abortion."
Byfield applauded the new group. She agreed with the importance of trying to change the culture rather than focusing only on changing the laws. "It's unrealistic to expect politicians go where society isn't ready to go," she said.
In a post-Christian society, Byfield urged using factual information and language "people can relate to and understand."
Hughes also stressed the power of prayer. "You have to feel sorry for Morgentaler and pray for him." He noted many prayed for abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who eventually became a major pro-life advocate.
"It's only a matter of time before truth prevails," Hughes said.
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