Whether you love it or hate it, Pokemon has come back in big way with Pokemon Go. I haven’t caught the fever, but as a fan of the original series, I present to you the pro-life student life, #PokemonStyle!
Inviting people to the first pro-life club meeting of the year with this incentive:
“Hi there, do you have a minute for a few questions?”
I have lost count of the number of times I have asked this question since November 2015, when Western Lifeline began running weekly sessions of NCLN’s Question Abortion (QA) Project.
At our first QA Project session, I remember the question of one of my friends: “Is anyone else super nervous?” As a university pro-life club, Western Lifeline had held outreach tables before to advertise for events, but we did not usually engage so directly with students on the issue of abortion in Canada. Though we were timid at first, we quickly discovered that the survey was an excellent way to engage with students. The QA Project was so successful at our school because it presented a positive challenge: it challenged our pro-choice peers to question their beliefs, and it challenged our club members to grow as pro-life advocates.
The QA Project lives up to its name – it truly encourages students to question their views on abortion. We talked to so many people who simply did not know about the legal vacuum regarding abortion, and many expressed shock that abortions at 9 months of pregnancy were legal in Canada. When we engaged them further on whether they believed in human rights for all human beings, the transformations were amazing. Here are some of the things we heard from students during our conversations:
After answering questions about human rights and seeing an image of an abortion victim, a student went from accepting early abortions to agreeing that abortion was never OK and was “so cruel”. Regarding the image of the abortion victim, she said, “We need to be showing this in the media.”
After learning about how the life of a human being begins at fertilization, a woman who had been pro-choice said, “I think you’ve changed my mind on this.”
One young man initially said that he did not believe in any restrictions on abortion. After talking about human rights, he changed his position to only supporting abortion in the “hard cases”, such as when a woman became pregnant due to rape. After we discussed those difficult situations and we agreed that we can never intentionally kill an innocent human being, he agreed that abortion was never justifiable. He said he would step up and be a father if his partner became pregnant unexpectedly.
Some people could only chat with us for a minute or two. However, even in those brief encounters, we were able to make “pro-life progress” with those individuals. For instance, I had a short conversation with a friend who could not stay long. After discussing human rights with him and showing him an image of an abortion victim, I asked him when it would be justifiable to kill a pre-born child. He replied, “I came into this conversation believing in a wide set of circumstances [where abortion was permissible]… By the end of this conversation, that set of circumstances has definitely narrowed.”
The QA Project also gave our club members the opportunity to grow as pro-life advocates. During our 148 conversations, we sharpened our apologetics skills while also learning how to respond compassionately to students who were in many different situations. I was so proud to see my friends develop courage and confidence after just one or two sessions of QA. If someone asked us a question that we did not know how to answer, we were motivated to learn the answer. As a club, in our bi-weekly educational meetings, we would then regularly include tips on how to incorporate our new pro-life knowledge into our QA conversations.
The NCLN staff encouraged us to do activism for just an hour or two each week in order to prevent burnout. We found this much more effective (and much less tiring) than a typical 5 or 6 hours at an outreach table. The debrief at the end of each QA session was particularly helpful for supporting club members. We were able to celebrate our successes when conversations went really well, but we were also able to encourage each other when one of us had a challenging conversation.
Although Western Lifeline’s activities are wrapping up as our school year ends, I am really looking forward to doing the QA Project again in the fall with my friends. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the Culture of Death that seems to have saturated Canadian society, I draw great hope from the knowledge that my campus is a little bit more pro-life after every hour of QA that we do. I can already feel myself itching to ask someone…
“Hi there, do you have a minute for a few questions?”
By Meagan Nijenhuis President of U of Guelph Life Choice
The prof wraps up the last slide in my Clinical Biomechanics class at 11:20 and I’m off. I have an hour and a half gap between classes today to do pro-life activism, so I book it across campus to the building where our club locker is, dashing up one flight of stairs, then another, grabbing the bag full of clipboards and resources, and I’m off again. It’s 11:30 and my club members are waiting at our meeting spot. Despite being a week full of midterms (what week isn’t?), there are still 4 dedicated members out!
Why are these students giving up an hour of their time between classes and midterms? Because they, along with myself, see that the QA Project is making an impact at Guelph. We’re able to do it almost every week because it’s easy, it requires minimal planning, it provides dialogue practice to our members AND it’s increasing our club membership.
I know that many pro-life club exec members across the country are running on empty. A 12 week semester is short and many of those weeks are loaded with midterms and assignments. To have a team alongside you makes things 10,000 times easier. To have a larger team also means that you can train people to do the jobs you do. Other people can learn how to lead the QA project so if you have a midterm that day, activism can go on. Hearts and minds can continue to be changed.
But how in the world do you grow that team? I know from experience that you don’t grow your team sitting in your meeting once a week with your members. I’ve tried that, maybe with a tabling session and a couple guest speakers thrown in the mix. But your club members won’t feel equipped at tabling if they haven’t practiced. You may have given them all the tools, but it’s like putting your winter tires on without driving in the snow: you can’t be sure you can do it until you’ve done it yourself a couple times. So it ends up being you and a few of your exec. You can’t do that all the time, so you’re out even less. But that’s the biggest problem! You need to be visible on campus. You need to get out there. You need to let people know that there are pro-lifers on their campus.
Every time I wrap up a session of QA, I’ve got epinephrine pumping through my arteries! I can’t wipe the smile off my face. I HAVE to text Clarissa or Alex with the great news! We had so many great conversations! And we also got a couple more SIGN UPS!
And when sign ups get involved, they fuel your club. Some of our most active members, signed up this semester when our club was made visible, whether that was at the Club Day table or the flag display. And at our bake sale, we had a new member come to help out – a student who had signed up during the QA Project! Why are the newest members the most active? We give them the ability to practice their apologetics almost every week because of our weekly activism. They’re seeing the discussion opened up on campus. They’re seeing hearts and minds changed. They have an opportunity to get involved.
A campus pro-life student was assaulted earlier this week while walking home from campus, but thankfully escaped unharmed. The male assailant concealed his face and pushed her against a fence, threatening her saying, “Would you still be anti-choice if YOU had to make the choice?” The student hit her attacker and ran. She reported the incident right away to campus and local authorities.
Although still in shock, the student is doing well. Two days after the incident, she joined her club members in doing pro-life outreach on campus. She shared with our staff: “This is the work I’ve been called to do. I’m not going to let some politically-charged moron scare me off.”
National Campus Life Network’s staff has worked closely with this student throughout the school year and will continue to ensure that she feels safe and supported. We are profoundly grateful that she was unharmed. In our organization’s experience, this is the first time such an incident has occurred. NCLN will continue to stress its safety policies, including doing campus activism in a group setting.
“NCLN is disgusted and appalled by the contemptible behaviour of this man,” states Anastasia Pearse, NCLN’s Executive Director. “Women should not be threatened in any way, shape or form because of the opinion they peacefully and respectfully address on campus. If this man believes in women’s rights, why is he threatening hers? No student should ever have to experience this.”
The Pro-Life Student Movement continues to work in solidarity to bring the pro-life message to Canadian campuses. The male assailant’s actions truly demonstrate how the message needs to be shared all the more persistently. Pro-life students are witnessing to a broken, wounded culture, defending not only the value and dignity of pre-born children, but of their peers as well. We may never know exactly why this man reacted out of anger and with violence, but he is a reminder of our duty to share the truth with love and mercy, so that he and others like him may be given the opportunity to heal from their wounds.
We encourage students and supporters to pray for everyone involved. The pro-life student’s relentless courage to defend pre-born children and support women in crisis is an inspiration to the NCLN team.
Speak for the Weak (SFTW), a pro-life club at UOIT and Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario, is being denied club status for their views on abortion. A lawsuit has been filed, with representation from the Justice Centre for Constitutional freedoms. National Campus Life Network has been supportive of SFTW through this ordeal and greatly admire their ongoing courage and dedication in defending their rights as students, as well as the rights of the most vulnerable. Our staff will continue to support these students in their fight against their Student Association, who surely has the obligation to treat students fairly – even those with viewpoints differing from their own.
From the Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms:
Monday, February 1, 2016
Free speech at stake in court application against Oshawa student union
OSHAWA: The Justice Centre has filed a court applicationagainst the Student Association at Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (“Student Association”) to defend the free speech rights and freedom of association of a pro-life student group. This follows a week after a similar court application was filed against the University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union, which also denied registered club status to a campus group over its stance on abortion.
The Student Association has refused to grant club recognition to Speak for the Weak because of its stance on abortion. The Student Association claims that allowing a pro-life club on campus would constitute “systemic societal oppression”, and would violate “human rights”. The Student Association further claims that only clubs which support abortion are “equity-seeking” and therefore allowed on campus.
Speak for the Weak’s application for club status was denied in September 2015. The students spent most of the fall semester unsuccessfully attempting to appeal the decision to the Student Association’s Board of Directors. Without club status, student groups cannot gain access to Student Association space and resources, making it very difficult to conduct activities and engage with the student body.
In its court application, Speak for the Weak argues that the Student Association violates its own policies and rules, fails to follow the principles of natural justice, bases its decision on irrelevant considerations, and fails to respect students’ freedoms of expression and association.
“As students at a public college and university, we are disappointed that the Student Association refuses to treat us like other student groups. Even though it recognizes campus clubs are an integral part of student life, the Student Association has chosen to exclude us from having an official campus club simply because it disagrees with our views,” said Christian Naggar, president of Speak for the Weak.
“The actions of the Student Association against this student group amount to discrimination and a complete disregard for free expression on campus,” stated Marty Moore, staff lawyer with the Justice Centre.
As a student at the University of Ottawa, Billie saw pro-life messages in chalk on her campus for the first time a couple of years ago. This is her story:
“I used to be a radical pro-choicer
because that was my peer group and the rhetoric I heard from a young age.
A couple years ago, I was walking out of the cafeteria [at the University] and I saw the statistic about Down’s syndrome children being aborted. It was the first thing I saw. I saw it a couple times and tried not to think about it. After the third time, I let myself think about it and was angry. It must not be true.
I was angry at the pro-life club for chalking the messages but I didn’t know why I was angry.
I looked it up on the computer and found very official statistics that confirmed it was true. I was heartbroken because I’ve worked with special needs kids all my life – by choice. They’re already underestimated and discriminated against as it is.
Learning that fact and learning it was true was the catalyst to researching the issue more from both sides.
It took about 6 months before I called myself pro-life.
The more I read the more I learned I had been on the wrong side. I had to admit I was wrong.”
Billie is now involved with uOttawa Students for Life, chalking these same messages on campus. Students across Canada shared the pro-life message through the Chalktober Campus Outreach Campaign this month. Photos to come!
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to join Life Choice, the pro-life club at the University of Guelph, in a flag display on campus. A total of 10,000 pink and blue flags, each representing 10 of the 100,000 abortions that happen in our country each year, were displayed in the middle of campus.
Not only is this display a powerful witness, but so is the amazing efforts of the pro-life students who kept guard of their event over 36hrs in advancein order to put on the display! As the Campus Coordinator for Ontario campuses, I had the privilege of joining these students and witnessed their dedication first hand, gaining an in-depth look at the challenges they faced and overcame, supporting them throughout the event.
On Thanksgiving Monday club memberscamped out (tent and all) on their campus in order to secure the cannon for Wednesday’s event. The cannon is a unique fixture to Guelph that students can paint. The one simple cannon law: it can only be painted at night. But in order to ensure they could paint the cannon Tuesday night, the students stood guard by it for over a day in advance!
Late Tuesday evening they placed the flags, and painted the school cannon by the display.
On Wednesday students spent the day engaging in thoughtful dialogue with their fellow students about the lack of abortion law in Canada.
These students did all this, despite having assignments, midterms, and classes.
This display elicited a variety of emotions from people; many of whom were hurting from having experience or involvement with abortions themselves. Some responded by defacing the cannon. Others attempted to sabotage the display, throwing coat hangers and pro-choice signs into the flag display. All of these acts were further proof to me of the critical need for this message on campus. For, sadly, university students are the demographic most vulnerable to abortion.
I spoke to one young man who was very upset, stating, “You people are terrible. This [display] is just wrong.” After telling him that I’d be happy to talk to him and hear why he thought this, he went on to say that sometimes “there is no other choice” than abortion. We spent a couple of minutes in respectful discussion. He shared that he had his own personal experience with abortion; his hurt was evident as he said it was one of the most difficult things he had to do. I thanked him for sharing with me, and although we essentially disagreed on the humanity of the preborn child and their equal
right to life, I am certain he saw that I valued our conversation and him as a human being. What started off as an angry conversation on his end, ended in a calm and respectful manner as he matched my attitude towards him.
The many fruits of this day are by no means captured in this one post. Many conversations were had, dozens of resources were distributed, club members were encouraged and moved by the support they received, and many more people at the University of Guelph have now seen the magnitude of abortion in our country.
The students of Life Choice, and the many other pro-life student activists NCLN supports, are making sacrifices every day to defend the lives of preborn children and affirm the value of every human life (although few have gone to the extent of camping in a tent, as did these students!) Why do they make these sacrifices?
Because they know that human rights are for all human beings, and both the mother and her preborn child deserve better than abortion.
If you’re interested in having this flag display on your campus, click here!
Here’s what’s in store on the campuses over the next couple of weeks!
Over 15 campuses will be hosting public screenings of the ‘It’s A Girl’ documentary. The film talks about the impact of gendercide and sex-selective abortion, specifically in India and China. Mark Warawa (MP – Langley) will also speak on Motion 408 following the B.C. screenings.
Here are the screenings dates coming up in the next few week with links to their Facebook event page. Check one out at a campus in your area and keep coming back to this page for screenings being added!
TheDefendGirls campaign has gotten off to a great start, with more campuses using these resources to raise awareness on sex-selective abortion, gendercide, and to build support for Motion 408.
Queen’s Alive distributed DefendGirls materials last week, screened, ‘It’s A Girl’, and will be hosting a Euthansia Debate on March 13th, featuring Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and Dr. Udo Schuklenk, a philosophy professor. They will address the question, “Should assisted suicide and/or voluntary euthansia be decriminalized in Canada?”
University of Waterloo Students for Life will be doing a number of events for their Life Weeks, including having the Silent No More Awareness Campaigngive personal testimonies on the hope and healing found after having an abortion, and inviting Stephen Woodworth (MP, Kitchener Centre) to speak on Motion 312 on March 13th. Check out the details on the outcome of this event here.
NCLN’s Executive Director, Rebecca Richmond, will be speaking to Brock Life-Line in St. Catharines on the impact of sex-selective abortion and gendercide in our world and our country. She will also expand on Motion 408 and what campuses can do to raise awareness and build support for the motion.
We are excited for all these events, and more! Further details to come on the ‘It’s a Girl’ documentary screenings and other events! Stay tuned!