Ruth (Lobo) Shaw is a well-known name in the history books of campus pro-life activism! A dedicated alumni of Carleton Lifeline, Ruth continues to give of herself as a wife to James Shaw, mother to William, leads Ottawa Against Abortion, and is a great influence to many.
One notable event in Ruth’s years with Carleton Lifeline was October 4th, 2010, when she and 3 other students, including her husband, James, were arrested on campus for exercising their right to freedom of speech on campus. The campus refused to let them display abortion imagery in a public location on campus – a location which other clubs frequently used for their own displays. Standing for their rights, the club members remained peacefully with their signs while campus police handcuffed them and put them in the back of police vans. (A video can be seen here.) Through the subsequent years, the club continued to persist in their pro-life activism – with club status or without – with perseverance to show the truth.
To hear more of the story, read on!
Campus: Carleton University
Graduating year: May 2011
Area of study: Human Rights
ProLife Club name: Carleton Lifeline
Years involved: 2006-2011
Current occupation/vocation: Married and a Mama
How did you get involved in the pro-life club?
I started University in 2006. Up until that time, I had given some speeches in high school about abortion (ya, I was “that annoying girl who won’t shut up about things no one likes..). When I went to University, I heard through the grapevine that there were a couple other people interested in re-starting the pro-life club as it had been inactive for a number of years. And.. BAM. I suddenly became the Secretary for Carleton Lifeline- a team of 3 people looking to create dialogue about abortion on campus.
What did your involvement look like?
Right away, we experienced a lot of controversy. One of the first events we ever held was an abortion debate between Jojo Ruba (Now the Executive Director of Faith Beyond Belief) and the Director of Planned Parenthood Ottawa. Needless to say, the pro-abortion side did not win and the pro-abortion students knew it. Right away, they motioned for Lifeline to be decertified. Not only were they victorious, but they were successful in getting the student union (CUSA) to label themselves as a pro-choice organization therefore technically making it impossible for Lifeline to achieve club status ever again. I guess not all CUSA members read their own rules, because Lifeline was able to have club status for 4 years off and on. My involvement was immediate and intense – though my title was “secretary”, all 3 team members shared the responsibilities of everything from radio interviews to event planning. As the years went on and the club progressed, I became President and remained so for the next 3 years. The fact that I was thrown in so quickly helped me learn that in fighting abortion, you either sink or swim. If you don’t rise above, you will get clobbered. I learned to swim – and fast.
What was the greatest struggle, and greatest victory of your campus activism?
I would say there were two great struggles:
1) Keeping up with the constant controversy and hostility towards Lifeline and our 3 team members was at times very draining. There were times during my campus ativism that I felt like I was a full-time activist who did school on the side. It was difficult to have a life outside of Lifeline and school, but God’s grace was sufficient for me every day (I know because in my last year, I planned a wedding, worked, and ran a campus club that had very high publicity.. totally God’s grace!!)
2) The other major heartache was experiencing rejection from loved ones in my life. I had always heard about other activists throughout history who acted rightly and in the process lost the support of people in their life who they loved and valued. For some reason, I didn’t anticipate it happening to me. This was one of the biggest sacrifices I made- choosing to defend what was right at the cost of losing people who I really loved.
The Greatest Victory:
The greatest personal victory:
I learned so much about perseverance during my years as a student activist. I learned that I could not rely on my own strength. This has helped me to persevere in other areas of my life (ahem.. marriage and being a mama) where one must choose to do the right thing constantly despite how one feels.
Greatest activism victory:
For the majority of my time as President, we had stayed away from using abortion imagery on campus. It was not until my last year (2010-2011) that myself and Nich Mcleod (my comrad in arms) decided it was time to try it out. I can say this with absolute certainty and conviction: When we started showing abortion imagery on campus, we had more conversations in 3 months than we had in the 3 years prior! It was nuts. Everytime we did a project where we actually showed the students what abortion really was, they wanted to talk about it! There is an awesome TED talk that addresses this exact phenomenon – people often complain that society is apathetic. I thought Carleton was somewhat apathetic to the abortion issue.. at least the average student must be because for 3 years we had so few conversations except with the extremists who aren’t as susceptible to influence.. it’s just not true! It’s all about messaging! Once we changed our messaging on campus, the campus came alive and we were finally having conversations with all sorts of students. It was amazing.
How does your past involvement with campus pro-life work affect your activities now?
(See above my personal victory).. but to add to it.. My conviction that everyone has a duty to do something to end abortion or at least influence the status quo is so deeply entrenched in me because of my experience on campus. Both my husband, James, and I feel strongly that this conviction in both our hearts will (and should) deeply affect the fabric of our family. Above all else, we have learned to rely on the Lord deeply and to persevere when things get tough. Many people believe that if there is going to be a negative reaction to an act of evangelization on your part, that perhaps it should not be done. This is not true – Jesus showed us an example of this through His gruesome death and James and I personally lived this out on campus and continue to in our life together.
If you were to describe your campus activism experience in one hashtag, what would it be?
What major lessons did you learn from “the arrest”?
Yeah.. so.. that was a crazy time! The biggest thing I learned was that often your successes are not where you think they will be. We filed a lawsuit against the University post-arrest and we did not win. I don’t regret filing it, I think we needed to. But I think where the real success was (and still is) for me was in the people who I have been able to reach because God used me in a way I could not imagine.
So many people knew me because of what happened to me on campus. I am humbled. What humbles me even more is that God continues to use the publicity of that event to touch people and to call them out of their comfort zone. I could tell you so many stories of people who have emailed me, Facebooked me, called me to tell me their story or to ask me how they can better talk about abortion in their life… they think of me because God used me. THAT is the victory. And even on campus during my last year, students in my classes would talk to me about their pro-life convictions that they were scared to talk about, students that I met with would end up turning their life around simply because God was choosing to use these crazy events in my life for His purposes.
The other extremely valuable lesson I learned was that all God requires of us is a simple “yes”, and He will do the rest. (i didn’t mean to rhyme there…but I’m glad it happened.. lol)
Was there something in particular that influenced you when you attended an NCLN conference during university?
The NCLN conference I attended in 2009 ended up changing the course of my life. The talks were awesome and everything, but it was there that I met Stephanie Gray, Executive Director for CCBR. Stephanie gave this talk on doing full-time pro-life work. I had heard similar talks before but she said something in this one that sealed the deal for me. She said that there was probably someone in this room who was feeling convicted to do full-time pro life work and that they should act. At the time, I had been feeling that way but didn’t know how do pursue the convictions I had.
After Stephanie’s talk, I asked her if I could talk to her privately. I remember so clearly where I was standing. We walked outside the side door of the Seminary. I told her I really felt convicted to do full-time pro life work and I was ready for the challenge. She encouraged me to pursue it and invited me to apply to attend their February Florida Gap trip 2010 (That they are currently on right now!!). I attended that trip and convinced Steph to take me on as an intern with them. They did that summer. That summer, I did so much activism with CCBR I thought I was going to be sick of it. But it had the opposite effect- I wanted to see more lives changed. So Nicholas McLeod, James (my husband now) and I returned to Campus that fall with renewed conviction. That was the fall we were arrested- October 4th, 2010. My husband James and I moved to Calgary in 2011 to start full-time pro-life work with CCBR.
Two years later we are back in Ottawa with our son William. I now run an activism group here called Ottawa Against Abortion that does much activism and recruiting. God had a plan for my life that I could have never predicted for myself, but it has been challenging, awesome and stretched me in ways I could have never predicted.
Ruth, you are a shining example to so many. Thank you for working so hard at Carleton to defend life, despite the many obstacles. Continue to be that shining example of leadership and love in your beautiful family!