Shifting Identities and Challenging Consciences

By Josh MacMillan, NCLN Campus Coordinator

On October 20th I was present at a Flag Display organized by Laurier LifeLink. Despite the cold, rainy weather, by early morning 10,000 blue and pink flags, each representing 10 abortions, were planted in the Quad, a grassy square in the centre of campus. The question was posed: “What do you think about 100,000 abortions occurring every year in Canada?”

By mid-afternoon, we had an answer. A mob of students converged on the display, uprooting it, many claiming the display was shaming women, spreading hate speech, using ‘shock’ tactics, not welcome on university campuses, and/or just plain wrong to do. Regardless of their specific justification for their actions, the common sentiment was this: they wanted to protect the women on campus from experiencing trauma due to seeing this display.

This makes sense. No one in their right mind – pro-life or pro-choice – wants to see another human being suffer. When we see harm being done to another, we take action.

In the case of abortion, then, what action must we as pro-lifers take?

Paul Swope, author of Abortion: A Failure to Communicate, recognizes that pro-lifers care deeply about the lives of the pre-born. However, this does not mean that those in favour of access to abortion do not. An unplanned pregnancy inherently changes the identities of the people involved. She becomes a mother. He becomes a father. And that change can be difficult to handle as it alters the current identity a person has of themselves.

shifitng-identities

He continues to explain that abortion supporters look at an unplanned pregnancy as having one of three undesirable outcomes for the woman: motherhood, adoption, and abortion. Motherhood is undesirable because she might have other plans, such as education and a career. Adoption is dangerous because abandoning her child labels her as a ‘bad’ mother in society; it is also uncertain because the child may one day come looking for her, which may be difficult to face. The last outcome, abortion, by its very nature is an undesirable decision. But due to the gravity of the other options, it becomes a necessary “one of self-preservation … to the woman deciding to abort and to those supporting her decision.”

The pro-choice students who tore up the Flag Display were likely acting in the defence of the women on campus who made the choice to have an abortion. Consistent with Swope’s points, they likely see some students – or themselves – as having to make a hard, undesirable, but justified, decision.

With this understanding of the actions of those against us, Swope suggests that the pro-life movement should, when doing outreach, focus on pro-motherhood campaigns, as “[t]he pro-life movement’s own self-chosen slogans and educational presentations have tended to… focus almost exclusively on the unborn child, not the mother. This tends to build resentment, not sympathy, particularly among women of child-bearing age.” While he is right to criticize the pro-life movement when it does not address the issues surrounding an unplanned pregnancy, it cannot only be pro-motherhood, especially on campus. Focusing solely on pro-motherhood campaigns does nothing to challenge the notion of a ‘choice’ for the demographic most vulnerable to abortion – university- and college-aged women. We can and must offer women better choices, but failing to reveal the harm that one choice will cause to another human being does not challenge the consciences of our peers.

So how do we strike the right balance in showing we are pro-woman and pro-child?

Every outreach event the Pro-Life Student Movement does must have pro-motherhood and post-abortive healing resources available. We must also be better prepared to look into the eyes of our peers with their hurts and heart-breaking experiences and say, “I’m so sorry you are going through this… Can I put you in touch with someone who can help?”  This means integrating into all our discussions about the reality of abortion, the message of hope and healing, and making it as clear as possible that we want to help heal the brokenness on our campuses. We should always evaluate the ways we may have not communicated the pro-life message with love, and determine how we can do better. In doing this, we will be more able to affirm women in their identity, an identity that can include themselves as mothers, and challenge them to make the tough decision to defend the life of a human being – possibly their own child.

But even the hardest of truths said with love still hurts. We will be resented for standing up for the preborn, and we will experience backlash, just like we experienced at the flag display. We mustn’t fear sharing the truth and concern ourselves with preserving the pro-life image in order, as Swope states, to “regain the moral high ground in the mind of the… public…” It is the truth that will challenge consciences and, spoken with love, will open the door to dispelling the myths of abortion being a justified decision.

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A Few Questions, A Great Hope

By Maria McCann
VP Events of Western Lifeline

“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?”

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You can visit Western Lifeline on Facebook.
Learn more about the QA Project and how to bring it to your school or campus at ncln.ca/outreach/QAProject


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Why I Love the QA Project

 

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.

The QA Project is my kind of effective.

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Visit U of G Life Choice on Facebook and follow them on Instagram.
Learn more about the QA Project and how to bring it to your school or campus at ncln.ca/outreach/QAProject

 

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NCLN Condemns Assault on Pro-Life Student, Grateful for Her Safety

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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.

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NCLN is hiring!

University campuses are in dire need of the pro-life message. Pro-Life students on these campuses need support and mentorship as they seek to bring this message to a hostile culture.

Are you willing to serve alongside these students as they seek to change hearts and minds?

NCLN is accepting applications for our Summer Internship Program, based out of our Langley and Toronto offices! If you’re a post-secondary student who is passionate about bringing the pro-life message to your campus and eager to grow as a leader, this opportunity is for you!

NCLN Internship details and application.

We are also hiring a new Campus Coordinator to join us in our Toronto office. If you’re interested in an exciting, challenging and fulfilling career that is dedicated to ending abortion and upholding the value of all human life, from conception to natural death, please consider the difference you could make through a position with NCLN!

Campus Coordinator details and application.

Application deadlines: March 15th.

For more information, contact Anastasia Pearse.

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University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union sued over censoring free expression on campus

After fighting since August to have their club status renewed for this school year, students from University of Toronto Students for Life (UTMSFL), with the representation of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, have filed a lawsuit against their student union. National Campus Life Network has been supporting UTMSFL throughout the process as they have been combating the immature and discriminatory behaviour of their student union. Our staff have been impressed and encouraged by their perseverance in this case, and continued dedication to sharing the pro-life message on their campus.

NCLN Staff with UTM Students for Life
NCLN Staff with UTM Students for Life

From the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union sued over censoring free expression on campus

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has filed a court action against the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), to defend the free expression rights of a pro-life student group that is being denied registered club status by UMTSU.UTMSU has refused to renew the club status of Students for Life for the 2015-16 year, effectively barring the student group from using the student centre and accessing student union resources.  As a result, in September of 2015, Students for Life could not join other campus clubs in setting up a table during clubs’ week—a key event for recruiting new members.

UTMSU had granted club status for Students for Life in the 2014-15 school year, but changed its mind specifically because of Students for Life’s “stance on Abortion”.  UTMSU’s mission statement includes a commitment “[t]o safeguard the individual rights of the student, regardless of race, creed, sex … or personal or political beliefs,” and lists “strength in diverse voices and opinions” as a “fundamental belief.”

“It appears that UTMSU sees diverse opinions as good for most topics, but not abortion,” stated Calgary lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

After receiving a legal warning letter from the Justice Centre in October 2015, Russ Adade, UTMSU Vice-President, changed his previous rationale for denying club status to Students for Life, namely, the club’s stance on abortion.  Adade instead told Students for Life that the reason their club was denied status was “violations and discrepancies we found within your constitution in relation to the clubs handbook and UTMSU operational policy as it pertains to clubs.”

Students for Life immediately made the required changes to their constitution, but UTMSU has continued to deny club status, necessitating court action.

Students for Life has filed a court action against UTMSU for violating its own rules, for acting with bias and bad faith, for breaching the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness, and for failing to respect students’ fundamental freedoms of expression and association.

“The actions of UTMSU have demonstrated their disregard for their own rules, and for students’ freedom of expression and freedom of association,” stated Diane Zettel, President of Students for Life.

For more information, please contact:

Diane Zettel, President, UTM Students for Life
647-224-9339 or diane.zettel@mail.utoronto.ca

John Carpay, President, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms
403-619-8014 or jcarpay@jccf.ca

 Visit the UTMSFL website
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Ontario Campus Tour!

Our Executive Director and Central Campus Coordinator, Anastasia & Clarissa, are in the midst of an exciting month of visiting pro-life campus clubs as well as right to life groups across Ontario! Below is their schedule for the remaining two weeks. Contact them if you’re interested in joining them in activism on campus or for their presentations!

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Visits with UTM, Durham, York and McMaster!

15 – Walkerton Right to Life, Hanover: Reaching Campuses, Changing Canada: Mobilizing a Generation of Pro-Life Leaders who are Transforming our Culture. 7:30 p.m. Hanover Public Library (451 10th Ave).
18 – University of Windsor
21 – Cornwall: St. Joseph’s High School presentation
22 – University of Ottawa
25 – Brock University/Niagara College
25 – St. Catharines Right to Life Pro-Life Coffee House. Reaching Campuses, Changing Canada: Mobilizing a Generation of Pro-Life Leaders who are Transforming our Culture. 7:00 p.m. at The Heritage Christian Bookstore Cafe (400 Scott Street, Grantham Plaza, St. Catharines)

Hope to see you there!

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Merry Christmas from NCLN!

 

Dear Friends,

 

Our staff at NCLN wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas. We are so incredibly blessed to be able to work with and for you as we support pro-life student leaders and share our life-affirming, life-saving message on university campuses. We have much to be thankful for and rejoice over as we celebrate this joyous season!
As we reflect on the meaning of the season, there is so much that affirms and encourages us in our pro-life ministry. We encourage you to take  couple minutes to read our Christmas reflection, written by our Western Campus Coordinator, Joanna.

GEARING UP FOR 2016!

 

To ensure you’re equipped to start off the new year, we have a variety of resources, campaigns, and events to help you impact your campus!

 

SPARC up your campus!

SPARC 

Our monthly SPARC outreach will continue, starting in January with a pro-life t-shirt day on January 28th (commemorating the 28th anniversary of the R. v. Mortgentaler decision that struck down all laws against abortion in Canada). Click here to download the Spring 2016 SPARC Calendar!

 

Order a Without Exception Tshirt!

 

Geared for Life T-Shirts

Check out our Geared for Life page and order a pro-life t-shirt! Wearing the t-shirt is a simple way to be a pro-life witness, and can lead to many fruitful conversations. Buy one by January 8th so you have a chance to receive it in time for our January SPARC event!

 

 

Responding to Physician Assisted Suicide in Canada

Our staff are working with LifeCanada on a campaign we can use on our campuses and in our communities to educate people about physician assisted suicide, and to move them to action as we support the vulnerable in our society. To kickstart the campaign, our NCLN Western Office will be co-hosting a workshop in Vancouver on Saturday January 30th. Stay tuned for further details.

 

QA project

The QA Project

Need more resources to fuel your QA Project activism? Visit our Geared for Life page to order cards, pins, and stickers online!

We pray you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for all the amazing work you’ve done to bring more light and hope into this world.

Love,

Your NCLN Team

Merry Christmas

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