Symposium Testimony: Swimming in the Deep End

Meagan Nijenhuis, Summer Intern

I was thrown into the deep end, finding myself vice president of Life Choice at the University of Guelph before I even had time to put on my swimming goggles. My parents raised me to respect all human life but until university, the extent of my involvement had been showing up at 40 Days for Life once a year. I had been to a maximum of four meetings and suddenly I was on the executive. I needed to orient myself in the pro-life world. And fast. I had a pro-life club to help run. The NCLN Symposium gave me the water wings to survive the plunge into campus activism.

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The Symposium introduced me to other student leaders from across the country, giving me a glimpse of the magnitude of the movement. I was surrounded by so many others who were also in the “deep end”, bringing the message of life to a campus shrouded with a culture of death. Sometimes life brings you together with people for an instant and then you go your separate ways. In the Pro-Life Movement, it has to be different. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other and continue onward together, no matter the distance that separates us. We are a team. I’ve been able to keep in contact, bounce ideas off and team up with students from across Canada because of relationships fostered at the Symposium.
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As a newbie to the pro-life front, I wasn’t aware of the army of organizations that fight for preborn human rights. At the Symposium I was able to not only learn from many of them in sessions and workshops, but also to have one-on-one conversations with these renowned leaders throughout the weekend. The Symposium expanded my network of resources to include more experienced people I would be able to fall back on for advice while leading Life Choice through the fall and winter semesters.

The Symposium saturated us with helpful information from a wide range of disciplines. Over the course of the weekend talks were given on the psychology of those you talk to on the street, the current state of abortion law in Canada and different projects you can run on your campus like the Silent No More Awareness Campaign or “Choice” Chain among others. They were pumping more and more air into my water wings.

This introduction to the Pro-Life Movement fueled a zeal to protect all human life and gave me both the tools and the connections I needed to tread the waters of campus activism. I was set for life in the “deep end.”

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“I’ve been on the fence…but not anymore”

By Rebecca Richmond, Executive Director

Earlier this summer, Theresa Gilbert and I spoke at a large youth retreat outside of Cornwall, Ontario.  Over the course of two 1-hour workshops on what it is to be pro-life we spoke to about 300 high school students.  The feedback we received following the workshops was very positive.  I remember speaking to several people, both high school students and chaperones, who told us they had never heard the pro-life message communicated in such an effective way, where they felt equipped to defend the truth.  Still, I can never help wondering what happens to some of the young people who hear our presentations.

About two weeks ago I heard from one high school student who attended the talk.  Prior to the talk, she told me, she had been ‘on the fence’ about abortion.  But not anymore. “I know now,” she wrote in a message, “that being pro-life isn’t about denying a woman’s right to her body but instead to fight for the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Here’s her story:

“The reason my mind was 100% changed was because of your talk. I was on the fence about being pro-life because my mom is not. She’s not totally pro-choice either, but she believes that there are some gray areas concerning abortion (such as rape and incest), and that it cannot be as black & white as the pro-life message makes it. I was ignorant about abortion and even as I learned more about it and decided it was wrong, I told myself that I can’t make decisions for other people. I’ve also told myself that even if abortion wasn’t legal anymore there would be more women dying from unsafe abortions. I kept on telling myself anything that would justify not being pro-life, but deep down I felt as if I was lying to myself.

In your talk you addressed all the justifications I had told myself and undermined each one, until I realised that the excuses I had been feeding my conscience were not valid, and weren’t even based on the facts. I decided then that I needed to tell people. I didn’t know what I was going to do, or how I was going to do it, or if I’d even have the guts to tell my mom my plans, but I felt God telling me that this was something I needed to do. When I told my mom, she respected my decision.

When I thought of how I was going to tell people about what abortion really is, I wanted to have it somehow made a part of a subject in school. I figured since the developing of a human life is taught in science class, so should the absolute destruction of that same being. I was planning on talking to my principal to see how I could even get that started. The more I thought about it, however, the more I wasn’t sure how that would work. Would I be able to start that in my school? My school board? Or would I have to reach the really big people: the government? As my answer was leaning to the hardest people to reach, I decided I would have to start smaller. I thought about maybe writing a poem about abortion and reading it to my school at an assembly, but what ended up happening was instead of a poem, a whole play was emerging. The script is evolving into not just a play about abortion, but about teen pregnancy and the many challenges pregnant teens face. It’s still in the works, but… I’m hoping it will be completed soon. “

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