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Reach Campuses, Change Canada: A Message for Every Pro-Life Post-Secondary Student

By Rebecca Richmond, NCLN Executive Director

Canada’s pro-choice movement has been well-served by campuses.  Whether pro-choice or pro-life, campuses remain critical ground to take in the culture wars.  These venerable institutions are an engine for change and cultural transformation in our country – for better or for worse.

During a recent re-reading of Henry Morgentaler’s biography, I was struck by the manner in which universities were used to advance abortion on-demand.  As the Women’s Liberation Movement rose in the 60’s and 70’s, groups formed on campuses with abortion “rights” a core tenet of their mission.  They influenced the soon-to-be legislators, lawyers, doctors and educators.  They became legislators, lawyers, doctors and educators.  Even before the law changed, their associations, such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Bar Association, lobbied parliament to allow abortions.

And when Henry Morgentaler was arrested, “women across the country were politicized, activated” and able to spring to his support, says biographer Catherine Dunphy.[1]  And it was often university educated men and women – the business, arts, and political elites -that publicly or privately championed the cause, often funding and fundraising for it as well. photo 3

These days pro-choicers are calling on students to reclaim campuses for the cause.  A few years ago the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) began a student project, and Joyce Arthurs has served, she wrote in an ARCC newsletter, as a consultant for student unions nationally.  Their student coordinator even noted with concern that, “Canadian campuses have become hotbeds for anti-choice activities in recent years.”[2] 

But our goal is not to merely worry pro-choicers.  We still have a lot of work to do.  But as we return back to school – or start at university or college for the first time – we can find ourselves overwhelmed.  The fact is that there are many good and noble things that can occupy our thoughts and time.

When I started my degree at the University of Ottawa, pro-life activism was not on my radar.  I was pro-life, to be sure, but I was focused on getting my education, accomplishing my goals and ultimately doing good in the world after graduation.  None of this was bad, but I was missing something: the fact that Canadian campuses are mission fields desperate for the pro-life message and that I could do good here and now and not just after graduation.

Our campuses contain the age demographic upon which the most abortions are performed each year; our campuses contain Canada’s future leaders; our campuses affect Canadian culture.  And unless there is an active pro-life presence on a campus, students are exposed to only the pro-choice message.

This year, in particular, I have been impacted by the sad reality that we are a generation that has come of age in the 25 years since the R. v. Morgentaler Supreme Court decision.  We are a generation that has known nothing but unrestricted abortion on-demand.  We are survivors, with a quarter of our generation having lost their lives to abortion.

That is who we are and we didn’t have a choice, but who we can become is what we get to choose.  We have the opportunity and the obligation to ensure that the next generation is not abandoned to the fate that ours suffered.

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The upcoming NCLN Symposium is entirely dedicated to forming student leaders who can lead Canada out of the shadows of R. v. Morgentaler.  This weekend’s theme is Out of the Shadows, and is open to all pro-life students in Canada as an incredible opportunity to be formed, educated, and equipped by top Canadian and American pro-life leaders as well as to connect with the cross-Canada Student Pro-Life Movement.

Many Canadian pro-lifers, including leaders such as the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform’s Stephanie Gray, Jonathon Van Maren and Maaike Rosendal, credit the Symposium with being “THE event” for pro-life students and “literally life changing” for them personally.

If you believe that abortion is the killing of innocent human beings, if you believe that women deserve better than abortion, and if you want to see Canadian culture respect life, it’s time to take action on campuses.  The Symposium is a great way to start.

I realize that I am asking you to let your heart break for injustice, over and over again.  I know that I am asking you to make a sacrifice and to take a risk.  But it is only in this way that we can move Canada out of the shadows and into the light of a Culture of Life. It starts with you; it starts with your campus.


[1] Catherine Dunphy.  Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero.  Toronto: Random House of Canada Ltd. 1996, pg. 100.

[2] Tara Paterson, “Pro-choice thinkers unite! A call-out for pro-active reproductive justice”. March 3 2012.

http://arccsynergy.wordpress.com/2012/03/03/pro-choice-thinkers-unite-a-call-out-for-pro-active-reproductive-justice/

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PRESS RELEASE: Abortion Debate on B.C. Campuses

March 7th, 2012: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ABORTION DEBATE ON BC CAMPUSES

Vancouver, B.C. University pro-life clubs across British Columbia are bringing the abortion debate to their campuses in an unprecedented manner. Over the next week, six B.C. university campuses will be hosting multiple events, seeking to engage their peers on the issue of abortion.

“Our universities are places where ideas should be shared and contentious issues discussed,” states Anastasia Pearse, Western Campus Coordinator for the National Campus Life Network, a national pro-life student organization. “A recent CIHI report reveals that over a quarter of abortions are performed on university–aged students. If this is a choice young women are making, it is important that they consider what precisely they are choosing and know what abortion alternatives exist.”

Despite Prime Minister Harper’s repeated refusal to reopen the abortion debate in Parliament, pro-life student groups across the country have continued to be active on this issue, even amidst censorship and discrimination like that experienced most recently by Youth Protecting Youth at the University of Victoria.

Events include academic debates, resource distribution, information tables, and abortion imagery projects, all aimed at educating and engaging students in dialogue on the abortion issue. These clubs are also calling on their local politicians, asking them to bring the abortion debate to parliament.

Along with Canadian campus groups, others across the country are also working to raise awareness on the need to dialogue about abortion. Jakki Jeffs, director of Ontario’s We Want the Debate Campaign, has stated that, “the suppression of any debate in a democratic society is unacceptable.” The Alliance for Life of Ontario campaign is demanding that, “the current censorship of the debate around abortion be ended, and that an open and informed discussion be held in public.”

Abortion takes the lives of approximately 300 Canadian preborn human beings every day. Canadian pro-life students refuse to remain silent or be censored while such an injustice is occurring in our society.

Abortion Debates:
Capilano University: March 8th, 1:30 pm, Cedar Building Room 122
University of British Columbia: March 12th, 5:00pm, UBC-Woodward 1
University of the Fraser Valley: March 13th, 6:00pm, UFV Abbotsford Room B101
Simon Fraser University: March 14th, 6:00pm, SFU Burnaby, room TBA

For further information contact:
Anastasia Pearse Western Campus Coordinator, National Campus Life Network westerncanada@ncln.ca 604-365-3484

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A Warm Welcome to Anastasia Pearse, NCLN’s New Western Campus Coordinator

Anastasia is grateful to have this opportunity to continue to promote the pro-life cause. She is looking forward to using her experiences to help university pro-life clubs share the pro-life message, a message that is too important not to be heard.

Anastasia has always been pro-life, and what has most confirmed her position has been seeing the development of her siblings from the womb onwards. Being the eldest of 9, she has had plenty of opportunities to see this development. However, it wasn’t until university that she became actively involved in pro-life work. During her five years at the University of Victoria Anastasia was involved in the pro-life club, Youth Protecting Youth. As president she worked hard to maintain the club’s status amidst strong pro-choice opposition from their students’ society.

During this time she led the club through a lawsuit, which they filed against their students’ society who had denied Youth Protecting Youth club status because of their stance on abortion. Through her perseverance and support from fellow club members, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and NCLN, the case was settled out of court on the club’s terms, and Anastasia succeeded in keeping a vibrant pro-life presence on campus. Throughout the controversy Anastasia gained invaluable experience coordinating events, creating and presenting appeals, and interacting with the media. It was through encountering such strong opposition to her pro-life beliefs that she truly came to understand the vital importance of the cause, and the necessity of actively furthering it.

Throughout the five years of her university degree the most valuable lessons Anastasia learned were from working with the pro-life club. However, her degree in Recreation and Health Education also provided her with opportunities to promote the pro-life cause, as she spent two work terms with seniors and people with disabilities. Through these experiences she witnessed firsthand how all people have inherent value and beauty, regardless of age or ability.

As Anastasia steps into her role as NCLN’s Western Campus Coordinator, she encourages students to keep persevering in their pro-life efforts on campus; we cannot neglect our peers who need to be exposed to our life-affirming message, and we cannot afford to remain silent when so many lives are at stake.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

~Martin Luther King Jr.

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