“I survived an abortion,” the woman standing in front of me said, looking at my sign.
I am one of the summer interns for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, and for the last two weeks we have been travelling across the country on The New Abortion Caravan. Dozens of people have given us amazing testimonies, dozens have turned pro-life, but I had never heard this story before.
I was doing “Choice” Chain, a project where we stand with signs of aborted pre-born babies as well as pre-born babies in utero outside the Portage Mall in Winnipeg. When a woman in her mid-forties walked by, I asked her what she thought about abortion. She stopped, looked at my sign, looked up at me and said, “You don’t want to hear what I have to say.”
I began to prepare myself for a lengthy and heated discussion about abortion. Instead, she began to tell me one of the most powerful stories I have ever heard.
The woman, Cynthia, told me that in 1966, her mother had become pregnant with her in what was a decidedly unwanted pregnancy. Although abortion was still illegal, Cynthia was not safe. Her mother decided to attempt an illegal abortion, consuming enormous amounts of drugs to end her pre-born life. When that failed, her mother tried to abort by inserting a coat hanger inside herself. The coat hanger missed Cynthia’s heart by a centimetre. Her mother passed out, and Cynthia’s father found her unconscious on the floor. He rushed her to the hospital, but the situation was so serious that they were air-lifted to Toronto. They spent seven months in the hospital.
While I listened in shock, Cynthia told me that in spite of her mother’s attempts to kill her, she had survived until birth, needing fifteen surgeries in the first two years to keep her alive. Her mother dropped her off at her aunt’s house, wanting nothing to do with her. Several years later, her mother was dating a new man and regained custody of Cynthia. However, her mother then tried to finish the job she had started while Cynthia was in utero, attempting to kill her three more times. Instead of a coat hanger, a knife was her weapon of choice this time. When she was fifteen, her mother put a knife through her bedroom door, and she and her brother escaped for good.
When she was eighteen, Cynthia returned to fight and win custody of her younger siblings. They left and never looked back. Cynthia told me that she now works in addictions and as a counsellor, helping people to learn life skills. She told me that life is always valuable, and that abortion kills—indeed, that it had almost killed her. Still, she harbours no anger towards her mother in spite of the fact that she has suffered all her life with the effects of the attempted abortion, needing a surgery almost once every two or three years.
Cynthia’s story illustrates exactly what we have been have been saying across the country with the New Abortion Caravan: Abortion is Canada’s greatest human rights violation because it targets the body of a pre-born child—children like Cynthia. The women of the first Caravan used stories like that of Cynthia’s mother to demand free abortion on demand—forgetting that it is a horrible and grotesque injustice to kill pre-born children regardless of the method. Just because a suction machine is more efficient than a coat hanger, does not make it any more ethical or any less grotesque. It does not matter to pre-born children whether you destroy their lives with a coat hanger, with drugs, with a saline solution, or with a suction machine.
I believe with all my heart that Cynthia is a valuable human being with intrinsic dignity and beauty. It was wrong for her mother to target her with a coat hanger. It was wrong for her mother to attempt to kill her some time later with a knife. And it is abhorrent that we have responded to stories such as those of Cynthia’s mother by legalizing a more efficient way of killing. As Cynthia told me, “I wish that if my mother didn’t want me, she should have just given me up for adoption.”
Join with those of us on the New Abortion Caravan in giving Canadians a message that has been unheard for far too long: EndtheKilling. Put away the instruments of death, and let the pre-born children live.
For as Cynthia said, “Every life, every breath, every moment is precious.”