It all started on April 1st, 2011. As a member of the University of Lethbridge Students for Life, I was invited to go to Calgary to participate in the 40 Days for Life campaign outside of the abortion clinic. Although I knew I was pro-life, I had never really thought about abortion before, and I signed up for that trip more for the opportunity to go to the big city than for any real passion for or commitment to the pro-life movement.
When we got to the abortion clinic, we were instructed that due to the bubble zone, we needed to stay across the street and down the block. From our position, we could see vehicles enter the fenced parking lot, but we could not even call out to the people emerging from their vehicles. As I watched woman after woman enter the building, I realized what was happening before my eyes. I thought about how each of those women was carrying a tiny vulnerable child in her womb, and about how when the woman left the clinic later that day, her child would be left behind, dead. I don’t think I knew enough about abortion then to think about how her child would be killed; I just knew that it would be.
Standing there I began to pray with desperate fervour. I prayed that the women would reconsider, that they’d turn around and look at our signs offering help, that they’d come over to us so that we could have an opportunity to try talk them out of what they were about to do. But no one did. And over and over I felt the dreaded feeling of being too late. It did no good to that woman or her child for me to be standing there. I needed to talk to her before she got there because once we were on that street, the bubble zone law prevented any conversation.
I went home that day feeling hopeless and helpless. I felt a desperate need to do something, but I didn’t know what to do. When I shared those feelings with the friend I’d accompanied to the clinic that day, she told me about an organization in Calgary that was having a “crash course” and maybe I should sign up. And so, in July of that year, I was back in Calgary, and was introduced to the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and their mission and strategy.
I have referred to that week of training and activism as the puzzle pieces falling into place. Prior to this I had felt a need to do something, and here was an organization that was doing something, and more importantly, doing something that worked. I was given the training I needed, and then received the opportunity to put it into practise on the streets of Calgary, and from the very beginning, I witnessed people changing their minds about abortion through a basic conversation and seeing the photographic evidence of what abortion does.
From that time forward, I drove to Calgary as often as my work schedule would allow, joining for activism whenever possible. By the end of that summer, I was presented with a simple challenge: was my future career and the goals I had for myself more important than the human lives that were being killed each and every day? Put like that, the question seemed rhetorical, so I dropped out of university, moved to Calgary, and joined the team in September 2011.
Going to the streets to talk to people about abortion was not something that was characteristic of me, and it always remained outside my comfort zone. I dislike large crowds of people, despise small talk, and avoid controversy. I am shy when I am around people I don’t know well and I feel that I can’t think very fast on my feet. I often felt very anxious prior to going out to do activism but knew that it was worth it because I have held a baby in my arms who otherwise would have been killed like so many others. I spent several years driving CCBR’s Truth Truck because that way I could still play a role without needing to be on the front lines having the conversations with people. Even now, when I join the interns for “Choice” Chain, I usually offer to hold the security camera so the interns can each have conversations. Regardless of personality type, there are roles for everyone to play. But if I need to engage people on the topic, I tell myself to do it for Adrian, now six years old, but always lovingly referred to as baby Adrian.
I don’t always feel passion for what I do. For years now, the loss of my sisters has propelled me to keep fighting for other babies who should be loved and missed just as much as my sisters are. So when my nephew died in July of this past year, I expected that my grief would just add to my passion. The first time I checked CCBR’s email account and voicemailbox after that, I saw the words of someone who was angry about pictures of dead babies, and I was overcome with a combined feeling of rage and exhaustion. In that moment, I felt completely finished. I messaged a colleague to ask her to take over my job for the time being as I was in no frame of mind to even read, much less respond, to any emails. And then I decided I was done fighting. It all felt so pointless. People were killing babies with no regard for life, and they dared to be angry at us for just showing a picture of it! I had been fighting for seven years. Our family had just been plunged into grief with the loss of another precious baby, and the world didn’t seem to care about the hundreds of thousands of babies who didn’t have anyone to grieve them. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but without telling anyone, I decided that once the summer internship wrapped up, I’d leave CCBR.
I spent the next several days enveloped in the bonds of familial love, on the sanctuary of the family farm. A week later we returned to the cemetery for yet another funeral, and afterwards everyone came to my parents’ home to spend some time together before parting ways and returning to the routines of regular life. My Dad doesn’t often give words of affirmation, so much of the time I don’t know what he thinks about what I do with CCBR. But that day, after a light luncheon, he addressed those who had joined us at our home and reminded us about the atrocity of abortion and encouraged us to “strengthen our resolve” to fight against it, recognizing that each baby is as valuable as little Jonathan. I heard his words with a sinking silent question “why now?! why show your support for the pro-life cause now, when I plan to abandon it?” But over the next few days, his words kept resounding in my head, and I knew I couldn’t quit. And several days later I went back to work, more out of a sense of duty than with any real desire or passion.
Back in Ontario, I shared that with a friend and supporter, and his response summed it all up: “Isn’t it incredible how God knows what you need to hear, even when you don’t want to hear it?”
Several weeks later, another supporter asked, “But do you enjoy what you do?” and by the grace of God, I realized that yes, I do. I could again look at my job with satisfaction and even passion. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s outrageous that anyone would need to work full-time to defend human life. It is beyond my comprehension that humanity has decided that the slaughter of pre-born human beings is acceptable. But despite that, I am grateful that I have the privilege of working for an organization like CCBR, and that I have friends and acquaintances who feel passionately enough about what we do to financially, emotionally, and prayerfully enable me to do this.