Sometime ago my friend from the Netherlands asked if she’d be able to come visit for a week and I excitedly said yes. We love hosting people and I soon started thinking about the places we could visit together. The Niagara Falls, of course. The CN Tower perhaps. Then she messaged me. I would really like to witness the work you guys do on the streets.

Last Saturday we joined Toronto Against Abortion for “Choice” Chain at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor Street. Despite an optimistic weather forecast, it rained. Donning ponchos, several of us positioned the signs toward traffic. Hundreds, if not a thousand drivers and passengers looked at the images as they slowly drove by. A colleague handed out pamphlets by the crosswalk. My friend and her teenage daughter reached pedestrians going both ways.

Many people glanced at the signs to then pull their hoods tighter, push their hands into their pockets, and hurry past. Others were difficult to reach under umbrellas or with earbuds in. I stood on the side and asked, probably at least a hundred times, “What do you think about abortion?”

“I love it,” a young woman spat sarcastically. “How come?” I asked gently. “It’s good for the soul,” she laughed. Not knowing what else to say, I gestured to my friend’s sign. The woman’s eyes followed the direction of my hand. “How about for the child?” She became angry. “It’s not a child! It’s not even alive,” she snapped. “When do you think life starts?” I asked. “At birth,” she shrugged. “Hmm,” I responded. “Do you believe in human rights?” She pushed her face close to mine. “What you’re doing is wrong! You, you need to get the f*** out of here!”

Before I could respond, she was gone. Before I could process the conversation, the next person came. “Hi there! What do you think about abortion?”

Soon after, a young woman slowed down. “I, uhm, I honestly don’t have an opinion about that.” “Hey, that’s okay. Do you believe in human rights?” “Of course.” “Great, me too! Who do you think gets human rights?” “Uhm, everyone? I mean, humans?” “Makes sense, right?” I gestured towards the sign near us, depicting a 10-week fetus in-utero. “Do you believe they should have human rights?” She studied the sign. “I don’t know why not,” she shivered, “but I do have to go.” “No problem.” I replied. “Can I give you a pamphlet?” She gladly took one and walked on.   

Several other conversations followed, but the one that stands out to me was with an elderly lady who sauntered past. Her Eastern European accent sometimes made it difficult for me to understand her, but she was very direct. I suggested we move under an overhang to stay dry.

“Oh, I don’t agree with abortion at all,” she said. “You must be responsible. And if you’re pregnant, it is not right to have an abortion. Yes, I know, it’s difficult, but killing a child is wrong.”

I nodded. “I agree with you. Did you know that in Canada abortions are allowed throughout the entire pregnancy?” She looked surprised. “But what can I do?” she lamented. “You cannot change the law. It’s terrible.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “Well, that’s why we’re here: to talk to people. You’re right that you and I can’t change the law, but we can talk to others, raise awareness, show them what abortion is.” She shook her head. “I cannot tell other people what to do. They don’t care.” “Would you agree, though, that when other people are being hurt, you and I have a responsibility to try stop that?” She looked thoughtful. Her back had been towards the signs the entire time.

I opened my pamphlet to a small image of an aborted child. “Would you agree, then, that we need to try stop this from happening to little children?” Her face registered immediate shock. Tears sprang to her eyes and she covered her mouth. She turned her head to look away.

“It’s awful, isn’t it?” I said softly while she regained her composure. “I always wanted many children,” she said, her voice shaking. “At least two or three. And I only could have one. Oh, I would have loved to have more. Adopt more. For my boy to have brothers and sisters. But that didn’t work out.”

I listened. She continued to tell her story. I expressed my gratefulness for sharing that with me, and for her time. She spoke with authority, in a way that would not be interrupted or told otherwise.

“You must tell people: why not let your child be raised by people who will love it?”

When she left, I asked if she would take a pamphlet. “Yes,” she said, “and tell others.”

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