One of the most common questions I am asked after a presentation is this one, or a variation of it: How did you decide to do pro-life work? The answer could be very long, outlining all the factors that played a role in what seemed to be an inevitable conclusion, but it seems natural to start at the very beginning.
Growing up, I noticed that there was something my parents deeply cared about. Dad would pray for pre-born children in danger of death and regularly speak about abortion. Mom would bring baby gifts to a single girl in church who was pregnant or quietly leave a big bag of groceries on the doorstep of a struggling family. We once attended a prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic; the day abortion became reality for me. And if our school hosted a fundraiser for pro-life work, family members would certainly buy many of the items I was supposed to sell.
To my knowledge, that’s what it meant to be pro-life: a combination of deeply believing in and living out the conviction that every human being has value from the moment he or she begins to exist.
Little did I know, when I moved to Canada in 2004, that this beautiful country known for being a peacekeeper around the globe, in fact, is the most dangerous for the very youngest of our kind. Little did I know, that the country which brought freedom to my fatherland, the Netherlands, in 1945, now denies the most basic of human rights to tiny children in the womb.
Attending university, however, quickly taught me about the status quo: in my faculty of social work, I was the only pro-lifer—or at least the only known one. Professors asked me to leave my ‘anti-choice’ bias at the door and I discovered that abortion was an extremely sensitive subject. I then came across research which showed that most post-secondary students, if entering university pro-life, will graduate in favour of abortion. What went through my mind, over and over and over, was: how?
During Frosh Week, various student clubs which should be pro-life (such as Inter-Varsity, Catholic, or Muslim clubs) had a table showing they were active on campus. Why wasn’t this at the top of their agenda? Why were my LDS friends inviting people to their events but not talking about abortion with the people most vulnerable to it? How was it possible that abortion not only remained unchallenged, but was also becoming increasingly accepted?
Perhaps they were just trying to pursue an education. Perhaps abortion was merely a side issue. Perhaps they figured there was no need to preach to the choir—though the choir may have been having abortions too—and the rest of campus was beyond their scope. And that’s when it hit me.
What if one of my classmates got pregnant and ended it? What if she never considered that tiny pre-born life, what abortion would do to him or her and, worst of all, I hadn’t shared with her what I knew?
Suddenly, I was no longer just a student, but reaching those around me with truth and love was equally important. I discovered powerful, logical arguments against abortion and a vast network of support for (pregnant) women and their children. Thankfully, some of my friends from church were already in the process of setting up a pro-life club, which I become involved with for the rest of my time in university. We handed out pamphlets, organized events, rallied for resources for students with (born or pre-born) children, and supported each other when our peers or professors were extra critical.
In my classes, there was a lot of hostility. During outreach, some people changed their mind. But at my senior social work placement, one of our teenage refugee clients told me she was pregnant and requested counselling to make a decision. We made a poster with the pros and cons of each of her three options. Fully informed about prenatal development, abortion procedures, adoption, and the challenges of parenting, she chose to cancel her abortion appointment. Several weeks later, I was one of few witnesses at her and her boyfriend’s wedding. Lethbridge & District Pro-Life rallied around her and provided practical support. And watching her beautiful baby grow up in the years that followed confirmed each time again that silence was not an option.
After graduation I worked for the same Right to Life organization, travelled with the New Abortion Caravan, and finally joined CCBR staff, together with my husband Nick, upon seeing the effectiveness of abortion victim photography. On the side I’ve helped political campaigns and pastoral outreach, but my question has remained the same. If I don’t share the truth that I know, am I not partly responsible for the death of pre-born children and the damage caused by abortion?
There’ve been times that I’ve wanted to quit, especially as our family has grown. Don’t misunderstand me: raising children in an actively pro-life home is probably one of the most powerful things one can do. But I could also use it as an excuse to not do more, when I can do more. I’m sure my role will change over the years, but whether I do anything at all should never be a question.
When I spoke at a school and showed an abortion video not too long ago, a young woman told me afterward in tears that “if you had been here a few weeks ago, I would not have had an abortion.” For pre-born children, our silence can be the difference between life and death. And that’s why it’s not an option.