Everything was happening in slow motion. Panic welled up inside of me when I realized that the chunk of dirt was heavy enough to drag my 2-year-old sister into the water-filled ditch with it. I started running to the house, but 5-year-old logic said I wouldn’t be able to get my mom there in time. I ran back to the ditch, and saw her little form bobbing in the murky water, face down. I knew I had no choice but to grab that frilly pink dress as my new slip-on shoes sunk into the mud at the edge of the water. My friends watched in terror as I pulled with every ounce of strength I had.
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.
I’ve been asked many times why I decided, back in university, to change my career plans and join the pro-life movement full-time. I’ve told that story many times—how in my first year of classes, I looked up “abortion” on the Internet after comments from my professor and saw a video that transformed my view of the issue in minutes.
I don’t remember the first time I learned about abortion, but I do remember becoming increasingly aware of groups that were working to combat it. I remember picking up brochures in the back of churches to take home. I’d collect these brochures and newspaper articles and keep them in a yellow folder. I don’t know what I intended to do with this folder and its contents, but even then, back in elementary school, I knew this was important information and it seemed like something worth saving.
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.
Many of us as CCBR staff have had people say to us: “I think what you’re doing is great, but I could never do it.” Perhaps some people wonder who we actually are and how we started doing pro-life work. For most of us, being a full or part-time pro-life advocate was never our intention. Each of us came to this work from a different background. This next series is meant to show that you don’t have to have special gifts or talents to do this work: you just have to care.
~ Justina Van Manen