Showing the humanity of the child in the womb & the inhumanity of abortion.
An Inconvenient Truth: an Insider’s Reflections on the Maritime Tour in 2006
We are a comfort-loving country. Just recently, University of Leicester professor, Adrian White, showed the world that Canadians don’t only enjoy a variety of comforts, but we also are significantly happier than the rest of the world because of them. Ranked 10th in White’s happiness report which compared the general well-being in 178 countries, Canadians certainly have something to be proud of. Factors inducing smiles on the faces of Canadians include our free health care, the financial prosperity of this country, and our access to secondary education. No doubt, Canadians have worked hard to achieve this ranking. Any tax payer will tell you that happiness does not come cheap.
For those, like myself, who are first-generation immigrants to Canada, White’s findings give us one more reason to point to why we chose to come here in the first place. For my family, it was the many opportunities for education and employment that were most attractive. I’ve had a chance to travel back to the land of my origins—Zimbabwe—on a couple of occasions and each visit cements for me the gratitude I owe God in leading my family to this place, especially considering Zimbabwe’s present dictatorial regime and all the inhumane practices that entails. (Incidentally, Zimbabwe ranked as the 2nd most unhappy country on White’s happiness map). So, in many ways, Canada was, and is, a kind of Promised Land for most of us—new and seasoned immigrants alike.
Yet, despite all the hype about Canada’s high-ranking happiness, I couldn’t help but see a vein of irony in the findings, especially in light of recent reactions to a pro-life group’s reception in the Maritimes. This July, I had the privilege of travelling with a daring group of pro-lifers on a mission trip to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The group is called Show the Truth and if you haven’t heard about them already, the name speaks for itself...Show the Truth is committed to showing the truth about abortion. The impressive number of graphic signs depicting aborted babies which they use to line the streets points to the truth about the sheer, disheartening numbers of abortions conducted in Canada. The distressing signs themselves pull no punches: pedestrians and drivers come face to face with the children whose lives have been so brutally snuffed out in the name of “choice.” Each severed head, each crooked and bloodied limb, each exposed rib cage, each broken heart forces the viewer to question the lie that if an abortion is done in the sanitary confines of a hospital or abortion clinic, that somehow it’s okay. Pro-choicers would even go so far as to tell us that it’s healthy for the mother. Unfortunately, these same mothers are not told the side-effects of their decision: increased risks of cancer, future fertility problems, and life-long psychological trauma, to name a few.
Over the course of our Maritime tour I found myself thrust from my own comfortable surroundings and into the harshness of the pro-life front lines. From a young age, I’ve been acutely tuned to the feelings of others. One of my best friends even took to calling me “the sugar-coater” because if there was ever anything difficult that needed to be said, you could count on me to do it sweetly, with a minimum of ego-bursting if at all possible. I often try to find the gentlest way to confront people because I hate to see anger stirred up or feathers ruffled. As a result, I’ve also sometimes been called a doormat: “better to be stepped on than make an enemy,” was my personal motto for many years. But no more!
At our very first showing, I shuddered as we lined up in a Church parking lot like soldiers going into battle, and were handed our huge signs and given last-minute instructions and a blessing before being sent on our way to assigned prime spots along a busy road. That whole day—which included three showings of 1.5 hours each—I struggled with my presence in this group. Show the Truth has sometimes been negatively viewed, not just by pro-choicers (which is a given), but also by other pro-lifers (which is a shame) who believe that showing aborted babies is extremist. As car after car whizzed by or else slowed down to get a better look or shout expletives, and sometimes encouragement, I stood quietly behind my sign questioning God: “Is this right? Should we really be out here forcing people to look at these signs?” By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. In answer to my question, I had only a vague feeling that something had to be done and simply talking about abortion didn’t seem to be doing much good. Maybe, I thought, we’d talked too much and it was time to give the abortees, themselves, a voice.
Over the next few days, we found ourselves gradually becoming accustomed to 5:00 a.m. wake up calls; five minute wash-downs (if that!) at crowded sinks in lieu of showers; digestive problems due to the rushed meals, constant bumping along in the bus, and food combinations; endless ribbons of highway; exhaust fumes in our faces; pelting torrential rains; sweltering sun; and reams of recycled swear words—as well as some new ones. One of my friends had encouraged me to come on this trip. She’d sold it to me as a “vacation” opportunity. I knew it was going to be somewhat difficult, but I never expected any of the above. I also never expected how little comfort a person actually needs to be happy.
Very early in that first week, we went to a Morgentaler abortion clinic in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It was very early in the morning when we got there; the streets were still virtually empty and there was little movement at the clinic itself. We set ourselves up as usual along both sides of the street with our signs. We began to pray silently and as we waited, the street came to life before us. Not long after our arrival, blue-vested “clinic escorts” began to emerge from the clinic with black umbrellas. Is it going to rain? I wondered naively, when I first saw them. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the black umbrellas had another purpose entirely.
Over the course of the next hour and a half, I watched about seven young women being chauffeured in cars that parked across from the clinic. The clinic escorts waited for them at the entrance of the parking lot and then, with welcoming smiles, they ushered them like mother hens under the umbrellas and shielded their eyes from us. In doing this, they effectively—though not in all cases—blocked these scared, confused and misinformed women from getting a preview of what they were about to do inside the clinic. None of these young women looked pregnant: there were no bulging bellies or laboured steps. It’s probable, then, that they were, like most women who abort, in the first trimester of their pregnancies. The majority of babies aborted in Canada are 10 weeks old. Mothers are told they’re doing nothing wrong, that the foetus—a nice, distant, clinical kind of word—is merely a “blob of tissue.” They are not told, however, that already at 10 weeks, the baby, not only looks human, it is also completely sensitive to touch, squints, swallows, and even puckers its small brow and frowns. No one tells these poor mothers that at the moment of conception, the baby was already a rapidly multiplying miracle of cells, each specially encoded with the genetic make-up of both its mother and father; that by 24 days, it had a functioning, beating heart; that six days later it had a network of veins conducting blood throughout its body; that it had a very distinct skeletal frame by 42 days old, plus a brain to coordinate the movement of its muscles and organs; it also had reflex responses. Soon to follow: recordable brain waves at 7 weeks; personalized, unrepeatable fingerprints and thumb-sucking abilities at 9 weeks...
Seeing those women being escorted in to terminate the lives within them transformed me. I realized, with a sudden flash of recognition, that abortion was most definitely murder and that, if saving those precious babies from the horrible deaths that awaited them meant ruffling a few feathers, causing a few tears, or being the firing target for expletives, that I had a duty to endure it all by standing tall behind my sign to show the truth! The next day, we found out that our efforts had been worth it: a mother decided to keep her baby after seeing our signs on her way into Morgentaler’s clinic.
But in the days that followed, there was no mistaking that many Maritimers—pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike—were finding us not only uncomfortable to deal with, not only a down-right nuisance, but also a terrible inconvenience. Let me recount just a couple of episodes that stand out in my memory...One scorching hot day, at around 4:30 p.m., I was standing outside the Fredericton Mall in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Suddenly, where there was a cluster of restaurants and offices buildings, I saw a tall, handsome man dressed all in white push his way out of MacDonald’s and leap out onto the street, caring little for his own life on that busy road. A woman brought up the rear, just narrowly missing being hit by a car. They bounded up to one of my colleagues a little ways down the line and began a tirade that sounded something like this: “Do you realize that there are people eating in there who have to look out and see this!” (Indicating the picture of an aborted, dismembered baby, known to us as Malachi who was aborted at 21 weeks). “This is disgusting! How can you show these pictures? There’s children in there! I can’t eat looking at this stuff...!” It was more important to him to finish his meal in comfort than to acknowledge the loss of Malachi and millions of others like him—babies who will never have the chance to grow up, discover their potentials, and contribute to society, or even share a meal around the table with their families, as this young man had been doing.
At other times, Show the Truthers often had to contend with disgruntled parents who shouted that their little ones in the back seat were being prematurely exposed to hideous pictures which they (the parents) would have to explain later. The parents were upset that they had been forced into bringing up a topic with their children that they would rather have put off, at least until after the birds and bees talk. It seems that “preventive measures” is only a phrase we use for things like Aids, cancer and influenza. Legalized murder is just as much an epidemic as these other diseases, but most people turn their backs away from it because to talk about it is inconvenient. Had the parents taken the time to actually look in the back seats of their cars, they might have been surprised to realize that their young children were either oblivious to our signs or else waving at us as they drove by. Again, these parents failed to realize the irony of the situation. Even if these children in the back seats of cars were crying (which they never were), at least they were alive to have a reaction and to have parents who cared enough for them to be disgruntled in the first place!
For two weeks, in the heart and heat of summer, the Maritimes was abuzz with talk of abortion. Those who saw our signs, or heard about them, were forced to confront an issue which is largely a silent one nowadays. But I would suggest that our very silence as a society when it comes to abortion speaks volumes. Societies, like individuals, only hide those things of which they are most ashamed. On the other hand, we have no problem proclaiming on the roof tops that we offer free health care, that we are a financially flourishing country, and that we can afford to educate every single Canadian who wants to be educated. It’s been over a week since Adrian White announced the results of his world-happiness map, and we’re still basking in that glory. How long, I wonder, will it be before abortion buzz quiets down again in the Maritimes and elsewhere in Canada? Canadians pride ourselves on being a cut above the rest. We identify ourselves as the peace-keeping nation; we will now add to that distinction that we are a happy nation. But we will never be comfortable with announcing that we are an aborting nation.
When the Truth becomes inconvenient, an alarm should begin to sound in our hearts. When maintaining that so-sought-after Canadian equilibrium (which we like to call our “peacefulness”) becomes more important than facing reality, an alarm should begin to sound in our hearts. When foundational concepts such as “choice,” “freedom,” and “rights” become applied to only certain individuals in a society, an alarm should begin to sound in our hearts. If we ignore the warnings, we run the risk of trading our current happiness not merely for unhappiness, but utter despair.
Being a member of Show the Truth this Summer has taught me many things about myself, about my neighbours, about how to love (yes, even how to love my enemy). Most of all, it’s taught me that I have a choice to make in my own life: be silent forever and be loved by all, or be convicted enough to be pro-life in every aspect of my life, when it’s convenient and especially when it’s inconvenient, and risk the temporary persecution. To me, the answer is now obvious.