Why I stay in the pro-life movement

By Jonathon Van Maren

First published on the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform’s blog.

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. And how one of the first people I talked to about abortion on campus was a girl who told me she’d had an abortion only weeks earlier, and wanted to know why no one had told her that it was killing a baby until it was too late. And about the little boy I held in my hands who had been killed by an abortionist.

There are other things, too, that have deepened my pro-life convictions and commitment to this cause since I joined the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform in January of 2011. There are the people I get to work with, many of whom chose the disdain of their peers and even faced opposition from their families to work every day to save the lives of pre-born children from abortion. There are the young people who do our internships each year, who prove that not everyone in the upcoming generation conform to stereotype—some of them are willing to sacrifice time, money, and face the inevitable violence of abortion activists on the streets to speak out for those who have no voice. And of course, there are the hundreds of testimonies we get to hear of minds changed and lives saved.

And there are the people we get to meet. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road since I joined the pro-life movement and have travelled across Canada from coast to coast, as well as to several other countries, training and equipping others on pro-life strategy and apologetics. In each town and city, I’m reminded that there are always those who resist the Culture of Death—and those who want to fight back. Earlier this month, for example, I took a little plane from Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto up north to Timmins—the only thing I’d heard about the city was that the Albertan journalist Ted Byfield had once run a newspaper there (he married his wife Ginger in a twenty-minute ceremony in between editions of the Timmins Daily Press).

An elderly couple, Mike and Sherry, picked me up at the tiny airport and drove me a couple of hours further north to Kirkland Lake, population 7000. Kirkland Lake is an old mining town that has obviously fallen on hard times. Nearly half of the picturesque storefronts were closed down. One bar that had burned down the year before still sported a black and charred skeleton of a roof, and it obviously hadn’t been worth it to get it fixed; many of the customers had long since moved away, anyhow. There were still some positive signs, however. Mike abruptly pulled his car over to the side of the road on the way to the pro-life dinner I was scheduled to speak at and motioned for me to get out and take a look—it was an indoor pool, just built. He was very proud of Kirkland Lake’s new pool.

That evening, I spoke on assisted suicide and the arguments laid out in the book I co-authored with my colleague Blaise Alleyne, A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide, to a mostly elderly crowd at Crabby Pattie’s Cafeteria. The presentation had been arranged by Kirkland Lake Pro-Life, a small organization that doesn’t even host an annual dinner, but tries to educate people in the area on issues of ethical importance. They had purchased a hundred copies of the book, and a number of people told me that they’d read it thoroughly, and taken notes. Several thanked me profusely for coming “all the way out to Kirkland Lake,” and as Mike dropped me off at the hotel for the night (I’d have to get picked up the next morning for the flight back at 5 AM), he squeezed my hand. “It was a precious time,” he said.

So while it is true that we see the ugliest side of the culture, we also get to meet the people who care the most and love the hardest. The men and women who stand outside abortion clinics, rain or shine, to offer women compassionate alternatives. The politicos who work tirelessly to ensure that the voiceless are heard inside the halls of power. The politicians who would much rather sacrifice their own career advancement in order to defend truth. In every area of society, there are those who refuse to accept a Culture of Death as inevitable, and those who do what they can to push back—whether it be making donations to pro-life groups, reaching out to those around them, or doing whatever activism they can, whenever they can.

In every village and town and city across this country and many others, there are those that value life at every stage and do their own small part to persuade others to do the same. “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world,” J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote in a passage that perfectly expresses the sentiments of many such people, “but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we sow, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”


For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.

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