By Jonathon Van Maren
Note: I wrote this profile for LifeCanada’s magazine, and it appeared in their last issue.
Devorah Gilman first heard about abortion when she was three or four years old. “I thought it sounded like something the ancient Romans did and dismissed it as a horrible thing that probably didn’t happen much today,” she remembered. “When I was ten years old, I learned that it was legally unrestricted and happened frequently in Canada.”
And when she was thirteen, she had a dream. In her dream, she was walking around with her friends, having fun and goofing off. Everything was normal—good, even. Then she stepped on something, and felt a sickening crunch beneath her foot. Fourteen years later, she can recall every detail like it was yesterday. She sometimes tells this story to audiences of young people who are considering pro-life work, and each time that she does they hang on to every word. It is easy to understand why.
“I jumped back to see what I had stepped on,” Devorah recalls. “It was a little girl. Bloody, somewhat mangled, and dead. My friends and I gasped, absolutely horrified by what we saw. Then we looked up, and we saw that our surroundings had changed. As far as we could see, in every direction, we were surrounded by children. Boys and girls: bloody, somewhat mangled, all of them dead. And then I heard a voice: ‘This is your generation that has been killed by abortion…If you do nothing, their blood will be on your heads.’”
That is when she woke up. And as she pondered what she had seen, she realized that her dream was not just a dream. It was also a reality. One quarter of her generation had not survived Canada’s abortion regime. They had been killed, and they were missing—and she had caught a glimpse of what had happened to them.
There are many moments that make a pro-life activist, and this was one of them. Throughout high school, Devorah attended the March for Life on Parliament Hill and joined local pro-life activism. Her family—she is the fifth of ten children in a Jewish-Christian family—is very supportive of the pro-life movement, and many of her siblings have volunteered, as well. When she was twenty, Devorah attended a pro-life apologetics training session hosted by the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform and then did street outreach afterwards.
“In the couple of hours I spent doing ‘Choice’ Chain I saw more people change their minds on abortion, and more people who were post-abortive get connected to post-abortion healing than I had in my previous seven years of volunteering and attending various other pro-life initiatives,” Devorah says. It also clinched her decision to apply for CCBR’s 2012 summer internship, which involved an activism road trip—the New Abortion Caravan–across the country from Vancouver to Ottawa, with an exhausting and hectic pace and abortion activists protesting (sometimes violently) at every stop.
“The internship was up to that point the hardest and best summer of my life,” she remembers. “It was a huge learning curve to jump into studying embryology, philosophy, medical ethics, apologetics, social reform, and then start applying that knowledge to our work on the streets. I started out scared of talking to people about abortion, unsure if I could actually make a difference. Through the training by CCBR and the support of the people there, I was able to see the daily change I could bring to the abortion status quo through my work on the streets.”
It was the experience of seeing people change their minds on abortion across the country that inspired Devorah to apply to CCBR for a fulltime job. In 2015, she became the director of CCBR’s internship programs in Ontario, leading an army of young people onto the streets to go door to door and deliver a million pro-life postcards as well as doing daily outreach. A brilliant speaker and second-to-none debater on the streets, her speeches are filled with stories of those who have changed their minds and become pro-life after speaking with her, revealing that in the years since she first realized the horror of abortion she has become one of Canada’s most inspiring pro-life leaders and a fierce defender of pre-born children.
Fourteen years ago, Devorah Gilman had a nightmare that she realized was not simply a dream. Since then, countless little boys and girls have been spared the fate she saw so clearly because she responded to that reality by stepping up to fight it. Her example inspires me. It should inspire you, too.